Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ask Yourself: "What Do I Photograph?" And Not "How Do I Photograph?"

To The Reader - Rosamond, California
There was a time that I wanted to be an author. Perhaps I still do.

When I was a kid in school I hated english classes. I wasn't very good at diagramming sentences and understanding adjectives and prepositions and how to appropriately use the semicolon. I got by, but barely.

I loved to read, though. I could get lost in a good book. Sometimes I would stay up nearly the whole night reading. It was an escape. My imagination could take me anywhere.

So I began to write. I wrote short stories and poetry. I tried to write a few novels, but would give up before they were even halfway complete. I almost finished one. An interesting idea I had (which I started but never finished) was a fictional thriller where each chapter was written in the first person from the perspective of a different character.

Even though I wasn't an expert in the technical aspects of writing, I knew what I wanted to write and so that's what I did. And I became pretty good at it. Back nearly two decades ago in college my English 102 teacher told me that I had a real talent for writing and that if I didn't pursue it I was throwing away a promising career.

One reason that I never pursued writing--one reason that I never finished penning a book--is self-doubt stemming from those struggles in school. How could I be a writer if I'm not intimately familiar with all of the language rules?

Seneca the Younger in Moral Letters To Lucilius said, "Find out what to write, not how."

As Seneca the Younger states, what's most important is not how to write but what to write.

The "how" will come. Don't worry so much about that. The more you do something the better at it you will become. You'll learn it with time and practice.

It's the "what" that separates the good authors from the average ones. It's the author's mind and heart--his or her creativity--speaking through written words that makes a book great.

This all relates to photography. It's the same thing.

Don't ask, "How do I photograph?" That is the wrong question. You'll figure out all the technical stuff as you use your camera. You'll figure out what works and what doesn't by doing. It will all come with time and practice. Don't worry so much about that. The more you photograph the better at it you will become.

Instead, ask, "What do I photograph?" That's a key to successful photography. It's what's in your mind and heart--your creativity--speaking through your photograph that makes an image great.

Find out what to photograph, not how.

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