There is no doubt that the latest digital tools speed up our learning progress but unfortunately the massive computing skills required have also slowed us down. As a result, more people could take sharper photos but in fact there are still a handful of photographers who can really master all related photographic skills from operating cameras to producing quality photographic output themselves.
To many photographers, the following four-stage progress model could be a good indicator of estimating their skill level in photography. So which stage are you at now? Let's find out.
The first stage is the beginning stage and most photographers learn quickly and make progress easily.
The second stage is the bogging stage and they make little progress and do not have any sense of direction. Basically they are stuck.
The third stage is a happy stage as they overcome the immediate barriers and resume their sense of direction.
The last one? We will talk about this separately.
The Beginning Stage
If you still can remember how you first discovered photography in the old days, you probably had missed some sweet experiences during this stage. At this stage, all photographic knowledge is new to you, from photo composition to camera operations. You learn so quickly that you are satisfied and almost want to be a professional photographer because you think you can!
After mastering a lot of technical skills, you get great shots in almost every trip. In simple words, you are able to capture what you see in record level well. People around you start to give you good comments such as "nice photo, you must have a good camera". Thank you very much! Honestly this kind of good-camera-creates-nice-photo comment is actually an insult to a photographer but it is another story.
If you work even harder, you might soon come up with a portfolio with reasonable quality - in your own opinion! What is next? You have photographed most subjects like mountains, sunset, sunrise, waterfalls, deserts, coastal scenes or whatever in your photographic area of interests. After a while, you may start to realise that your photos appear to be similar without any new elements or fresh ideas. To you, creative engineering does not work anymore. Believe it or not, you have just entered the second stage, the Bogging Stage.
The Bogging Stage
I can imagine and feel your pain if you are here now. Although you try to capture and present something more than just recording, your mind appears to be bogged with limited creativity. At this stage, you achieve much less as your photography seems to be locked mainly for recording only. In other words, your creativity is still limited by the knowledge model you are familiar with previously in the Beginning Stage. Many photographers could get stuck here for quite a long time and sometimes stay forever. If so, you are really bogged.
Your current technical knowledge just cannot help you to enter the artistic world. This is the hardest part in photography and some average photographers would probably give up because they realise that this is no longer their game. To those who are persistent, they might finally get through if they could really re-learn photography from an artistic approach. Of course you need unlimited imagination, an artistic mind and the courage to refine your vision. Obviously your aim is to become an artist with technical skills. When this happens one day you wake up and see things differently. The power of creativity gives you the ability to express your ideas with abstract elements. If you can do this, you are at the next stage, the Heaven Stage.
The Heaven Stage
You have visited paradise and then dived deep into hell. Finally you are now in "heaven". To you, every scene is a picture. Your mind has been opened once again with distant boundary. There is no doubt that your photographic skill is now at a higher level. Congratulations if you are here.
Is there another stage from here? In theory, there is but you will not be able to tell until you become a super master photographer (artist). When the time comes, you may no longer use cameras to capture your dream photos and the sky is your limit.
The Undefined Stage
It is really hard to imagine what this stage is because you are no longer bounded by anything. Just use your imagination. Finally you might realise that the destination is actually the starting point. Be prepared to learn again!
If you are still reading this, thank you. I hope I have drawn your attention to what photography really is. In simple words, the whole concept above only means one thing to us - we never finish learning. Every day is new to us and we will succeed if we are determined.
Read this and many more articles in High Definition inside Issue 4 of Landscape Photography Magazine.