The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Avoiding Expert Advice

I’ve just been reading “Professional Photographer” magazine (UK). I was hoping to get hints, tips and insights into improving my photography, especially as I’m giving serious consideration to setting up a part time business, which would allow me to work around my Fatigue.

Did it inspire me?

Did it hell.

After reading a few articles, a couple of reviews and an interview or two I was ready to throw my camera in the bin, stuff my face with chocolate and/or slash my wrists.

Unless you are an award winning, internationally known photographer, using cameras that cost in excess of £10,000 and lighting equipment worth triple that amount, then clearly you are nothing other than an inadequate pretender.

I should have known better.

When I used to run my web design consultancy business, I subscribed to a magazine called DotNet, which was full of everything the professional web designer should know.

Except all it did was make me incredibly depressed. Slowly piles of unopened magazines rose in my office, glaring at me, daring me to open them so they could show up all my inadequacies, telling me if I was true professional, I wouldn’t be intimidated, therefore I must be a faker.

But there are many different sides to web design, from coding to databases to graphic design to marketing strategies to understanding how to effectively integrate all these things with your business. No one is an expert in all these fields, so either you become a specialist in one or 2 areas and employ people, or strategically link with other businesses, who specialise in these other realms, or you try and do it all and come across as amateur in everything.

What this means is, no matter how expert you are in your field, a magazine covering all aspects is going to make you aware of just how much you don’t know.

So it is with photography. Are you a natural with people, objects or landscapes? Do you want your images to be perceived as art, tell a story, or report an event? Are you wanting to shout to the world “look at me” or make other people feel better about themselves? Do you like the technical aspects of lighting studios or prefer quick snaps? Do you like everything to be perfect in the single shot, or do you enjoy the process of manipulating the image afterwards?

Consequently, with a magazine such as Professional Photographer, even if you were an award winning, internationally known photographer, using cameras that cost in excess of £10,000, you would still feel inadequate after reading it. *

The only real way of keeping your confidence is to keep away from critics, pessimists, and (especially) realists.

Far better to be happy in your own world than miserable in everyone else’s.

*And I’m not even going to begin mentioning how I felt after reading “Men’s Health” magazine. How to get a 6-pack in 6 weeks - pah!


Bock the Robber said...

A friend of mine won several awards and held many exhibitions using only a compact, fixed-lens camera and monochrome film.

Charlie said...

I think all professional magazines are edited by elitists and snobs, as well as vehicles for advertising the expensive stuff.

I was a public accountant for 30 years, but when the Journal of Accountancy came in the mail each month I didn't understand half of what the talking heads were talking about. That magazine never stopped me from being successful.

Carole said...

That story reminded me of Aesop's fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. But the truth of it is, you are exactly right. The more I read writing mags, the more I know for sure I should never have started writing.

Jane Dearie said...

Hi Kim,if I thought really seriously about these professional magazines then I wouldn't be writing (not sure why I am anyway!), wouldn't have taken up art and never taken a photo.
You might get the odd tip to try out, but I reckon however you express yourself, you're still you and you're own unique self that nobody else can be.
Creativity comes in many forms ..... and I hear the cooking is pretty brill over your way!

iLL Man said...

Kim, some of the most dismal, unimaginative and downright ugly photographs I've ever seen have been taken with top of the range equipment. Good gear only improves the picture quality and makes working in certain conditions easier. Do what you do, and if it looks right, it will be right.

Regarding photgraphy, break the rules, experiment and keep your eyes open to what's around you. Imagination is the key. Also, find one of the less snooty mags. They may be aimed at the amateur, but believe me, they'll give you all the tips and info you'll need.

The Birdwatcher said...

I can get a six pack in five minutes and drink it ten

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Man, I'm the same way, with pretty much everything I've tried :D

But if you're looking to improve your photography knowledge, this site has helped me out a lot in terms of understanding different aspects like aperture, shutter speed, iso settings. It's a great resource for lots of things concerning photography, really.

Mary Witzl said...

Whenever I've looked at professional magazines of the kind you mention, I've always thought that the people who subscribed to them must either be showing off, filthy rich, or insufferable elitists, as Charlie says. Trade magazines are so full of glossy advertisements and state-of-the-art stuff that few people can afford, and I wonder who buys them. I wouldn't let it worry me in the least if I were you. You took good, professional photographs of me and my family and I'll bet a fair number of those glossy professionals couldn't have delivered.

PI said...

The trouble with subject mags they are so entranced with the knowledge they are supposedly imparting they ignore thing like natural talent, a good eye and catching the moment by pointing and shooting.
I once became downwcast on a drama course with some frightfully erudite Cambridge students until the lecturer pointed out that all the erudition in the world wasn't worth a can of beans if one didn't have a sense of theatre and when it came to actually putting on a show he was proved right.

Ronnie said...

"Far better to be happy in your own world than miserable in everyone else’s."

There you are Kim, you've just discovered the secret to life.

Conan Drumm said...

Why does that Python sketch come to mind... "Know what I mean? Know what I mean?"

Charlie said...

I think Kim is avoiding our expert advice.

Kim Ayres said...

Bock - sounds really interesting. Is your friend on the web? Do send me a link if you have one

Charlie - I think you're right. They probably have to write like that to make people feel they are part of an exclusive club

Carole - I steer well clear of writing magazines. I've also steered clear of writing groups for similar reasons, although I know several people who have benfitted from them

Jane - it's my wife and son who have the food creation skills. All I can do it eat it...

Ill Man - thanks for your words. I need to remember a good pic is a good pic, and is not less than just because the camera wasn't top of the range

Birdwatcher - do rugby players get trained in how to do this? Every player I've met has this down to a fine art...

FLG - thanks for the link. On the first post I already found a function on the camera I'd not investigated :)

Mary - I'm glad you liked the photos - it was a fun day :)

Pat - you're right- if we're going to compare ourselves to others we should make sure we're comparing the right parts. For example, I'm taller than Napolean Boneapart, can play the mandolin better than Winston Churchill and have lived for longer than Alexander the Great!

Ronnie - maybe I should copyright it, and start printing it on t-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers

Conan - I see you share the same distrust of people who claim to know :)

Charlie - I've known you take considerably longer to reply to comments. Ok, you've usually had a better excuse... Let's change the subject.

Charlie said...

Merely joking, Fido (let them figure that one out). And yes, you're right—I've been known to take as long as never to answer a comment . . .

Sarah said...

personally, i: like everything to be perfect in the single shot. however, most often end up: manipulating the image afterwards. even if it happens to be up to my standards, i find a way to "make it better"

excuse my language here Kim, but "phuck" Professional Photography and every other "photography" magazine out there, they are jammed full of ads and useless information. if you want to get something to inspire or help you out, grab a "field guide", they are very helpful (maybe not inspirational) i purchased "National Geographic: Photography Field Guide" a few years ago and have used it a number of times. (i believe they update it every year or every other year) sure, the "computer" portion of it is swiftly rendered useless, (you are already adept at photoshop anyway) but the principles of photography remain the same.

Eryl Shields said...

Oh god magazines. I used to read them all; until one day I realized that I was never going to wear Chanel couture or live in a New York Brownstone filled with modern art, so what was the point?

savannah said...

just look at the pictures, sugar ;-) xoxox

Kim Ayres said...

Charlie - it's true. There aren't many bloggers I've had to ask "are you dead yet?" in order to get a reply...

Sarah - I'm finding I get more inspiration looking at photos I like and figuring out how they took them. I won't be buying this one again

Eryl - can you imagine how we'd feel if they brought out a Philosopher's Monthly?

Savannah - :) Hope things settle down quickly for you with the move

Anonymous said...

That was very heartening to read- thank you! Coming to visit from 5 min's blog and glad I did!

Kim Ayres said...

Starlife - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment :)

Bock the Robber said...

Kim -- No. He's a strictly pen-and-paper kind of guy. Letters. Stamps. Books. None of that recently-fangled internonsense.

Kim Ayres said...

Ah well, let me know if you see anything posted :)

Bock the Robber said...

I'll ask him when I see him. (He doesn't have a phone).

El-Branden Brazil said...

To be honest, Kim, I am surprised at you. You should know better than anyone, that the tools do not make the artist. Indeed, a good camera allows for flexibility and some enhanced image qualities, but, I have seen Japanese guys using ¥1,000,000 cameras taking clearly crap shots of leaves and cherry blossom. On the flipside, people have had books published of wonderful instant Polaroid images.

As a final note, my friend who has worked for National Geographic and Time, and has had over 20 books published and many, many leading exhibitions in Japan and abroad, does NOT use a £10,000 camera. His is a Canon EOS 5D, which costs a few thousand pounds less, and is a standard professional camera. I use a Canon 40D, and while considered a semi-professional piece of kit (I'm not rich), I know that my images are of adequate and professional quality. In fact, I am assembling 40 images for publication in a charity book, right now.

Kim, just shoot! Unfortunately, a myth of elitism exists in photography, merely because there are just not enough jobs and too many people wanting to go pro. Trust me, I know!

By the way, what is your camera?

Kim Ayres said...

Branden - I know, I know. really I was just writing about how magazines which purport to teach you so often end up making you feel inadequate instead.

I'm currently using a Fujifilm Finepix s7000 which has 6MP and a 6x optical zoom. But I have my eye on the new Finepix s100fs with 11MP & 14x optical zoom

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