When it comes to improving our photography, unlearning photography is as vital as learning photography because we often need to unlearn what we’ve learned to become better photographers.
Unlearning Our Photography
First, here’s what I mean by “unlearning our photography.”
Unlearning our photography means recognizing habits, processes, and ideas about photography that keep us from being the best photographers we can be and replacing them. Specifically, we replace habits, processes, and ideas about photography that hinder us with a new way of making pictures. And that new way of making pictures is rooted in understanding photography and camera operation.
As an example of who should unlearn photography, many photographers I work with find it hard to make photographs that they think are “good” because of a misunderstanding of photography and camera operation. And their way of creating pictures seems to be fully auto-exposure or working in manual exposure mode and making pictures by trial and error. But, unfortunately, either approach usually results in creating multiple images to get the “one” they like. And while I understand they’re doing their best, I’d encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing until they realize it no longer serves them and decides to relearn photography to help them be better photographers.
An example of ideas about photography that I think are helpful to unlearn is general ideas about how a photograph “should” be. And I think we can include ideas about rules of composition.
Put another way, our misunderstanding of photography and camera operation prevents us from being the best photographers we can be. And as a result, it’s difficult for us to make the best photographs we can make. However, we’re ready to relearn photography after realizing our faulty practice.
Why Unlearn Photography?
In short, we unlearn our process of misunderstanding and frustration and relearn a process of understanding and curiosity. We do this because a creative process filled with understanding and curiosity results in thoughtful, well-composed photographs. In other words, our work improves by replacing our misunderstanding with a method of understanding.
How Do We Unlearn Photography?
When we decide to unlearn photography, it’s time to relearn it. And while there are many ways to learn, some are more organized and effective.
Based on my experience, I learned the most when the teacher “untaught” the students. The teacher untaught students by showing us our flawed process. And then, the teacher retaught by replacing our misunderstood process with a method of understanding. Our frustration with compositions and camera operation usually precedes the desire to unlearn. And our willingness to relearn is followed by our efforts to understand photography and camera operation so we can reliably and consistently create the best photographs possible.
In short, to unlearn photography is to clear our minds to make room for unique ways of thinking about our unique photography.
Be a Better Photographer!