• Student Josiah Kilburn

Photography as a Skill

I recently came across the question:

Is photography a skill or a talent?




From what I can tell most people assume that it’s a little bit of both. I’d disagree, I believe that it’s only an acquired skill. You may think that I’m wrong and others are correct but let me try to change your mind.


In my opinion talent is a farce created by less dedicated individuals. Most people would say that’s just because I have ‘talent‘ of some sort. I don’t believe I have any talent, in fact I don’t think anyone does. What people recognise as talent generally consists of either passion for something, or understanding of something.


Lets move away from photography for a second and look at sports. I’m a fencer, and I fence sabre, I often win bouts but most of the time, but honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing. I only have really been fencing for 3-4 months and not more than 3 hours a week. My success can be attributed to two main factors, my body proportions and my age. These two factors give the appearance that I am good at the sport. And while I can probably beat a newcomer. I couldn’t hold a candle to most fencers my age. That will come with my passion (which will cause my dedication and perseverance) and my understanding (ability to understand and improve). A basketball player with “talent” is simply someone who takes great care and dedication to play, creating an understanding of the game. Whether they know it or not.


The same transfers over to photography. Or taxonomy, biology, entomology, drawing, etc... a lot of people have been impressed by my knowledge of ants, It’s seemingly uncanny for a 16 year old to know so much. But I owe that to passion for ants, and an understanding that research is vital to the subject. Any connections like this help someone appear ‘talented’ some of these connections are unconsciously determined. 'talent' can be attributed to a series of connections one make's in their brain that help them improve in their skill. Some of those connections are as simple as how to take a shot, or as complicated as what precise angle would reflect the flash properly. A new, naturally 'talented' photographer is about as good as a photographer who has been practicing for 1-2 years. from my experience Most of one's talent in photography comes from understanding three things; space, lighting, and subject placement. My supposed 'talent' comes from practice, a result of my passion for photography, and my understanding of photography, which I had built over around 4 years of reading. For reference lets compare my images from 3 months apart and show how much I have improved.

Here's a pic of pogonomyrmex occidentalis from april, as you can see it's very noisy and harsh. this is due to improper diffusion.

Now comparing this image from june you'd think they weren't even taken with the same camera... Let alone the same lense! The difference between these two images is stunning. It is mostly due to me learning how to use my flash in manual, increase my depth of field, properly diffuse the flash, and get the proper angle on the ant, all of which have to do with understanding the shot. But my passion for photography and insects allowed me tot be motivated enough to practice. That being said, this worker of Pogonomyrmex rugosus is far to different to compare to the occidentalis so let's look at a closer comparison!

Pogonomyrmex californicus isn't to different though! its very similar to occidentalis, in size and shape especially, and the image from june exemplifies my improvement as well. What's even further is that with my understanding of one type of photography begins to transfer over to other types, allowing me to get shots like this:

pure 'talent' for one type of photography doesn't really translate like this, it comes from understanding of the art. Now before I sign off the last thing I have to cover is truly why I think 'talent' is a farce in the first place. As you read above, I think that people who don't 'express any talent' came up with the concept. It's an excuse, that's all it boils down to. "I'm no good at art" simply means I don't have enough understanding or passion to pursue artistic activities, which is another way of saying, I could be good but it's a lot of work and I don't care enough to try. Some people may say otherwise, that they are really "not good at something" but in all honestly they just don't have the motivation. So after this whole rant style post what should be your takeaway? Well I'd provide two. First off, forget about people who are 'talented' and focus on your own journey! No one else's skill should be that important to you, it'll just get in your way, if anything observe someone who is 'talented' and see what they do that makes them so 'talented' you'll be that much closer to improving on your own. The second thing to take away, find your passion! When one has a passion you can set goals and find motivation for your work.


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