My old tennis coach used to say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect play”.
As a 14 year old it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to hear, but hindsight is always 20/20 right? I can go out and take a thousand photos, yet if they are not grounded in excellence, vision, well-crafted composition, beautiful lighting, etc. then I’ll either stay the same or actually get worse. (Ummm…no thank you).
One of the best ways I have come to grow as an artist is to copy some of my favorite photographers. They say (whoever they may be) that copying is the ultimate form of flattery, and I truly believe that.
A while back a few of my photographer friends, Fred and Sara, and I rented some lighting and were intent on recreating Yu Tsai’s famous 16 expression series. At a first glance these images just look like shots taken at a photo booth, anyone can take those right? No…wrong. Each image is precise, with specific emotion, and takes time to capture.
- Where the light source was coming from
- What was the exposure
- The amount of different poses
- The composition (how much head space, do we cut off the elbows)…
- Where were the shadows in the shot
- How was he evoking his subject to give him what he wanted?
Then we blasted Taylor Swift + Beyonce (because ummm…that’s what you do when you are with your friends), and danced, and sang, and shot for about 4 hours each taking turns until we felt we had the lighting set-up down, and got shots of each other that we were happy with.
The cool thing about replication is that once you learn how to replicate you can learn how to make it your own. Don’t merely stop once you’ve gotten the copied shot, figure out ways that you can make it Y-O-U. The best thing any of us have going for us is that no one else can be Kat Harris. I offer something that no one else in the universe can offer, and so do you. Your eye, your style, your attention to detail, while it may be similar to others, is altogether separately yours. Own that, and have fun with it!
I’m grateful to be surrounded by some amazing artists who want to challenge and evoke me to become the best I can be, and also that just want to rent a bunch of lights, blast Beyonce, and take a whole bunch of pictures.
Moral of the story: don’t just practice just to practice. Surround yourself with excellence. Fill your vision and creativity with excellence, with art that inspires you, allow yourself to be molded by impeccable work, train your eye to see beautiful composition.
Be purposeful, intentional, precise, and have LOTS of fun while doing so!