“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”
— H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Knowing a range of impressionist photography techniques is like having a large vocabulary. But a collection of words doesn’t make poetry. Just like putting the random words together doesn’t create a poem, manipulate your scene with a technique doesn’t create an impressionist ‘masterpiece’.
Of course you first need to know how to use your camera, lenses and other accessories efficiently. When you can capture your scenes with your camera, your images will say, “This is what I see.” The next step in this process will be to discover and develop your own aesthetic and style, so you can show how you feel about what you see.
To do it well you need to learn the principles that are true for all photography and apply them in your own way. Your work will reflect who you are and the world you live in.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every artist was first an amateur.” Growing beyond what you know doesn’t have to be hard work. Start where you are. To begin, take time to think honestly about the following two questions and write down the answers in your journal.
Where am I now as an artist and photographer?
What do I need to do to become the artist and photographer I want to be?
Revisit these questions a few times a year. Over time your answers may change, and that’s OK. But, a realistic evaluation of where you are now and what you intend to accomplish will help you sustain the effort to reach your artistic goals.
If your practice and techniques haven’t produced the results you want, maybe it’s time for a new direction.
No one learns to create great images by reading an article or a book. You learn impressionist photography by creating a lot of images. Whatever you learn about this art form, put it into practice immediately. Be guided by your curiosity. Experiment. Celebrate the joy of discovery as each technique becomes demystified.
To arrange time for learning, you may need to work around your job, study or family. The time left is yours for photography.
Use your free time efficiently. Starting can sometimes be the most difficult part of the process. If you go on a photoshoot regularly, a rhythm will develop to your work. Start because photography is what you want to do. The day before you plan to photograph, check your equipment. Make sure you have everything ready to go. Put it to use whenever you discover a way to make things more efficient. Good habits help you focus more intently on your photography.
Learn to see in a specific way when photographing. Go beyond just naming objects. Divide a scene into simple parts. The three most important words in the artist’s visual language are lines, colours and light.
Examine the scene in front of you. Take time to notice the elements. See how each of these elements is separated from the others. Look at the light, the main lines and colours. Take extra time to master them. Remember, these three elements are the fundamental blocks of impressionist photography.
The closer you get to mastering these concepts and principles the more you will create your images from intuition. Soon you will feel as if your images are created by themselves.