Every form of art requires constant improving and learning new things, and photography is no exception. But improving as a photographer doesn’t only mean learning about this field. As a matter of fact, it often has nothing to do with photography.
In this inspirational video, Sean Tucker discusses why lifelong learning will make you a better photographer. What’s more, he gives some advice on how to constantly learn and suggests many fantastic resources you will surely find useful, both as a photographer and as someone who’s hungry for knowledge.
Sean argues that good photos are a matter of life experience, not just experience in photography. He believes that all great photos were made somewhere between the technical knowledge we have as photographers, and the knowledge and experiences we have as human beings. And I think it’s a great way to put it. On the one hand, you should learn about photography and all its aspects: technical, artistic, historic, and so on. But on the other hand, you should learn about people around you, about life, and about the world you live in. This knowledge combined with photographic skills will tell stories and help you create memorable images.
Now, it’s worth noting that learning doesn’t mean accumulating information. It’s not just cramming facts into your brain to get a mark in a test, as many of us were wrongly trained at school. Sadly, many of us learned how to learn only after we finished school. Learning is about choosing what you’re interested in, and then reading about it, observing, soaking it up. You should think about your own interests and design your “life curriculum.” There’s no test you need to take at the end, so you can follow your own pace and enjoy the journey.
Sean suggests four ways of learning new things. You can use them all to learn about photography directly, of course. However, you’ll also find them useful for learning about the non-photographic topics and for finding inspiration.
Books can open up whole new worlds, spark your imagination, and teach you plenty of new stuff. They make you analyze and think about all sorts of topics… In a word, I think that books are fantastic.
If you want to learn about the people and the world around us, Sean argues that reading about history, mythology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and religion could tell you a lot about it. I am personally interested in the majority of these topics, and I get more interested in them as I grow older. I’ve read a lot about psychology and mythology in recent years, and even about history (which I hated in high school). I started reading epic fantasy in my late twenties, and it really sparks my imagination.
Of course, you should think about your own interests and create your “life curriculum” as I mentioned above. You may be surprised how much your interests will change in comparison to the interests you had before. For example, when you start discovering things on your own, you could start to like topics you hated in school. All in all, you will gradually expand your knowledge and imagination, which will definitely influence your photographic work throughout your life.
Good movies and TV shows can provide you with visual inspiration. Many photographers watch movies when they want to get inspired. But there’s more to it than just “pretty pictures” that exercise your visual muscle. Movies and TV shows can also expand your knowledge, awaken your emotions, and teach you about storytelling.
When you don’t know something, nowadays you can simply google it and learn how to do it. There are so many YouTube tutorials, online courses, and websites that let you learn tons of new stuff from your area of interest. After all, our DIY and Tutorials sections are all about it.
Of course, you can learn about things other than photography online. Just keep in mind that it takes self-discipline to dig deep because it’s easy to get distracted. Sean suggests that you keep a notebook next to you as you watch a tutorial or read an article. Write down notes and questions you may have, and later search for answers to your questions. This makes our knowledge deeper and more complete, whichever topic you’re learning about.
As you already know, the internet is full of junk. However, you choose what you want to see. You can choose to follow high-quality on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. This way you’ll get valuable information instead of selfies, baby photos, and stupid memes.
Finally, Sean suggests audio as another form of learning. Listen to podcasts, conversations, interviews, and of course, audiobooks. This can be a handy way to fill out the time you spend while commuting or cleaning the house, for example. This way you’ll learn something and have a quality time even while doing something dull.
Personally, I find it hard to memorize the information I receive only through audio. I get easily distracted if I’m only listening, without any visual cues. However, it works for many people and it’s definitely a great way to fulfill your time.
In the video, Sean gives you plenty of fantastic resources and suggestions about what to read and listen. Of course, you should check them out if they match your interests.
To sum up, the point is not to copy your heroes and idols, but to find your own way. Find your specific set of interests, and devote yourself to developing them. Keep in mind that it’s a lifelong journey: we need to teach ourselves on a daily basis, stay aware, awake, and curious. And if you ask me, constant learning is what makes us feel alive.
[The Importance of Teaching Yourself New Things |Sean Tucker]