“One of the things that I keep hearing about in photography is the idea of getting to the ‘next level’. I’ve always assumed that this meant getting better at taking pictures but I’m guessing this might mean different things for different people. I’d love to hear what ‘next level’ means for others.”
What a great idea, Jason! I’m also looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this, as the question can certainly have some depth to it. For me, my first clear “next level” came when I got over my irrational fear of off camera flash. My first attempts at using it were an abject failure. Like so many in our community, I started out by getting Scott Hargis’s Lighting Essentials book and I tried following his “getting it in camera” approach. It didn’t matter how hard I tried though, my earliest attempts were so bad that it affected my confidence, which in turn, prompted me to give up on off-camera flash. The result was a decision to go the Photomatix route.
While my clients were happy with what I delivered to them, those failures in using off-camera flash stuck in my craw and the longer I went without trying to get back on the horse, the worse it got. My phobia grew to have a life of its own! A few months later, I entered a photo into a PFRE Photographer of the Month contest (it was the best shot that I thought I’d ever taken, to that point, using Photomatix... looking back at it now, I cringe!). As fate would have it, Scott, himself, gave me a scathing review on that picture. Oddly enough, that review altered the trajectory of my career because it forced me to reconsider what I was doing. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but the sting of that comment made me realize that the fear of failure that I’d carried with me was the biggest obstacle to my success, not my inability to effectively use off-camera flash. So I decided to give it another crack. Luckily, over time, I got the hang of it and it helped me to create better pictures, which ultimately led to more and better opportunities in my photography business.
In thinking through Jason’s question though, I know that “next level” doesn’t necessarily have to mean trying to get better photos. So, I’m really looking forward to hearing what "next-level" means to you. I hope you’ll leave a comment and share your personal definition. More importantly, I’m hoping you’ll also share your thoughts on what’s getting in the way of you getting to that next level. Thanks for writing in, Jason!