I’m nodding my head along to this post from Kenneth Jarecke:
There’s nothing wrong with not being any good at photography. Everybody started out bad and none of us does all aspects of it well. But it’s a crying shame to want to be good at it, to spend time and money trying to be good at it, and not getting any better.
This isn’t like teaching a child to read. Positive reinforcement is your enemy. Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers… hate you. Instead of taking ten seconds to say. “This doesn’t work. You need to do better”. They readily push that “like” button, because it’s easy and they hope to get the same from you, but also because they’re cowards.
This is something I see every day, and it never ceases to drive me insane. I have a lot of photographer friends on Facebook, and I see their pictures and sometimes the pictures that they like. I see comments/favorites on the pictures that land in the Big Lens Fast Shutter group on Flickr. And every time, I wonder “Does the person that made the picture know it sucks despite all the positive feedback?” Most people don’t know any sports photographers, and unless you are one, there’s almost no chance you know more than one. So all of your friends who just love your pictures probably have no idea what they are talking about. They’re impressed because you froze the action. They’re impressed that you managed to get the faces in focus and a ball in the frame. But as we say time and again, this is just a very small part of sports photography.
I continue to feel that Training Ground is far and away the most important part of the Big Lens Fast Shutter podcast. Sure, no one would listen to an hour of critiques while scrolling through a page of pictures every month, but our mission is to make you better at sports photography, and I honestly don’t know how anyone gets better without a bit of harsh critique from time to time.
Ken Reabe Jr is one of our listeners who participates in Training Ground religiously. With Ken’s permission, I’m going to show you the progress he has made since he decided to shoot with our criticism/advice. These are selected from Ken’s Training Ground pictures from August, September, December and January:
As you can see, Ken has gone from missing the action completely to boring action pictures to well-thought-out-but-not-quite-there non-action pictures before pulling it all together with a perfectly planned and well executed basketball picture that has the feel of a landscape or architecture picture. You can ask Ken, none of this was an accident, nor was it the result of doing the same thing over and over. He wasn’t happy with his pictures, and he traded very short term pain (maybe four minutes of criticism each month for a few months) for the chance to get better very quickly. Was it worth it?
Over the weekend I was looking through the group pool and invited a picture to Training Ground, and the photographer got my comment and submitted a different (better) picture instead. We also received this very nice “thank you” note from a reader/listener who nonetheless considers himself not “brave enough” to submit pictures to Training Ground. Is chasing comments/faves/+1s that intoxicating? Has it made hearing what’s wrong with a few of your pictures and some ideas on how to do better the next time that much harder to hear? I’m genuinely curious about this. The Big Lens Fast Shutter group on Flickr currently has 451 members. I’d like to see more people participating in Training Ground and fewer people dumping images in the group pool chasing comments/faves/+1s. We’re here to make you better, not facilitate a popularity contest.
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