This post is somewhat different to my others but does apply to cinematography/ photography as well as pretty much any occupation/ hobby. I have recently been sent an awesome box full of goodies from one my of my favourite companies 'Fuel 10K'. This isn't a sponsored post per say but I use their products on every shoot I go on. I often shoot 18 hour days with no breaks or climb mountains with a stupid amount of gear with me. As well as staying hydrated I always start off with one of their cereals and carry one of their shakes to top me up part way through the day. Their products have got me through so many shoots where i'm feeling run down and exhausted and I can't recommend them highly enough. Anyway back on track:
Becoming A Master
Malcolm Gladwell wrote that to become a master at something you need to spend 10,000 hours practicing that very thing. This applies to anything, whether you're passionate about photography, sport or even origami. The key is practice. Now this isn't a new concept or profound bit of information, everyone knows you need to practice more to be better at something. The difference here is it's setting a goal for you to become the best you can be, a true master of your passion. It's too easy to become complacent within your work and accept the level you've reached to and sit comfortably with it. This is understandable, why push yourself further if the level you're at is getting you by. The problem with this is you can easily be left behind by your competitors or simply lose the spark that initially got you into it due to repetitiveness.
Now i'm not a Master of my trade, i'm vastly experienced and work professionally but there's still mountains of experience and knowledge to be gained to further improve my skills. Wanting to obtain 10,000 hours of practicing my trade is what drives me. On the 10,001st hour I will still have things to improve upon, skills I haven't 'Mastered' but I will be a lot more advanced compared to where I stood at the 5,000th hour.
Talking specifically about my experience in photography and working alongside hundreds of others. Way too often I see someone who is great at what they do, but when you talk to them about different techniques or approaches they look at you like you're mad. Why switch up their approach or gear when they're happy doing the same thing for years on end?! The same goes for 'Photographers' who go out and buy a really nice camera body and a few pieces of decent glass and realise that it's relatively easy to produce some 'nice' looking shots from them. That doesn't make you a photographer, certainly not a professional. More often than not they purely shoot on semi auto (Aperture Priority for example) and never push themselves to truly understand their craft. Don't get me wrong there is a time and a place for using those settings, I do it myself in tight conditions but on the whole there is no excuse not to shoot full manual and produce the shots for yourself. After all you get better results that You created if you do. I see way too many photographers charging professional rates and shooting events or corporate jobs that they have barely any experience in.
You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone, shoot something you haven't shot before or in conditions that can be troublesome. Don't spend your 10K doing the same thing over and over. Spend your 10K pushing yourself into different scenarios, with different approaches. Even when you're not physically practicing make sure that you're always in the mindset, thinking about how to improve your next shoot. I can rarely watch a film without breaking down the shots in my head, whether it be the lighting, rigging or colour grading. When i'm out and about without my camera I often see photo opportunities and think out how I would approach it if I had my gear with me.
When I first started out I took on jobs in locations I had never shot before. My first nightclub shoot was at Ministry of Sound in London and I had never shot in those conditions before. The first half an hour was spent frantically trying to get the look I wanted to achieve before I could confidently move on and shoot properly. Looking back on those images there were some great shots but there were also some truly awful ones. From those awful shots I learned everything I needed to get back out there and shoot that type of gig again with no problems. The same goes for every type of job I shoot, i've come a long way since my night club shooting days. Even with jobs that I have shot hundreds of times before there's always an opportunity for improvement. It could be a new style of shot, a new technique or shooting with gear you haven't used before.
So whether you're a photographer, synchronised swimmer, graphic designer or you simply want to be insanely good at playing the harmonica, start getting your 10K and more importantly optimise your use of that time. It may seem daunting, but if from today onwards you push yourself in every hour between now and then. You will confidently know that you're on your way to becoming a true Master of what you do.