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Out of your comfort zone to progress

ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
28 Sep 2010 11:35AM
I was listening to some article or other on the radio a few months ago, it was discussing the composer Stephen Sondheim and some techniques he used when he wanted to create a fantastic tune - the killer song in a show.

The one that stood out was this....

He'd improvise in a key he wasn't comfortable with or used to using - I think C# was the one they mentioned, any piano player will tell you that it's a bit of a mind boggling thing reading tunes in that key cause every note is sharp!

the reason for this was that if he played in keys he liked and was used to, he'd come up with the same chord progressions, the same tunes even, because he was so familiar with them. I do the same - I can improvise in C minor for ages.

However when he went into C# or F# or some other unusual key, he was in unfamiliar teratory and finding his way around fairly blindly - and through doing that, he found chord progressions which were truly remarkable.

He's done pretty well for himself using this technique.

Do you as a photographer relate to this and take trips out of your comfort zone?
Do you stay in the familiar because you know pretty much what you're going to get?

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KathyW 14 1.8k 12 Norfolk Island
28 Sep 2010 12:08PM
It's tempting to stick with what you know and stay in "safe" mode, but I think if you want to progress then it's essential to try new stuff.

I'm one of those people who, given the opportunity, will tend to take the easy route and avoid difficult situations, but sometimes you have to push yourself that bit further... I found a good way to do this was to enter a year-long competition where there was no choice but to take photos of a completely different style to that which I was accustomed. Creating photos that weren't over-cooked landscapes or mad dogs was a huge challenge and one one that I came to enjoy Smile

These days I feel almost confident to photograph anything that anyone asks me to. The results are not always what I expect or hope for, but at least I'm willing to give it a try. Photographing a wedding was a huge learning curve, as are things like using studio lights, but if you want to learn & improve I think it's important to experiment.

But it's all down to the individual really... if you love doing landscapes or sport or whatever and it's a hobby that you enjoy, why take it any further? A bit like someone who keeps a horse and just toddles round the lanes with it on a Sunday afternoon - why bother to train it to go showjumping just because someone else thinks the horse has great potential for the sport if you're enjoying what you do and have no wish to jump fences?
John_Frid 12 514 57 United Kingdom
28 Sep 2010 12:15PM
Judging by my images it may seem that everything is out of my comfort zone Grin

However, when faced with unfamiliar situations it does force me to think a bit harder about what I am doing, and leads me to try approaches that are away from my norm. Can't say anything particularly fantastic has emerged as yet, but I'll keep trying to push myself and hope the magic happens.
digicammad 14 22.0k 39 United Kingdom
28 Sep 2010 12:24PM
Although landscapes have tended to form the majority of my photos I try not to restrict myself to any one style. I have always said I hated photographing people, but I found out a few years ago that I love working in a studio, with the proper lighting and preferably a professional model. I even got through to the finals of 'Shoot The Cover'. Sadly opportunities to get into a studio are as common as hen's teeth at the moment.

I'm happy to try anything and if I end up with rubbish I try to learn from the experience. Any cook can perfect a single dish, having an entire menu is the challenge. Smile

JackAllTog Plus
9 5.0k 58 United Kingdom
28 Sep 2010 12:37PM
Absolutly, get out there and preferably ask someone exactly what it is 'they' want in your new area.
I keep thinking yeah i'm getting pretty good at what i can do compared to the masses, and could certainly be this good in any genre if i got the chance to try it out. But its just not true, you need to re-learn how to apply your skills to each different type of shot. I'm also sure that the more skills you have and the more often you exercise them, then the easier/faster it gets to apply yourself to new situations.
I recently decided to give microstock photography a go - and soon realised my artistic object interpertions were quite a way off what was needed for small object product type shots. I had the marketing department tell me what they could use of my initial set and it was only 1 of the shots i took :-(
Trying a different genre and getting feedback from professionals in that area will help you understand how your images can meet the actual requirement or expectation in that area. In time you should get better at deconstructing current images and then building your own to meet the same formulae.
The best training i've experianced is critic galaries, "tell it how it is groups", Monday night challenges, and some older monthly/weekly challenges. If i was not working i'd do the daily ePhotozine calander challenges too.
JohnParminter 11 1.3k 14 England
28 Sep 2010 1:36PM

Quote:Do you as a photographer relate to this and take trips out of your comfort zone?

No, not for me. I'm actually the opposite. In fact I would say I am retreating more into my comfort zone but producing much better quality images, other's may disagree.

The thing is as well, I have no desire to go out of my comfort zone, I have no desire to photograph other categories outside of landscapes and I am tending to even concentrate on specifics within the landscape category.

My style is fairly set and it is one that I am happy with and aiming to develope further.

Quote:Do you stay in the familiar because you know pretty much what you're going to get?

Yes, definately, no reason to change.

For me, progress isn't about equipment, techniques or anything related to the tools used to photograph. My progression is simply dictated by the amount of time I have available to me to put my ideas, visions and ambitions into actual results.
Nickscape 12 708 9 England
28 Sep 2010 1:54PM
If I had lots of time I would try other things with my photography. I do product and sports photos through work so do get the experience of other genres.

For myself I will stick to Landscapes, mainly because I love the buzz when you get home from a good landscape trip with a couple of shots that you knew at the time are exactly what you were after its a great feeling. It's taken a long time to get this stage and I really wouldn't want to go back to failed trips, or trips where you've tried something and it hasn't worked they are such a waste of your precious time. I'm all for experiementing with landscape photography but will always do that after I've got the shots i'm after in the camera, then you can relax and do something different. There's nothing worse that being in the location, the light turning up but then when you get back home thinking you've ruined it because what you've tried hasn't come out as you imagined and end up with nothing. If you stick to your strengths the limited time you are out with the camera should be made use of in the most efficient way.

Im going to Glencoe for a week in October, on that trip I plan to get a couple of the 'classics' in the bag on the first day as I know that they work, I'll then spend the rest of the week exploring without worrying about coming back with nothing.
Morpyre Plus
13 1.6k 8 Wales
28 Sep 2010 2:03PM
i tend to stay with macro, digital manips, occasional portraits sort of area rather than going out entirely into new subjects but what i like to do is regularly try new angles of approach within my comfort zones. i aim to come up with new variations regularly to stay fresh rather than just doing absolutely exactly the same thing with each photograph and going stagnant.
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
28 Sep 2010 3:17PM
interesting how people interpret a "confort zone" isn't it?

Could mean literally anything - I left it pretty open like that on purpose.

Sondheim was still doing the "same thing", writing musicals, but just needed something to inspire him. It wasn't as if he wrote an opera or some death metal to inspire him, just tried something a little different to get the creative juices flowing.

So what is a confort zone in photography - could be anything, from always using F16, or using a low tripod, or going back to the same places, or using the same light positions, or getting models to stand in the same way, or always using the same filters.......... whatever, you don't need a total change of direction to get out of the known and into the unknown.

My best example of this was when i was shooting an Aston Martin DBS a few weeks ago. It had gone dark, so HDR and normal grad work wasn't cutting it. The sky burned out leaving the car dark on long exposures. Single bursts of off camera flash were not really doing it. So tried something I'd not really done on a "proper" job before - light painting with the flash on the car. Setting the flash to 1/32 power and blasting 100+ bursts at the car. Then to further enter the unknown I added a blue gel to the flash, hoping that when I corrected the white balance, the surroundings would go bright red.

It's little things like that that can open your eyes to new ideas - a bit like playing a familiar instrument but in a key you're not sure of Smile
adrian_w Plus
10 3.7k 4 England
28 Sep 2010 3:21PM
Too lazy to change now. I stick with mainly flower photography & the occasional landscape work or else specific shots for AV projects.
taken me 40 years or more to get to this level so I'm not going to start in a new direction now.
Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
28 Sep 2010 3:49PM

Quote:Do you as a photographer relate to this and take trips out of your comfort zone?

Constantly, until the point that it becomes second nature.
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
28 Sep 2010 3:55PM

Quote:Constantly, until the point that it becomes second nature.

Must admit that your "interaction" with people during street photography is something well out of my confort zone. Just waving I could probably do, but walking up and asking to take their photo... that's something that would be a challenge and a half to over come.
Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
28 Sep 2010 4:13PM
Ade, a lot regulars on here feel intimidated taking pictures in parks through fears of being challenged and so on. So here`s a challenge for you, go to your local park, walk up to strangers, interact and get a few portraits.

JackAllTog Plus
9 5.0k 58 United Kingdom
28 Sep 2010 4:49PM
Demonstrations can be good places to take people photo's as they "sometimes" want to be seen.

Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
28 Sep 2010 4:52PM

Quote:Demonstrations can be good places to take people photo's as they "sometimes" want to be seen.

Makes for a good half way house, in the building confidence stakes Smile

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