A recent visit to the photographic art gallery got me thinking for quite a while, mostly about how amazed I am that the impact of developments such as the camera technology in our smartphones should perhaps have killed many a photographer’s career by now, but hasn’t, but I also thought about the bigger picture at play here (excuse the pun), of experience seemingly trumping credentials.
It’s a phenomenon which can perhaps be seen in any industry, especially those industries which form part of media, but it’s even more visible in photography. Perhaps it was too much of a simplistic and cynical way of looking at it, that being the idea that some wickedly good cameras integrated into smartphones would essentially kill the livelihoods of many professional photographers, particularly those of an artistic nature. I sort of realise now that all the do-it-yourself tech we’re essentially being handed in our everyday lives, through the purchasing choices we make, only serves to enhance the lives of those who have dedicated their lives to those fields targeted by that technology.
For all I know, the striking photos I had the pleasure of viewing at the photographic art gallery could have been shot with the same make of smarthpone I have, while a dedicated camera in the hands of a markedly less passionate, less experienced budding photographer or photographer-by-economic-convenience could not produce photos which were even half as good.
Now don’t get me wrong — I’m perhaps not one to talk, being an accountant and all, but dare I say at the end of the day what matters is experience and ability over qualifications and credentials. Sure, it definitely helps to go to uni and study an official academic course in relation to what you want to do with your professional life and in some instances there’s no getting away from the need for formal schooling and an official qualification. You wouldn’t entrust your thrown-out back to a chiropractor who practices solely on talent. Would you?
But when it comes to fields such as photography, where the slightest of differences in skill, flair, experience and even desire are what ultimately separate a good photographer whose craft merely pays the bills from an awesome one whose photo, taken with the same equipment available to everyone, is now sitting in a gallery somewhere ready to be snapped up for a handsome sum of money.
Sticking with photography as the case study, yes you can go to school and learn about photographic elements such as image balance and everything else which makes up the topic of composition, but if you do indeed learn about all of that while you’ve already tried your hand for a bit and have in a sense been winging it on talent, it makes for a welcome surprise to find that some of these elements you learn about actually came quite naturally to you.
So yes, qualifications and credentials are important and it is these very elements which could indeed win you a job over someone who’s considerably more talented than you are, but the point is that qualifications and credentials should be pursued in the direction of something which you are naturally passionate about and are willing to effectively have fun putting in the required hours to gain experience and refine your ability.