What photo project should I do ?
This question which seems insignificant, hides a lot of other questions:
What challenge should I give myself?
What are my photographic skills?
What do I want to learn?
What are my expectations?
What is my artistic approach?
These questions puts us in a much deeper reflection than just a photo project can. Is is a very important introspection and one must take the time to do it. Also, we must do it again averytime the skill level increases.
It will come from your inner self. But concerning the photo project itself, one must know how to balance challenge with its skill level.
This is a very important point, which is forgotten by too many people.
Whatever the skill level, we must challenge ourselves so we can learn and evolve. If you want to begin a photo project, take the time to think about what you expect from it.
One must know how to balance the challenge level with the skill level. I will never say it enough...
To understand what the learning of photography hides, and to understand how to balance challenge versus skills, I am introducing a psychology concept: flow.
"Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity."
Wikipedia (Mihály Csíkszentmihályi)
This state of mind is like when the camera becomes part of the human body and soul, the photographer does not think about technical details like aperture or exposure time, all his mind is focussed on creating. Flow is the state of mind which makes the optimal creation possible.
Here is a graphic comparing different levels of challenge and skills.
The graphic shows us typical cases:
On the beginner side, one must not challenge himself too much, because anxiety is inevitable, and very discouraging. Too big expectations directly leads to disappointments, and often to giving up on photography. On the other hand, one must not give himself too little challenge. If you do not challenge yourself, your are not going to learn anything, you will do dull pictures from time to time.
For advanced photographers (pros are far from being exempt), one must also balance challenge with skill level.
Not enoughchallenge lesds to boring photography, we see a spirit too relaxed where creativity is almost absent. originality begins with some challenge. In this state of mind, photographers are generally over-confident, and sometimes they are even prone to a superiority complex disorder...
So, to reach "flow", one must have a high skill level, and give himself high challenges.
It's one thing to experiment flow, but the graphic shows us some other very interesting concepts : learning phases of a photographer.
A very interesting thing this graphic shows us is that the learning path is covered up with worries, excitement, and habits, that becomes mastered concepts, which puts us on a the skill level needed to create optimally.
Take the time to read this again, and analyze the graphic thinking about your own experiences. Think, and you will find how to balance you own photo project with you skill level, to reach the the degree of mastery your art deserve.
The first time we experiment something new in photography, wehave some worries. At last, we have the proof that this is normal! So, let's not be affraid, experiment, and go over our worries, let's learn, and get ready for the next thing to be learned.
By mastering some aspects of photography, we can challenge ourselves in someother aspectswhere we have some weaknesses. This is very exciting and it keeps us learning a lot of new things. This excitement make learning something extraordinary. People that love to learn things have all experiment this excitement. And after many learnings, we can at last make abstraction of our tools and freely create.
With the help of goals, projects, challenge, we get more control over what we do, we master the techniques, and when we push our challenge even more is when the camera becomes part of the human body and soul, we can then optimaly create. Like ina transe, in which time is no longer apparent, an intense creative session which leads to some fascinating discoveries.
Thanks for being there!
Eric Constantineau, small photographer in this big World