If you really want to improve your photography skills and get to that next level two of the essentials are your standards and your vision. A standard is “a level of quality, achievement, etc., that is considered acceptable or desirable”, (Standard. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved December 19, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/standard). It is our standards that help us maintain consistent quality and one of the marks of any professional is consistent quality. Each person has to set their own standards or draw their own line in the sand as it were. Your standards, like your goals, need to be based in reality; they need to be something that you can accomplish. If your standards are too high we may give up even before we reach them, if your standards are too low then you will never improve. When a photographer doesn’t have a set of standards it will show in their work. Once again; you must be the one to set your own standards. It is our standards that mark us as a professional; it is our standards that show our professionalism. It is your standards and your vision that is going to set you apart from the rest.
The next essential is having a vision. What is a vision? That is a question that only you can answer. Simply put your vision is how you see the world; it is shaped by your past, your present, and your future. Your vision is colored by your interests, where you live, and the people around you. As a photographer it should be your goal to capture that vision with your camera; your vision, or lack thereof, will show through in your photographs. Without a vision we cannot reach that next level, you must have a vision of where you want to go with your business, your photography, and a vision for each photo you take. Your vision will change with each stage of your life, refining your vision will always be an ongoing process. A friend of mine, Levi Sim, said one day that even if you put two photographers in the same spot you will get two different photos because each person sees the world in a different way. We see the world according to our vision.
The goal of every photographer, at least it should be, is to create art. Scott Robert Lim defines art as “Your vision executed perfectly.” Without a vision we cannot create art, without a photographic vision we will be stuck getting those photos that everyone can get. Now how do we use our standards and our vision to take our photography to that next level? The answer is simple practice.
Now let’s be clear, this does not mean just going out and taking pictures it means that we practice with a purpose. I know we have all heard the saying, practice makes perfect. Well I am here to tell you that this saying is wrong. If you practice something wrong you are going to preform it wrong, the saying needs to be changed to perfect practice makes perfect performance. When you practice with a purpose your will always improve, if you just go out and take pictures you will fill up your hard drive with snapshots.
If you really want to improve your photography you need to have a set of standards that are based in reality, you need to find and cultivate your vision, and you must practice with a purpose. Because I have set standards for my photography and I have found my vision; for both my photography and my business, I have seen the quality of my photography increase at a higher rate than it would have otherwise. If we are not learning and improving we are stagnate or getting worse both of which are bad. Remember, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.