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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 22 Jul 2014 (Tuesday) 07:00
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Whats your photography skill level ?

 
OhLook
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Jul 25, 2014 12:08 |  #46

Clean Gene wrote in post #17054807 (external link)
Do you know what I rarely ever do? Street photography. I think it might be because we're both kind of doing the same thing. We're trying to get order out of chaos. Some make the order, some find the order, but both are gravitating towards chaos and disorder and trying to make sense out of it. It's just that street photographers need to have a developed enough eye to see that when it happens. Whereas someone like me is more like, "crap, I can't see that. Screw it, I'll just make something." We're both sort of doing the same thing. But I sort of have to fabricate things because I'm not that good at seeing what's already there. Other people don't have to fabricate things, because their visual eye and developed instinct gives them so much stuff to shoot that they don't have to resort to fabricating it.

It seems to me that with this post you've shifted the topic from skill to talent and the way a person thinks. (Now we can all have a fiery argument about whether the word "talent" means anything. At least the fiery arguers can.)

Skill, as I understand it, includes remembering which button on the camera does what and being able to change to the needed settings quickly, without fumbling; knowing when you need a tripod; timing your movements so you don't miss a shot when the subject moves or the light changes; coping with harsh light or dull light; not cutting off hands and feet. Things like those--the technical stuff, and sufficient control of your body, including fast response times if your genre requires them. Choosing what to shoot is something else entirely.

My skill level in the technical sense is close to zero. (airfrog says this is the easy part to learn. Well, maybe for the STEM people it is, but I came from the humanities.) I'm better at finding scenes. I don't often photograph people on the street. They might catch me at it. But I photograph many things while walking around, not usually single things just standing there, but arrangements that I spot within my visual field. Not objects, but relationships. Look how this curved edge relates to those angles, isn't that neat? Hey, all that gray with a bit of color at one side if you frame it like this! Woohoo, there's a whole row of verticals against that texture, and see what their shadows do! Being attracted to potential compositions, I don't want to call a skill. It's a feature of the way some minds work.


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Tom ­ Reichner
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Jul 26, 2014 20:48 |  #47

Van Gogh wrote in post #17047889 (external link)
Of course one might have different skill levels at different branches of photography.

This is very true. In fact, many of the real pros who produce world-class work in one specialized genre may be very inadequate when it comes to producing images in another genre.

As an example, I recall a National Geographic documentary in which one of NG's top landscape photographers discusses his attempts to photograph wildlife while on assignment. He tried and tried to photograph these Brown Bears for days, and finally gave up. He said something to the effect that such shooting is just not within his skill set, and that trying to shoot the bears was just a waste of time for him.

Personally, I have found that the visual, creative part of photography comes rather naturally, and that the technical end of things is where I really struggle. I think that my overall photographic skill would be much greater, if only I could figure out the technical stuff. As it is, I have the vision, but I often lack the technical knowledge that is necessary to capture that vision on my sensor. I guess my personal experience is kind of opposite of what Allen was saying earlier in the thread. I really relate to what OhLook said in the final paragraph of her post (above).


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Clean ­ Gene
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Jul 26, 2014 22:09 |  #48

Tom Reichner wrote in post #17058230 (external link)
I really relate to what OhLook said in the final paragraph of her post (above).

But isn't that kind of a developed skill set in itself? I mean, I'm sure most people have at some point seen something (not even necessarily a photograph) that they really like, but can't really say why. Then someone else mentions how this one element kind of relates to something else and then it's like, "oh yeah, that's totally it. Why couldn't I see that?"

Even among a lot of beginners who don't know what they're doing, I find that there are often still a lot of common acceptances of what's working and what isn't. Some of that's probably biological and some of it's probably cultural, but I find it common that certain "things" just often elicit a more favorable response. The total beginner might photograph a flower, and like it even though it's totally boring. But then someone else photographs the flower and relates it to something else in a really interesting way, and that beginner will often say, "I liked mine, but wow...I like that one a LOT, even though I don't know why." Could it be that many photographs (or any work of art) tap into common psychological triggers in order to be effective, and that the "skill" is in being able to recognize such things before shooting so as to better manipulate the audience? It's having an effect on people whether they realize it or not. It's just that certain people don't realize the effect until after someone mentions it to them, while some people are "skilled" enough to notice such things outright and use it to their advantage.

And is that an inherent trait of how people are? Or is it a "skill" that is developed out of previous experiences? I'm kind of taking this from personal experience. People have loved or hated much of my work for various reasons (hated mostly, I'm still pretty much a n00b), but the most interesting of my images have sometimes made people be like, "you're really weird or unique or something, because I never would have been able to come up with that." And when I think about it, the answer to "how I came up with that" is really mundane and simple. I didn't decide to photograph guts because my mind works different on some fundamental level. I did it because I spent my formative years reading science books and watching documentaries enough to train myself to see order and beauty in the content. When I show people my miniature dioramas, one of the questions that people always ask is "where did you find these things?" And the answer is usually "just walking around." Probably because as a kid I was the weird guy who chased bugs and snakes, so I developed a skill for looking around and noticing tiny things that other people ignore. It still kind of boils down to "doing things a lot".

Now, I realize that minds do operate differently. The fact that I ever gravitated towards science and animals and bugs in the first place probably resulted in some way from my innate personality. But that's just a start. The result comes from starting at that point and then running with it for the next 30 years (to various degrees). It's still kind of a whole lot of practice.

And more related to photography, I can state that I got better after doing one simple thing. I'd look at photographs that I loved, and say, "that's badass." So then (and maybe I just have a naturally analytical personality), I'd keep looking at it and think to myself, "WHY do I like this one and not the next one?" Keep in mind, this was before I ever picked up a camera. I literally didn't start photographing anything until I was 17. Took photography as an elective in my senior year of high school without ever having picked up a camera. I didn't choose photography because I liked doing photography, I did photography because I liked photographs. My work was pretty well received, and it's possibly because of this...the only thing I was doing was copying what I'd seen before. Which was what everyone else in the class was probably doing too. The difference being, I wasn't copying it until AFTER I had analyzed it and gotten a better idea of what I was actually trying to copy. Some people have commented on me having a naturally good eye, but I don't think it's that at all. It's more that by the time I started doing photography, I had already to some level developed a certain "skill" simply by spending years training myself to look at things analytically.

Anyway, that's just me. I'm not sure if anyone else feels the same way at all. I just feel like, while certain people naturally have certain innate traits, it's easy for them to get squashed if they aren't constantly developed. Hell, OhLook kind of says it herself. "airfrog says this is the easy part to learn. Well, maybe for the STEM people it is, but I came from the humanities." If I had to guess, I'd wager that her ability to see interesting relationships is a "skill" that she has developed in part from her academic history. It didn't come out of a vacuum, and if it did, it probably wouldn't be as well-refined as it is now without her working at it and developing it through her studies in other "unrelated" fields.




  
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Jul 27, 2014 00:02 |  #49

Clean Gene wrote in post #17058336 (external link)
I just feel like, while certain people naturally have certain innate traits, it's easy for them to get squashed if they aren't constantly developed. Hell, OhLook kind of says it herself. "airfrog says this is the easy part to learn. Well, maybe for the STEM people it is, but I came from the humanities." If I had to guess, I'd wager that her ability to see interesting relationships is a "skill" that she has developed in part from her academic history. It didn't come out of a vacuum, and if it did, it probably wouldn't be as well-refined as it is now without her working at it and developing it through her studies in other "unrelated" fields.

Earlier than that. As a kid, I drew a lot. I don't remember my drawings as being well composed, particularly, but they were more accurate than drawings by other children the same age. When I looked at an object to get ready to start drawing it, I used a special way of looking receptively, sizing up the whole thing to record its general shape and proportions in short-term memory. This mental maneuver is hard to describe. I could say something like "To find the compositions that lie latent in your visual field, don't be so linear. Instead, embrace the scene, let everything you see flow into you," but it sounds like mumbo-jumbo, and pretentious mumbo-jumbo at that.


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Jul 28, 2014 12:05 |  #50

The reason I say that the technical part is the easiest is there are clear road maps for that. The inverse square law of light. The law of reciprocity and their is no ambiguity. When you stop down from f/5.6 to f/8 you have cut the light in half. When you go from 1/125 of a second to 1/250 you have cut hte light in half. Finding your vision and learning to see in a personal way is a life long journey and a journey that is in various states of change. f/8 will always be f/8.....




  
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Jul 28, 2014 13:16 |  #51

airfrogusmc wrote in post #17061626 (external link)
The reason I say that the technical part is the easiest is there are clear road maps for that. The inverse square law of light. The law of reciprocity and their is no ambiguity. When you stop down from f/5.6 to f/8 you have cut the light in half.

I can understand that. Many people prefer to deal with decisions that have definite rights and wrongs. The rules for those can be memorized. "What settings will correctly expose this scene?" is a multiple-choice question. "What do I see that's interesting here, and how can I photograph it to best show what I want others to see about it?" is an essay question.

Maybe some photographers learned the technical aspects so long ago that they've forgotten the struggle and it's all second nature now. Mastery of the nontechnical part does seem rarer than mastery of the technical part. The POTN archives are full of technically good images, but imaginative or inspired/inspiring ones are harder to find.


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Jul 28, 2014 16:31 |  #52

Yes and what visual direction that is right for you is probably the wrong direction for anyone else....With the technical aspects it's all #s, math and physics. The creative aspect there is only what is right for each individual That can be infinitely difficult. No one right or wrong way for everyone. Just what is right for each individual.




  
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Jul 28, 2014 16:47 |  #53

Van Gogh wrote in post #17047889 (external link)
Hey everyone,

So I was kind of thinking about the level of my photography skills.
In particular, weather I was a beginner (most likely not), and intermediate or advanced level shooter.

Hence, 3 questions.

1) What skill levels do exist for photography? Beginner, intermediate, advanced, pro, legend ?
Of course one might have different skill levels at different branches of photography
2) How to determine what skill level you are?
This might be useful as you will know what you have to do to make the leap to next level and take your pictures the the next level.
3) What skill level do you think you are and where do you think you still have to improve to go to the next level.

I think that from the perspective of a paying client or potential understudy; this would be a valid question.

As a hobbyist; not so much.


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Echo63
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Jul 28, 2014 22:42 |  #54

airfrogusmc wrote in post #17061626 (external link)
The reason I say that the technical part is the easiest is there are clear road maps for that. The inverse square law of light. The law of reciprocity and their is no ambiguity. When you stop down from f/5.6 to f/8 you have cut the light in half. When you go from 1/125 of a second to 1/250 you have cut hte light in half. Finding your vision and learning to see in a personal way is a life long journey and a journey that is in various states of change. f/8 will always be f/8.....

It does take a little while to learn, but you are correct, there is rules that cover it all, its black and white, right or wrong.

Technically i am quite good, i can calculate a flash exposure from guide numbers, i can take a pretty good guess at stage lighting before i walk into a venue, be within a stop of correct outside, and have used my flashes enough that i can typically get them setup within a stop of where i want them too. (I still have a lot to learn though)

What i suck at, is the non technical aspects of photography.
Composition, seeing light, posing and interacting with people, getting a nice natural looking posed picture.

So - im a working professional that almost knows his cameras back to front, and is good at shooting at night, or when there is something happening in front of me, not quite so good at dealing with people, or when i need to interact with the subject


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watt100
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Jul 31, 2014 04:37 |  #55

Van Gogh wrote in post #17047889 (external link)
So I was kind of thinking about the level of my photography skills.
In particular, weather I was a beginner (most likely not), and intermediate or advanced level shooter.

.

enthusiast hobbyist




  
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