Why to avoid becoming a pro and the return to Beginner’s Mind

Scott Kelby’s blog (and BTW Scott is one heck of a pro photographer) offers this thought by guest blogger Syl Arena (of Pixsylated fame. Head on over to his site where today there’s a TED video by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love…wonderful book) talking about “A Different Way To Think About Creative Genius”)…anyway the blog is about why to resist the temptation to become a pro photographer.

Arena goes on to say that “the photo world is filled with unskilled professionals.”

Boy did this hit home with me. I meet a lot of “professional” photographers who are either self-taught (like I was…note the word “was”) during my day-to-day work as a teacher. Most of them are shooting weddings for anything from a paltry $500 to $5,000 or so. And, IMHO most of what they shoot is crap. Period. Meanwhile back on Flickr and other sites, there are “amateurs” shooting photos that blow me away.

So why is this such a big deal for me?

I was one of those unskilled pros. Self taught and self supported I used my cameras and my meagre knowledge to earn a living. Period. You paid me for a photo and I delivered. After a while, I got pretty good at this task. I was a pro and I did pretty well at it if I do say so myself.

But was I any good?

Seeing what I am seeing these days the answer is no. I was competent but I wasn’t great.

So what is the remedy? For me, it’s to try and turn my photographic life around and become an amateur again. Why? Because amateurs don’t know everything. They ask questions. They come to photography with what the Japanese marshal artists and Buddhist mediators call “beginner’s mind.”  (See this link on Zen and Beginner’s Mind.)

I am learning so much about photography, light and ability to see that it is blowing my mind.

I am becoming competent working with software in the digital darkroom.

Now it is time for me to recreate myself as an amateur (Trust me I will still take photos for money. I need the cash.) and to use my skills to create pretty pictures (which is what I believe is the ultimate objective of photography. And when I say pretty I mean compelling. The photos can be of horrific things but are captured my the photographer’s heart and not his or her mind.)….anyway read Arena’s piece at http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2009/archives/3475 and go forth and take lots of photos.

If you’re still not convinced check out this link to the 100 best shots from a cellphone. Really!


One thought on “Why to avoid becoming a pro and the return to Beginner’s Mind

  1. Yes, there is a lot in that. Another way to look at this, one that I find explanatory: an amateur has time, while a pro needs to get on twith the job and look for more jobs (or drive to the next job). Perhaps it’s as simple as that?

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