Beyond Crowdsourcing: Boosting Your Photography Skills the Old-Fashioned Way

Well, you’ve done it again. Another underwhelming photograph. What are you doing wrong? How the heck can you conquer this art anyway? Do you feel like you’ve maxed out on learning, that you’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to taking better pictures? Before you throw your hands up (or your camera down), take a step back and look where you’ve been mining for help. Is it possible you’re just stuck in a crowdsourcing frame of mind?

If you use the web to improve upon your photo skills—obviously you do, considering the headline of what you’re reading right now—then you’ve used crowdsourcing. Of course, crowdsourcing means tapping into a wider community to accomplish, learn, or solve something. People tend to think of popular sites like Wikipedia and WikiHow when they think about crowdsourcing, but really the web itself could be viewed as one gigantic crowdsourcing platform. Everyone’s throwing their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and information into one gigantic stew, and anyone with Internet access can ladle it out.

Lomg Night Exposure Photography

Long night exposure YVR Airport, Vancouver
Copyright All rights reserved by Joshua Cairns

In most crowdsourcing situations, white noise abounds. This is sure true with crowdsourcing for photography help. Everyone’s got an opinion, and it’s often hard to tweeze out whose opinions deserve weight and aren’t full of, well, you know what. You can get a better feel for whose opinions matter by looking at crowdsourced conversations between other photographers who show their work when they comment, as is done on this photography board on Reddit. At any rate, I’m all for crowdsourcing—to a point.

There’s a saying: If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem starts to look like a nail. In other words, if you use just one tool (e.g., the crowdsourcing facet of the Internet) to solve your problems (e.g., the issues in your underwhelming photographs), you’re sorely limiting yourself. Photography is a hands-on activity. You can read about it all you want on the Internet, but there’s really nothing like having a living, breathing expert by your side to help you improve upon your technical skills. What am I driving at? Take a class! Not an online class, mind you, but an in-person, bring-your-camera, no-distractions, hands-on kind of class.

Chances are good that the brick wall you see between you and great photography skills is not really a wall at all. It’s probably just a speed bump, one that has nothing to do with the limits of your technical or artistic prowess and everything to do with limits of crowdsourcing. Yeah, that speed bump is probably just the edge of the Internet, and waiting for you beyond it are real people ready to help you become a real photographer in the real world in real time.

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