How learning helped my photography / by Peter Foote

What I’ve learned from driving a car that’s helped my photography.

I’ve been spending time teaching my step daughter how to drive. This has made me think about my learning to be a photographer.

When we’re learning to drive it’s all a bit overwhelming. We’re handed the keys to a machine that we have only ever watched other people use, a machine that can only do something with our input. Until we learn how and when to give it that input it’s a bit of a sweaty foul language spilling disaster.

Remember the confusion? Which thingamy does what? Remember the first time you hit a main hwy or a twisty road? Remember when someone pulled out on you the first few times and your Mum or Dad when into full panic mode and were screaming at you to “STOP! STOP! STOP!”

 And all you had to do was apply the brakes, but the motion had not become a part of your muscle memory yet?

My last few jobs had me driving around 60,000km per year. Now getting in the car is like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes. In fact I think I drive better than I walk!

So this brings me to the photography part, the old adage goes “Your first 10,000 photos will be your worst”.

The process usually goes a bit like this;

Buy a DSLR. You take photos that are sharp and you now feel like you are the next big thing in photography.

Start learning about photography. Realise those sharp photos are not well lit and have pretty poor composition.

Start to study more and really delve into the creative arts, photography, cinematography, fine art painters etc.

The 10,000th photograph. It really was a mile stone for me. Everything suddenly came together.

Now picking up the camera became as comfortable as walking in my favourite slippers. Things still go wrong but I can draw from those times before and it won’t be a sweaty foul language filled disaster, I’ll just adjust and keep on shooting.

So remember, whether you are still the person with the brand new camera or a seasoned pro, if you ever get every shot every time; you’ll probably be the first and only photographer in history to do so. People blink. Pull strange faces. Light suddenly changes direction and intensity. Hmmm that’s starting to sound like driving on Sydney’s Parramatta Rd.

I’ll close with the idea that we should never stop learning. Never stop pushing our ability, and never think that we are as good as we are going to be tomorrow. Let’s hope we get to see our 1,000,000th photo and see what we learned.

Peter Foote