I feel like I need to write a few words about talent. It’s something I thought about after some feedback I received following my recent attempt to immerse myself into the world of street photography.
You might have seen the results in my Instagram feed and stories (@fabienb) or in the Highlights or in some recent blog posts.
Among the feedback I received, there were comments like “you’re very talented” or “you’re very fortunate to be able to shoot 2 genres of photography with such results”… I’m not mentioning these to boast and I’m very thankful to all that appreciated me this way. But I’m not convinced this has anything to do with talent.
In fact there’s a method behind all I do, and one that I’ve been able to replicate to any new project I took on.
It’s hard work
I’m a Designer by trade and this might have helped me train my eyes to “see” the world in a certain way. I might be better placed to understand composition, or abstract geometrical shapes or stuff like that.
But I don’t think for a minute that these are not at grasp of everybody else.
I learned these skills, I was not born with them.
What’s really behind my “talent” is hard work.
I spent countless hours out shooting with my camera, whichever that was at any given time. And I need to highlight this because when I solely had my iPhone (I think it was the 4S) was also the time when I had my first exhibitions.
So gear really doesn’t matter. But the hours spent using it, yes, for sure.
Please note that the time I spent out there with my camera didn’t always necessarily go into shooting. When I started hanging out with street photographers, for example, I was telling everybody I was there to connect, to enjoy the company of fellow photographers.
The first time I went to a photowalk, I barely shot a handful of photos in the space of several hours. The latest, I shot 700 (and discarded most).
The reason is that I take the time to observe.
Take it slow
We live in a world where everything needs to provide instant gratification to cater for our risible attention span. And yet I spent an entire photowalk session barely pushing the shutter button, taking only a handful of photos. Isn’t that counterintuitive?
We buy a camera and go straight out mass shooting with it because we want to feel the success of taking great photos with it. That’s why we bought the camera in the first place.
But instant gratification is merely a pale shade of “success”. We actually need to take the time to fully embrace what we do. One reason why some people often feel the anxiety of not being adequate, is that they never took the time to master or even to find purpose in their craft.
Even when they had a good result, they suffer from impostor syndrome because they lack the confidence of being able to replicate their success, not having mastered the skills to do so.
It’s of course an oversimplification and I’m not qualified to talk about anxieties professionally, but I hope it makes sense.
When you take the time to truly understand what you are trying to do, it helps build up confidence as well.
The ubiquitous football metaphor 😉
Recently, YouTube recommended me a football video (mysteries of their algorithm). It was about Messi.
We can all convene that Messi is one of the great players of this time. Someone with a great “talent” for football. Yet, at a young age he was told he would never make it as a footballer for his hormonal problems. “He will never play football because he is too small”. And so he worked hard to learn how to overcome the issues (and certainly succeeded). He trains harder than anybody else, plays longer than anybody else, runs more than anybody else… or does he?
In the video, the author lets their audience notice that Messi is hardly the player that runs the most on the pitch, quite the contrary. And that he is usually nowhere to be seen in the first 5-10 minutes of a game. Really?
Well, what Messi does is observe.
He spends the first minutes of the match studying the adversary. And while the match unfolds, he quickly learns what needs to be done.
Through the hard work, he has learned the technique, through observation he figures out when, where and how to use it.
You see the end result when he strikes a goal, and he might be many times successful doing that in one match. So you think he’s got talent.
What you might not see is everything that’s behind that.
Here’s the video, if you’re curious:
And while I don’t dare comparing myself to Messi (I am taller), I have seen similarities in the YouTube video.
If people believe I am successful in my recent shift to street photography, it’s simply because I put the hard work first, then observed what others were doing, and finally applied it to my shooting style.
I have done it with the travel photography I now enjoy and teach around the world. I have done it with street photography. And I have done it in the past with other genres (fashion, food, portraits, …).
Yes, you can
Again, I’m not writing all of the above to boast who knows what skill. It’s the opposite in fact: I’m trying to say that if I can do it, everybody can. There’s no hidden talent, you only need to convince yourself that you can. And take the time to observe before you shoot.
It’s the same as…
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”Albert Einstein
I heard people telling me they can’t do it, because they have no talent. Stop undermining yourself, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from achieving what you want.
If you feel like you need help with that, I do offer 1 to 1 sessions (you might see the Masterclass button in the sidebar). I take you through my way of shooting and teach you how to observe, learn and react to what’s in front of you. How to use your camera rather than just trigger a button.
And I hold you accountable to your progress. In the longer sessions, we go on assignments and learn how to keep focus and motivation over a longer period.
I know that you have it in you already. That you got the talent for it and can make it a success. All you need is to realise that you want it.
You are not too far away from being your own version of Messi.