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The Two Kinds of Photographers
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There are two kinds of photographers: those who make pictures, and those who just talk about it.

 

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This observation is a distillation of my Seven Levels of Photographers. I wrote the original around 2000. It's been translated into thirteen other languages, for a total of fourteen.

The "two kinds" applies in every other area of mans' interests: racing, hunting, sexcapades, fishing, motorcycles, bird watching and you name it. As we say in racing, "The BS stops when the green flag drops." In photography, the BS stops when the portfolios come out. The guys who spend the most time talking are those who spend the least time doing.

I had an epiphany in 1989. When I searched through over 15 years of my archives dating from 1973 looking for some of the great shots I knew I must have made, I found nothing! The good shots only existed in my imagination! I realized that all I ever did was tell myself that I was a great photographer just because I knew every nuance of technique and camera and lens design. I had nothing to show for it. From that point on I decided to stop worrying about the technology and focus my considerable expertise and creative instincts on creating photos instead of reading about it.

 

WHY IS THIS?

Those who make photographs always have more photos to make or editing to do. There isn't any computer time to waste on forums. When in front of our computers we would rather create a new image or play with a new tool. There are an infinite number of tricks to learn on Photoshop to help us make new images. I never have enough time to work on my computer. I wish I had more time so I could create, print and share more images. There is only so much time. We can either talk about something or go do it.

If I had more time I would share more of my images here. I make over 1,000 shots every week on my D200 as of April 2006.

Creatives usually have no time for forums. I make the time to do the informative parts of this website thanks to your help and the ads.

Too many people get sucked into wasting creative time reading a zillion comments from total strangers on forums, discussion groups and chat rooms. Some people start believing what they read.

A huge problem with forums is the people who post the most shoot the least. These forums make it tough to know the credentials of the posters. More weight is given to well-spoken frequent contributors than a competent professional who might step in to help. Worse, the crankiest members of the forum will proceed to heckle the one guy who knows and tried to help, and then he never returns.

Photographers tend to be crummy writers. Forums are overloaded with comments from the people you most want to avoid. Many of these people don't even own the gear they're discussing; they just like to talk! Not that all the information is bad, but it is disproportionately weighted in the wrong direction.

Look at any forum on any subject from art to zebras, and you'll see many who spend more time calling each other stupid than discussing the topic. Many who live in these forums take more pleasure in hurling epithets than in discussing the topic. As any high-school psychology student knows, these guys are confirming Freud's observations that all human action is based on making oneself feel important. I prefer to do this by creating bitchin' photos. Forum posters find it easier to try to look smart by posting as much as they can. Don't let yourself get distracted by the bickering or people trying to throw out a lot of information to look smart. Go make photos and see for yourself what looks good.

Euphemize these as "forums" or "online discussions," but they're still just chat rooms. They're the best places to get the worst information, since the least educated are the ones who contribute the most. Those who know the most are too busy making more photos to spend much time there.

Likewise, the guy at your office / friend / neighbor who seems the most knowledgeable because he can talk a blue streak about cameras and digital profiles is probably the best guy from whom to get the worst information.

 

CASH IS KING

Other sites use forums to make money. See the ads on their forum pages? Those sites make money by letting you write their content.

Things are different today. The Internet went commercial. Other sites we all know were started, like this one, by individuals in the 1990s to help others share our love of photography. The others were sold by their former owners and are run today by corporations for profit. I'm still just me.

People ask me to add forums. I would do it since it would bring in more money so I could do more, but I won't do it because it runs contrary to the whole point of this site. I'm trying to share what I've learned. If you want to read what other people have to share, read their sites.

Adding forums would distract you with all sorts of unqualified garbage, and I'd have to take too much time away from adding new articles to police the turkeys who'd cause trouble.

 

WHY YOU GET SO MUCH BAD INFORMATION FROM FORUMS

Old-wives-tales float all over forums because they are repeated so often. This is why so many people believe things with no basis in fact. Fact is easy to learn: go make your own photos and experiments and you'll see. I'm amazed that people will research Raw vs. JPG for a half hour on forums, but never bother to take the five minutes to make two shots on their own camera to see. Another example of an old wives tale is that UV filters rob sharpness, plastic zoom lenses aren't sharp or that 16 bit looks any different. Go shoot for yourself and see. Most of these tales are decades out of date.

Chatting for many people is a weird little hobby in itself.

If you want to get information from these forums, be sure to check out any poster's images first. If you want to make images like they do, then heed their help. If their photos suck, then run away!

I'm embarrassed that I spend as much time as I do making this website. I also spend a ton of time photographing. You can see some of my work in my gallery and more recent shots at my travels. I don't spend much, if any, time adding to my galleries online.

Here's a funny example of the foolishness of taking advice from strangers online. In case you're unfamiliar with the art world, the Edward Steichen photo analyzed second from the bottom sold for three million dollars in Februray, 2006!

 

WHAT ABOUT THE QUIET ONES?

The guys and girls of whom you've never heard are the ones making all the great shots. They aren't giving workshops, promoting themselves or being paraded around by Canon, Nikon, Sony and Epson promoting gear.

The people whose work I admire the most don't show it, and if they do, usually have klunky websites at best.

Girls make better pictures than boys. The girls just do it, while the boys are talking about who has the best camera. You'd vomit if you saw all the guys I do paying for workshops who stand around discussing noise figures of Canon vs. Nikon while the magic 60 seconds of light passes them over at sunrise in some remote scenic location.

 

ONE EXPERIMENT IS WORTH A HUNDRED OPINIONS

I learn by doing. I'm very curious and run experiments to see what happens. Often I discover something different than what everyone "just knows," especially with all the old wives tales circulating today.

Truth varies from the opinions of chat roomers when this happens. 75 chat roomers will all agree with each other. Too bad they're not always dead on.

 

SO DO I CARE WHEN PEOPLE IN SOME FORUM CALL ME AN IDIOT?

Of course not. As anyone familiar with forums knows, most of them spend most of their time calling other people stupid.

One of these days I'll share my resume with you. I haven't bothered so far. I prefer to let my photos speak for themselves. I make loads of mistakes and learn by paying attention to them, not by reading some chat room. Keeping an open mind lets me get smarter. I still have a lot to learn, but after over 30 years of continuous experimentation I also have a lot to share.

"I am always learning." Michelangelo.

'The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." Steve Jobs, Apple Computer. Sure, I'm crazy, and so were Copernicus, Galileo, DaVinci, the Wright brothers and Neil Armstrong. Some of these guys did their most important work while imprisoned for crazy views. For five years after the Wright brothers flew, the most respected scientists of the day were still writing articles proving flight was impossible and media derided these first flights as hoaxes!

"If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking." Ben Franklin.

Genuine experts told us all that airplanes, telephones and light bulbs wouldn't work, even after they did. Do you really want to listen to a bunch of anonymous chit-chatters? I prefer to do my own photo experiments, and you should, too.

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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2006