I know that not everyone is as dedicated to photography as I am. But I am still convinced that even a modest amateur/beginner can benefit by keeping a practice log.
The way you get better at anything is to practice. This is well-known for things like playing a musical instrument or sports, or languages, etc. But I rarely heard it talked about in the photography realm and it should be.
I feel like I am a fairly accomplished photographer. But that’s not because I am particularly gifted. It’s because I’ve spent decades practicing. If you want to get better at photography you too should practice.
It all starts with two things.
You need a goal. And you meed a plan.
The goal can be as simple as getting 10 Facebook likes or as advanced as getting a pro gig. The plan depends on the goal. You need to know what to practice and how to do it. There are tons of courses on photography available online. They can help you with both.
No matter what your goal is, you need to practice and one way to speed up your progress is to keep a log.
A practice log helps hold you accountable. It helps you to critically think about what you want to improve. It helps you track your progress. It helps you sort out what is and is not working. It helps you memorialize where you have been, where you are and where you are going. Most importantly, it helps you to keep on track and inspired. The biggest reason photographers fail to reach their goals is they fail to do one or both – keep on track and become inspired.
The practice log is the best hands-on tool I can think of to help you take concrete action toward your goal. Platitudes are nice. Concrete action is better. The creation of the practice log is your first concrete step. It’s a promise to yourself that you will write down what you are working on and faithfully keep at it.
How do you do it? There’s not much to it. It’s really like a diary for lack of a better word.
I have kept a practice log for years. I suggest you break down, into bite-sized pieces, everything you think you need to learn, what you want to accomplish and how much time you can commit to it.
You can use a word processor or a spread sheet or any other application to do this. I use a calendar that I created which lists my goals, and breaks down the month into day-sized chunks. Then I practice each day and log my progress.
For me, it starts with an overview of what I am hoping to accomplish in the next 30 days (I keep my practice logs 30-days at a time but you can do it daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, whatever.)
I keep a list of what I want to work on, divide the tasks into bite-sized chunks, and scheduling the time to complete it.
Now before you get nervous, practice every day doesn’t have to be burdensome. I suggest you commit to something simple. 10-15 min a day will do. If you are in a groove and don’t want to stop, you can always practice longer, but even 10 minutes a day, handling your camera, doing something photography related, will make you better. I guarantee it.
The old 80-20 rule should guide your actions here. 20% of your effort will yield 80% of your results. This is the secret value of the logs. If you work at this for a few months and say, you pick improving your grasp of exposure. You can look back and decide where you want to go.
In this example – You practice and study exposure using traditional models. You buy and learn to use a gray card. You learn how to use a light meter. You start making exposures and measuring the results.
Then after a few months you look back and see that one method over the other gave you the results you wanted and you adjust, adapt and overcome. It’s that simple. The log gives you the evidence of your efforts thus far and is a fair method of evaluating your progress.
Get off the couch. Start practicing. You can learn anything if you really want to do it. If you’re truly passionate about something, you will commit time to that project. Practice logs can and will help you to be consistent.
Creating beautiful art with your camera is magical but it’s not magic! It’s just a process. Perfect practice makes perfect and the log will help you find that perfect practice.
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