Discover more from Iterations
Learn to Love the Process
There is no magic bullet.
Over the past few days, the photography world has been buzzing about the “global shutter” on Sony’s new flagship A9 III. I’ve listened to various YouTubers and influencers talk about it as if it’s the second coming. They’re saying “it’s the most remarkable camera I’ve ever used” and calling it a game changer, insisting that it will change photography forever. But here’s the thing: for 99% of photographers, it won’t change anything. If this is all Greek to you, let me back up a minute and briefly explain what a global shutter is—and I promise that this Iteration is not just about photography.
There are a few different kinds of shutters, but most cameras use a mechanical shutter called a focal plane shutter, which in simplest terms is made up of two metal curtains that move a slit of light across the sensor, effectively exposing it a “slice” at a time. A global shutter, on the other hand, is electronic and exposes the entire sensor at once. Why does that matter? The fact is, for most photographers, it doesn’t. A few photographers, like sports and action photographers, will see a benefit in that they can shoot insanely high burst rates with equally insane shutter speeds. The A9 III will shoot 120 frames per second with full autofocus and can achieve shutter speeds up to 1/80,000th of a second. From a tech perspective, that’s pretty remarkable. But the fact is, it also means that photographers can be even less discerning when it comes to capturing what Cartier-Bresson called “the decisive moment.” I mean really, 120 frames per second? Long story short, it’s completely unnecessary for the vast majority of photographers, both professional and amateur. But if you listen to certain influencers, it’s a wonder that any photos—never mind any good photos—could have ever been taken without it. And that’s what bothers me.
I’ve been an amateur photographer for more than four decades and I’ve been on the periphery of “professional” photography since Bill and I started On Taking Pictures in 2012. I’ve also spoken to dozens of photographers for my show Process Driven, and many of my friends are working photographers. Because of that, I’ve got a unique perspective on photography and photographers. I think that more than maybe any other type of visual artist, photographers have a tendency to fetishize the gear more than the work they make with it, at least photographers at a certain level or stage of their careers. It seems to be an aspirational thing, especially for photographers who are on the front side of their careers. In most cases, the gear isn’t going to make the work any better or more compelling. Remember creativity loves constraints—our imaginations actually benefit from them—and there’s a ton of science to back that statement up. If reading scientific studies isn’t your thing, take a look at Build by Tony Fadell. Tony was on the teams that built the iPod and the iPhone and has brilliant stories and insights around how constraints affect creativity.
As I said at the top, this isn’t meant to be all about photography, but that’s what’s been on my mind for a few days since my feeds have been flooded with all of the stuff around the A9. It’s not a photography problem as much as it’s a hustle culture problem. It’s just that photography feels more dependent on regularly upgrading gear—especially compared to someone like a writer or a painter—so it’s easy to use as an example. Plus, so many photography influencers are just blatantly shilling product as if the newest piece of gear is somehow going to be a magic bullet that will take your work to the next level. By contrast, I don’t see a bunch of writers on YouTube running down specs on the latest notes app while showing screenshots of their prose, only to remind you to smash that like button and be sure to use their affiliate links in the description. The same goes for painters, and I follow a lot of them.
I could ramble on and on about this—and have—but at the end of the day, the best way to make good work is to make a bunch of bad work. If you’re a photographer, go out and take pictures, but not at 120 frames per second. Look with intention and make pictures with purpose. Lots of your work is going to be terrible, but I promise you that one day you’ll be looking through your Lightroom catalog or your Capture One library or your pages of negatives and one or two photos will stand out. They’ll grab your attention and you may not even know why at first, but that thing—whatever it is—will inspire you to go make more work. And the cycle repeats. The same goes for writers or filmmakers or painters. Right now in my basement, I’m closing in on about 150 paintings and out of all of them, only a few really grab me. But I have them out and I live with them, so that when I go into the studio to paint, I’m surrounded by what worked and what didn’t. I see beginnings of things I want to keep exploring, or experiments that just didn’t go where I wanted them to. But it all counts, and there are no shortcuts. That’s why they call it the creative process.
So maybe unplug from the influencers and the people whose work and lives seems so much better than yours and just go write bad scripts, stories, or books. Go make short films with your friends. Doodle, draw, or paint. Give yourself little exercises or assignments. Whatever it is that you love to do, go do it. And do it a lot. There’s a terrific quote by Elizabeth Gilbert that goes:
“Creativity itself doesn't care at all about results—the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.”
I hope you enjoyed this Iteration. If you did, maybe share it with a fiend or two, and if you’re not yet subscribed, maybe you could do that too. Thanks for reading.
If you enjoyed this Iteration, subscribe so you don’t miss the next one.