When I was at WPPI this year, I heard Roberto Valenzuela speak at the PWD Labs booth. To say I was inspired would be a gross understatement. While I don’t photograph weddings, the principles he taught were applicable across all genres of photography and his philosophy regarding practicing your art was, for me, game-changing.
Roberto talked about how he was a classical guitarist for ten years and that, in an effort to have a mistake-free performance, he would practice guitar continuously. He mentioned that the digital age has allowed mistakes to become the norm in photography. We shoot, make a mistake, see it on the backs of our cameras, make an adjustment, and shoot again. When everything is said and done, we throw away the mistakes and just keep the ones we finally arrived at through trial-and-error.
Roberto believes that photographers should practice their craft in the same way that musicians and other performers practice theirs. After listening to him speak, I have adopted the same principle. I want to know that my photography is strong in-camera. I want to place my lights and my subject and know what image I am creating before it appears on my LCD screen. Just as a guitarist will practice and experiment when the stakes are low (i.e. in their room vs. on-stage), I should work on improving my techniques when I have nothing to lose.
Starting today, I am committing myself to learning several new techniques this year and practicing those techniques with family, friends, and casting-call subjects until I am confident I have mastered them. I know I will, in turn, be able to photograph more meaningful, creative and beautiful imagery for my clients and for my portfolio.
What new technique do you want to master?