Do you really need to practice photography? I think the answer is yes. Just like anything else, doing a task over and over again makes it easier and makes you better. There is a second part to the practice with photography, that is practice on the same camera.
What do I mean by that? If you are chasing new cameras, like I do, then it’s hard to keep getting consistent results in your photos than you do if you focus on just working with one setup. Another camera is not necessarily going to make you a better photographer.
When you are working to make yourself a better photographer the best way to do that is to take more pictures. If you are constantly change what you are shooting on and with it’s hard to tell if you are not getting better because something is wrong or if it is the medium that you shooting with. Is learning the placement of buttons or controls slowing down your process? Don’t get me wrong, there is fun and value and changing things up, to keep the interest peaked.
When I am shooting for work or for fun and I am interested in the results of my shots, I will make sure that I bring along a camera that I am comfortable with and a film stock that I know. So I can take that variable out of the photography process.
When I go out to shoot a new camera or try out a new film, I never take it along for something that matters. I don’t want to introduce something different into a workflow that I need results. I do enjoy a new camera and trying out something new, but I am usually not happy with the results on the first couple of rolls. Case and Point, I have been shooting on a new to me Canonet QLIII17. Rangerfinders are a new world for me, it’s a totally different shooting process that the SLRs that I normally work with. It causes me to really slow down my process and have to think about what I am doing and how I shoot.
Not that this is a bad thing but it does change how I approach my photography. Even when I switch between my main SLRs (Olympus OM-1, Canon A-1, and Nikon F3) it changes my flow. The biggest swing is when I have been shooting a lot of digital it changes how I approach my film photography. It’s a little hard to explain why but it does.
The biggest thing I notice when switching from digital to film is looking at the images. I review probably a thousand digital pictures for every hundred film photos. I love film, I love the look of film, but it looks different than digital and it throws off my editing and viewing of the images.
It really comes down to what you want from your photography. If you want to be able to go out and get consistent results every time, then practice getting those results. If you want the challenge and the fun that can come from trying out a new camera or film stock, then by all means. Do that.
As I keep saying, photography should be fun and it should be something that you get some enjoyment from, even if you have to do it for work. If it’s not fun, you will stop doing it. I don’t think there would be anything much worse than not creating through my chosen medium.