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The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 12:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I'm feeling rather philosophical tonight. Let's see if we can get into some mischief.

One of the topics frequently discussed on this forum is how to advance to the next stage. This, of course, is in regard to photography, and presumably the ultimate stage is consistent publication in national/international publications with attendant wealth and fame.

It's almost as if it were a Moral Imperative or maybe the 11th Commandment. THOU SHALT IMPROVE!

I wonder if Michaelangelo heard that very often?

But what if you're an amateur photographer with no interest in the commercial world of photography. Does the Imperative apply to you?

In the world of product development, there's an old saying about having to shoot the designer/engineer or the product never goes to production. And there are thousands of instances where products have been deemed "good enough" and further development has pretty much stopped.
I haven't seen too much change in Wrigley's Spearmint for a long time.

What if you're an amateur photographer and you have reached the stage where you're pretty happy with the work you turn out? It may take you half a dozen shots to get "the good one" but you can live with that. Does the Imperative demand that you get to the point of "one shot, one keeper"?

Let's leave the commercial side of photography out of this discussion since it brings in competitive factors that cloud the issue tremendously.

Also since photography is such a subjective medium, let's assume that pleasing the model doesn't enter into it. It's strictly a matter of what pleases the photographer.

And finally, let's set aside the notion that doing work purely for the sake of working is necessary. Yeah, I know, that's pretty deeply ingrained in western philosophy and not easily dislodged, but again we are talking hobby status here. A pleasureable diversion from "real work".

What do you think? Can an amateur reach a point where he can say "good enough" and just continue on at the same level?

If not, what is the ultimate stage for an amateur?
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 02:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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"Can an amateur reach a point where he can say "good enough" and just continue on at the same level?

There are, in my mind, three ways: stay the same, regress or get worse, or advance. If we stay the same while others progress, isn't that sort of getting worse? Improving skills really has nothing to do with being a pro or doing commercial work. Some of the worst photographic hacks have been working pros, while amateurs with no interest in going pro have been among the best around. Some years ago my dentist was one of the finest photographers I've ever known. His 16x20 (and larger) monochrome landscapes and cityscapes cold put national Geograpic landscapes to shame. He did them simply for love of the craft and as an artistic outlet.
If we stay the same, then that sameness is likely to end up becoming stagnant.

In my view, there is no "ultimate stage", not for a working pro and not for an amateur. Striving to improve our craft, skill and 'eye' is it's own reward. Why do we do tht? Because we can.
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 10:47 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I think I'm echoing Doug's comments. I see two questions here - that of gaining technical skills and that of realizing artistic vision. It is the first issue - creating an image closely reproducing the image in the photographer's mind - that seems to be the primary focus of most discussion here - is the exposure correct, are the colors correct, is the composition strong, etc.

But, IMO, we see that one can achieve technical excellence - creating strongly composed, well exposed, sharply focused, well balanced images of yet another scantily clad female form, with no vision beyond displaying said form. There's a place for that, but for me, that would not itself be enough, that achieving the technical skills is just the beginning. That's why we set tasks for ourselves - projects, like Doug's private work - to grow and explore our visions, once we've gained some skill in realizing those visions.

Interesting issue, IMO. Thanks for starting the discussion.
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 02:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I think you have to improve. Sam Walton once said "We just don't run well and feel good unless we're moving forward and upward."

Even if you're not trying to get better just by continuing to do the same thing it's going to be easier.
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 03:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think this is one of those questions, that if you ask 20 people for an opinion you will get 30 answers. Everybody is different, from a pro who is perfectly happy putting out work he likes to an amateur who wants to be published in PlayBoy (this is G!). YMMV
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 05:25 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I want to improve because I want to make money from this hobbie.
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 10:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dorbata View Post
I want to improve because I want to make money from this hobbie.
I think your position is a pretty popular one. But a hobby is "a pursuit or interest engaged in for relaxation" per Merriam-Webster's definition.

If it's really just your goal to make money, isn't what you're doing just a work training program rather than a form of diversion or artistic expression?
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 11:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epeters View Post
I think this is one of those questions, that if you ask 20 people for an opinion you will get 30 answers.
Yep, and that's why I asked the question.

Quote:
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Everybody is different, from a pro who is perfectly happy putting out work he likes to an amateur who wants to be published in PlayBoy (this is G!). YMMV
Now the question can be asked if the amateur only wants to be published in Playboy, is he an amateur or just an extremely underpaid paid pro at the moment.

BTW, I have a cashed a check from Playboy for a submission, so I'm past that hurdle (and no, it wasn't for an image or a subscription refund...)
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 11:22 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zytkiewicz View Post
I think you have to improve. Sam Walton once said "We just don't run well and feel good unless we're moving forward and upward."

Even if you're not trying to get better just by continuing to do the same thing it's going to be easier.
Okay, but why do you have to improve if you are happy with what you do, and just when have you improved enough, or does it never end? A sysiphean task of infinite duration...

"The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor." from the Myth of Sysiphus by Albert Camus
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Re: The Imperative to Improve...
Old 02-26-2007, 11:43 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al_Nowak View Post
If it's really just your goal to make money, isn't what you're doing just a work training program rather than a form of diversion or artistic expression?
You're right, I'm going through a work training program but I still consider it a hobbie because I don't know if I will ever take it to the next level. I would like to get paid for my work but it isn't the end of the world for me if I don't. Time will tell.
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