This week, Chris Brogan‘s newsletter was about taking inspiration from people who always look to improve themselves. People who want to learn more skills and deepen the ones they have. He started the #MoreBetter hashtag.
It think that’s important for us as creatives.
I was once exclusively a professional photographer. It was hard to make ends meet, but I loved it. Then, around the time that I felt I was set to become successful in the business, the industry changed. What was once a powerful string in my bow was reduced to a slack piece of twine. Making a living wage from photography became difficult. For me, it became almost impossible.
So I pivoted a couple of times. Not very successfully. With one exception. I learned how to make videos – and there is business to be had. Those are the skills I’m working to improve most now. Philip Bloom, Vincent Laforet, Andrew Reid – these are the people I learn from. And from the suite of video courses available at Lynda.com.
Skills are merely a tool
Here’s the thing, though: skills are only tools. Like a hammer or a screwdriver.
It used to be the case that owning the tool was enough. Photography used to be a daunting undertaking involving chemicals and darkrooms and cameras that didn’t show you the photograph the instant you took it. The tool itself was hard. Getting an in-focus, correctly exposed picture was difficult. Just being able to do that was enough to get paid.
Now, the technical side of photography is much easier. It has become like buying a hammer. We can all buy the same high-quality hammer. Put another way: everyone is a photographer.
By the way, I think that’s a good thing. Lots of people are telling wonderful visual stories now.
What are you going to do with the tool?
David Hobby wrote something great recently – actually, he writes a lot of great things, but this stuck in my mind. His Strobist website will teach you all you need to know about lighting your photographs. It will give you a voice. David asks, now that you have your voice, what are you going to say?
This is where I think we can survive and thrive as creatives. Yes, we need to master our tools (photography, video, animation, audio, music… you name it… cartooning). That’s important. But even more important is that we use those tools to express our unique vision.
Photography used to be the thing that I put on a pedestal. It was the thing that set me apart and paid the bills.
That time has passed.
What sets me and you apart now is our creativity. Commercial photographer and entrepreneur Chase Jarvis thinks that creativity is the new literacy. I agree. We need to dig deeper than just owning the tools. We have to use them to build things nobody else can. We have to let our imaginations run wild and then use the tools we have to bring what we see in our minds to life.
Two people I’ve recently strayed across are Ru and Max of Tiny Inventions. They have a very deep toolbox and they use it to do this kind of amazing stuff:
Here’s a video that gives a behind the scenes look at how Ru and Max work: