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Why Knowledge and Experience are the least important yet most Vital to Great Photography

Why Knowledge and Experience are the least important yet most Vital to Great Photography


BrainI was watching Brain Games the other night and they were talking about Intuitive Thinking and it brought to mind (Pun intended) something I feel about photography, that; Knowledge and Experience are the least important when it comes to great photography yet are the most vital. And now, of course, I’ll tell you why.

Let me begin by telling you what I think about the Photographic Process. I believe that the ability to make a great photograph consists of three things: Artistic Vision, Knowledge and Experience. None of them work  alone in a vacuum, they rely on each other. In other words I don’t think you can “Technically Think” your way to a great image. Of these three things I believe they are weighted 51% Artistic Vision, 25% Knowledge, 24% Experience. So while Knowledge and Experience are very important I don’t think they are as important as Artistic Vision in making a great Photograph

But here is why they are so vital. Most of us, but not all of us, can’t think and do at the same time. We can in a way which I’ll explain in a bit but say you were tasked with cutting  a very precise pattern in wood with a scroll saw while having to recite the Declaration of Independence. The words would probably be slurred without cadence and your lines in the wood probably wouldn’t be exact. If, you could even do it at all. How many times have you said to someone, “Don’t talk to me, I’m trying to do something”. It’s because we don’t think and do at the same time very well. But actually we can. This is where intuitive thinking comes in.

Intuitive thinking is not conscious thought or as Yung put it; “Perception via the Unconscious” It’s not Rational Thought. In other words you know it but you don’t know why. Many people that are Right Brained or the “Creative” are thought to have more Intuitive thinking than the Left Brained. And here is why “I think” It makes a difference in art.

We’ll first look at the process: You have an artistic vision of how you want something to look or what you …See. This I feel is essential. So how do you bring that artistic vision to fruition? Well you use knowledge. For a simple example; Say you wanted to make a photograph where the subject is clear and the background is blurred. If you had no knowledge, either you, couldn’t do it or it may take you forever though much experimentation. If you had knowledge of how Depth of Field  works and you knew that Aperture controls Depth of Field it would be a very simple task to bring your vision about.

Of course things actually get much more complex than our simple example and that’s when the problems start. Since we can’t think and do at the same time and often the thinking become complex, we end up thinking about the process. In doing so something happens; we can’t have the artistic vision. When we get so caught up in thinking about the technicals of making an image, everything that our right lobe has visions of… disappears.

I see this all the time with photographers, they learn something new, a new technique and they are concentrating so hard on that new technique that they don’t make anything beautiful or interesting. I know my best friend when she was just learning about Off Camera Flash. She said “Why are my images so terrible? I have all the lights correct” It was simple, she was consciously thinking about the tech which shut down the right side of her brain. When I told her to stop thinking about it. The art again flourished.

This is where Knowledge’s best friend Experience comes in. When you mix Knowledge AND Experience together that conscious thought now becomes unconscious thought or… Intuitive. It’s second nature. When it becomes so, that frees your right side to do what it does best: Create

This is why it is essential…VITAL to gain knowledge that you need and then practice it over and over till you no longer think about it in a conscious  way. Free your mind to make Art

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