Practice makes perfect, or so the old saying goes. That’s not actually correct as I’ll explain later, however. But generally, if you want to get better at doing anything, from improving your golf swing to nailing that karaoke rendition of Whitney Houston, you’re going to have to practice.
In this video from photographer Ben Harvey, he talks about getting outside more so that you can practice with greater motivation and productivity.
So back to “practice makes perfect”. As I said before, this is a popular phrase but is incorrect. What it should say is “perfect practice makes perfect”. In other words, if you practised your golf swing badly 1000 times, you would just have engrained a badly performed golf swing in your muscle memory. In order to actually get better at something, you have to practice with intention. That’s not always easy or straight froward but you will begin to see real tangible improvements if you plan ahead.
In the video, Ben talks about removing obstacles that stop you from getting out with your camera and taking lots of photos. It’s easy to make excuses, that’s the voice of resistance talking. To counter this, Ben keeps a long list of things that he wants to photograph. The key to getting those things done on the to-do list is to get them onto a calendar and schedule them in.
Ben also promotes the “see one, do one, teach one” method of learning a new skill. Somewhat unsettlingly, my sister who works in the medical industry also swears by this! Essentially, teaching someone a newfound skill means that you have to have a much greater depth of understanding than you do to merely do that thing by yourself.
Finally, Ben says that he almost always tries to head out to shoot with a defined purpose. He rarely goes out randomly with a camera just to see what he’s going to get. I must admit that I do much better when I have a defined brief in mind, even if it’s something I’ve set for myself. And this is exactly what intentional practice is. It’s basically setting a small achievable goal or intention, and then trying to meet that goal. Afterwards, you evaluate how close you got, and what you could do better next time.
After years of playing musical instruments, this is the only real way to improve and make your valuable time work for you. While photography is somewhat different from classical music, I find that similar goal-setting methods and deliberate practice really do pay off. A much-lauded study found that to become an expert at anything takes around 10,000 hours. Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill, it just takes time and persistence. But honestly, that’s all part of the fun!
How do you practice photography?