I was recently listening to an episode of The Nerdist Podcast where host Chris Hardwick was interviewing Nick Offerman, the actor who plays Ron Swanson (the modern Chuck Norris) on the TV show Parks & Recreation. During the interview, they were discussing woodworking and boxing, which are obviously related, I know. But what they were talking about was the similarities between the process of training in boxing and learning a new tool in woodworking.
The first quote that really caught my attention was this:
"You first have to learn the line of the thing, then you can do it fast, and once you can do that then you can start exploring how to make it beautiful, how to make each move look glorious." -Chris Hardwick
Then Nick followed up with these thoughts on his process for learning new woodworking tools:
First you have to see how the tool performs, and how it performs in your hands.
Then you go to speed, where you learn how fast you can make it work and still get the output you want.
Then, once you've mastered the speed, that's what I interpret as work. I expect my workers to take a tool, know how to use it, and then use it as quickly as possible. That's how you earn more dollars per hour.
Finally, with mastery comes the beauty of, I can look at that axe handle and say I can shape that with a spokeshave in 67 minutes. -Nick Offerman
I immediately saw the direct correlation to the process of learning photography.
Line - First, we have to learn how our tools work and get a feel for them. Cameras, lenses, light, lights (there's a difference between knowing how light works and how lights work, but that's a whole other blog), modifiers, and everything else. Learn what the buttons, dials, menus, and settings do inside and out so that you don't even have to think about them.
Speed - Once you've learned how everything works and what everything does, you have to master using your tools quickly. The more quickly you can use your tools to get the result you want, the more money you can make. But this isn't the final step. Once you've got these first two, Line and Speed, down, then it gets good.
Beauty - This is the most important step. Our goal as photographers should be to master this part, creating beautiful images. This is the thing that will set you apart from the run-of-the-mill photographers who are more like an assembly line, doing the same exact thing over and over, than an artist.
But sadly, many photographers stop after the first two. How many people do you know who obsess more over how many megapixels their camera has than they do over creating amazing photos?
Let's focus on creating memorable images instead of on our camera's specs.
You can listen to the full Nick Offerman interview over at The Nerdist. Fair warning, there's plenty of language there, but the discussion about this takes place in two minutes between the 55:29 and 57:29 marks.