Sunday, 11 July 2010

How to be a great photographer

I’ve been reading Sabrina Henry ’s blog over the last weeks and she is doing a series on celebrating success. She has had guest posts from Stuart Sipahigil, Maureen Murphy, Beate Dalbec and Mark Olwick. These photographers have posted views on success and the value of taking risks.

This had me thinking –what is success? To me, well, to anybody? How do you know if you are successful? How do you know if you are great?

This brought me back to a lesson I learned through my day job.

My day job in short circles around creating successful ERP implementations for medium to large companies. ERP systems simplified are systems to handle for example the financial and logistics transactions for the value chain in a company.

Some years back - prior to launching a project - the members of our project core team were invited to present the proposed improvement project to the management team of a company.

A mini-questionnaire was handed out to the managers in the meeting, and they were asked to rate the main business processes of the company on a scale from 1 to 6. They were not asked to document their rating, just to rate how they felt about each business process. The question was something like; On what performance level is this business process today? And on what level do we want it to be? Assumingly a simple question to answer.

After the managers had rated the processes, the project manager went through the results on the whiteboard. I think the managers were just as surprised as the team members at how their answers differed.

Some had answered that we were on a level 2 but should aim to move to level 5 on the scale. Some said we are on level 5 already and should aim to stay there. Some said we are on level 2 and that is sufficient compared to our competition. Some said we were on level 6 but only needed to be on level 4. You get the picture.

Which of these managers would be most supporting of the project? No rocket science involved here; –that would be the managers wanting to move one two or more steps up the ladder. That would be the managers that wanted to move from 1 to 2, from 1 to 6, from 2 to 5, or even from 5 to 6. Those that felt we were already on the target level, whether it was 2 or 5 – did not see any need for an improvement project. This missing sense of urgency would of course affect their willingness to support the proposed improvement project.

What more became apparent in the meeting; – as a management team they were not speaking with one voice, they did not have a joint vision. They did not agree on the road forward.

I found this a great learning experience which brings me back to the subject of being a great photographer.

The perception of where we are now and where we want to be is something I think we have to agree on within ourself – between the members of our own personal internal management team if you like. The voices in your head! What does it mean to me, to be a great photographer? Where am I now? Where do I want to go from here? What will it take me to get there? This is unfortunately about creating a project plan like any other.

Reaching achievable goals you have set for yourself makes you feel great at what you do, and gives you energy. It is as simple as that.

I was reading Nigella Lawson’s preface in her cookbook – How to be a domestic goddess - the other day. She writes: So what I am talking about is not being a domestic goddess exactly, but feeling like one.

I love my images and think that they are great. I want to shoot more of them.

However, I don’t go out to shoot great images. I go out to play :-)


  1. interessant perspektiv på vår utvikling Eli, og er så enig med N. Lawson. Leken er en forutsetning for å lykkes, vil jeg si....

    hilsen anne

  2. Enig, Anne. Og jeg tror det syns i bildene.

    - - -
    I agree that seeing photography as play can be a prerequisite for success or for creating great images. I think it can be traced in the images one take.