Each of us has had our own journey in life, and the same goes for our photographic journey. But no matter how different we are, there are some things we all have in common. Evan Ranft has identified eight phases all photographers go through, and I’ve definitely recognized myself. Which phase are you in right now?
1.The mistaken savant: this phase comes when you first pick up the camera and discover the exciting world of photography. You want to shoot everything and you’re incredibly overconfident, which is perfectly normal for every beginner.
2. The watermark phase: now that you’ve created those amazing works of art, you start slapping watermarks to them so no one would steal them. Interestingly enough, I’ve never been through this phase, I jumped straight to phase three.
3. The “wow I’m terrible” phase: the moment you realize that you still have a lot to learn. It’s kinda like a great awakening. Your old photos will likely make you cringe and, from my experience, this is a phase of reevaluating yourself and your work big time. There are tons of intense emotions going on and lots of questions popping into your mind. But you’ll start learning new things and techniques, which will lead you to phase five.
4. The overusing phase: once you learn and master all those new techniques, you’ll start overusing them. I clearly remember this phase when I learned how to make frames or do selective coloring
in Photoshop. But this is also a normal stage of every learning process, so photography is no exception.
5. The “something is missing” phase: in this phase, everything settles down, you stop overusing newly learned and popular techniques, and it hits you: something’s missing from my photography. You start comparing yourself to photographers you admire, and by analyzing their work you realize what it is that you could improve.
6. Technical application phase: this is the phase when most people fall in love with photography. This is where true, deeper learning begins. You start applying everything that you’ve learned in phase five.
7. The humbled photographer phase: this is the phase where you actually own the knowledge you thought you owned in phase one. But funnily enough, you’re much less confident. You know that photography is difficult, that there’s constantly something new to learn, and that there are so many people better than you. This is usually the phase when, if someone asks “Are you a professional photographer,” you reply: “Nah, I just do it for fun” or something like that.
8. The repeating phase: this is something like a combination of phases five and six: you learn something, you start applying it and master it. Then you discover something new, learn it and apply that to your work. You constantly get back to being a novice and learning a totally new technique or genre. And you can go on like this until you decide to stop – but you may never want to stop, which is one of many beauties of photography. I think I’m currently at this stage because I’ve discovered astrophotography. I know how to use my camera and I know some basic theory about taking a good photo of the night skies, but there’s so much more to learn, discover, try, and master. And I’m looking forward to it.
So, which phase are you in right now?