Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

This is quite a collection, from an ancient Brownie thru some cheap cameras, to some really nice pieces. There have been a lot of photographs taken.

This is quite a collection, from an ancient Brownie through some cheap cameras, to some really nice pieces. There have been a lot of photographs taken by these cameras.

What does that mean?
I love this quote, as it is all about short-cuts, or more precisely, the lack of them. While there may be some on a map, in real life there just aren’t any. So many people want a pill, a ‘magic bullet,’ a sheet of instructions, or whatever; something, anything, to quickly make things better.

As I write my 675th post, I am reminded that I still have a few more posts to go before I start to get really good at this. It’s also a bit of a mantra in martial arts. Do something 10 times, and you have an idea. Do it 100 times, and you are starting to get the hang of it. Do it 1000 times, and you are getting good. Do it 10,000 times and you are approaching mastery of it.

Similarly, this quote (by a photographer, if you hadn’t guessed) is about how long it takes to get good at photography. If you are a good critic, and can look objectively at an image, you can look at your work afterwards and say what you would do differently if you were to do it again.

Why is repetition important?  
Even if something goes well the first time, it takes repetitions to make it happen effortlessly, every time. That’s what separates those who work hard from those with some natural talent. When you have both, you get world-class examples like Michael Jordan, or Ansel Adams.

Both of these people had phenomenal natural talent, but both backed that talent with relentless repetition. While the rest of us may be operating from a talent level somewhat lower than these giants in their fields, that is no excuse for not working on the fundamentals of whatever our chosen field or hobby may be.

Even something as simple as changing a diaper takes practice to happen smoothly and without incident. How many times did you practice feeding yourself before you could get the spoon in without looking at it? You probably don’t remember for yourself, but probably watched it happen with your kids. It takes a few repetitions to get the hang of it, right?

Where can I apply this in my life?
It’s like the old musician’s joke, wherein a well dressed couple on the streets of New York City ask a street-corner musician if he knows how to get to Carnegie Hall. His reply is short and sweet: “Practice, man. Practice!”

Not everyone is going to play the Hall, and that’s part of what makes it such a great, career-topping achievement to play there. Similarly, not everyone gets a championship ring, or entire classes at college dedicated to understanding their techniques and work.

However, that isn’t an excuse for the rest of us to be sloppy in our work or in our hobbies. I have, on accident, taken a few good pictures in my life. But I haven’t come close to 10,000 shots yet, much less taking them with purpose and method.

If you are, like me, taking random snapshots, that would be like Michael Jordan going in and just taking some shots from random spot on the floor, and wrapping up after a few dozen shots. He’d never become the champion he was if that was all he did.

Repetition goes hand in hand with a plan. What are you trying to improve? Are you trying to lose weight, or become more fit, perhaps both? If you don’t have an idea where you’re going, how will you repeat the things that will get you to where you want to be?

What are you looking to improve in your life in the New Year? Grab some paper and write down a few things that come to mind. Two of my big items are to move forward with the blog and to continue on my fitness plan, including running my in first 5k by spring.

Look at what you have on your list and chose one as an example on which we can work. Do you have a very specific goal, or just something vague? The more specific, the easier it will be to chart a course. Do you want to visit Africa, or a specific place there? How do you chart a course to a destination as vague as a continent?

Now take a little time and come up with some of the steps you would need to take to get from where you are now, to where you want to end up. For my running I have a lot of shorter distances to cover, as I build up strength and stamina for the 5k. What are the steps you need to take?

You will probably find there are some fundamentals which need to be reinforced to get you from where you are to where you need to be. Determine how you will do them, and set aside time to do them. Then remember to actually get them done.

As your fundamentals improve, so will the rest of what you are doing. Eventually, you will get the hang of it, then you’ll start to get good at it. Eventually, if you keep repeating and improving, you will begin to approach mastery of these skills. Everything built on these fundamentals will also improve, and you will find your goals a little easier to attain.

At least that’s how it’s worked for me. If I find things aren’t progressing the way I expect, it’s usually time to go back to basics and work on the fundamentals again, and again, and some more.

From: Twitter, @thequote
confirmed at : http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Henri_Cartier-Bresson the 10th quote
Photo by sakanami

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5 Things I Learned About Photography in 2014 | Peter Cripps Photography Blog - 7 January 2015

    […] to, others. Ultimately you need to get out there and start making images yourself; after all your first 10,000 are going to be your worst (or not) so you’d better get on with […]

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