WHEN AN AMATEUR…

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I’m all for exploring and developing one’s artistic skills. I think it’s an admirable trait in any person when he or she strives toward continual and personal development. I think it’s a quality that demonstrates passion, ambition and drive. However, I believe there’s a fine line between being an amateur who’s just started a new creative venture as a hobby or a filler in their leisure time… and an actual skilful professional.

The former is usually someone who’s just stumbled upon the skill by some accidental coincidence, while the latter is probably someone who’s invested years, a considerable amount of money and overall dedication, thus rendering him/her more knowledgeable, experienced, and qualified. He or she is therefore far more worthy of the title of ‘expert’.

Some individuals fail to distinguish this line, and take it upon themselves to coin their new past-time a ‘self-made’ profession.

The past few years have seen an excessive surge of photographers. Let’s be frank. It doesn’t take a sage to save a grand and buy a DSLR camera. But does that automatically promote you to being a photographer? Of course not! Firstly, that’d be an insult to the genuine photographer who actually studied and invested a lot of time in mastering the skills involved. The reason I mention this genre of art is because it’s one of the most prevalent with amateurs nowadays. Want to make some extra cash? Easy peasy! Just buy a swanky looking camera which makes your pics look a tad more impressive than your regular holiday camera, and hey presto! You can call yourself a pro. And because your camera has the latest alphanumeric code attached to its renowned name, you definitely know how to take photos solely based on that foundation, right?

Wrong!

However, let’s say for argument’s sake that that’s all it takes. The only thing that would be left to add in the recipe of delusion is to create a Facebook page to promote your new-found ‘profession’. Oh, and let’s not forget the signature amateurish watermark on your photos with your name or initials in fancy calligraphy. If you’re not an actual professional, at least you’re providing your naïve, potential customers with the illusion of professionalism.

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It all started with a hobby.

It’s fine if you want to dabble with a potential skill that for some reason or other was locked up. Until that pivotal moment of inspiration triggers off the unlocking of that natural talent, by all means, experiment and explore, because at the end of the day, that’s where every expert had started from once upon a time. But know that the operative phrase is ‘start from’, because having an innate artistic flair doesn’t magically transmute you into a guru instantaneously. It takes years of commitment and hard work, and that’s the very reason why it annoys me so much when people ‘become a photographer’ overnight.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but bloody hell, there are a hell of a lot of crappy photographers out there who think they’re big shots – pun intended. It’s actually embarrassing to see them post some of their inferior quality photos and have the audacity to boast about them. I swear, suddenly everybody and their dog is a damn photographer!

 

The Accidental Discovery

When uncovered, one’s hidden talent becomes all the more rewarding, more so when such a discovery is made so unexpectedly, because it’s not something you were searching for per se. Therefore, when you stumble upon it almost haphazardly, it’s obviously a welcome surprise you take pride in relishing. Again, it’s great to embrace and foster such skilfulness, but a pinch of modesty goes a long way, especially for someone who in reality would be so green in the industry. It almost goes without saying, in each sector of business there are tricks of the trade, and to learn them both theoretically and practically takes time.

 

Positive feedback and inspiration from others

It’s definitely a boost to one’s morale when people root for you and encourage you to work at a capacity they believe is your forte. For instance, I remember when I had two particular teachers in my sixth form days who really praised the way I articulated my thoughts on paper; this meant the world to me. To this day, I appreciate their constant encouragement.

Till now, I’ve focused on the art of photography. But the premise of my argument can be applied to any form of art or talent. Fact: social media exposes the most narcissistic individuals who thrive on attention, and will stop at nothing to get it. Nowadays, everyone’s a model, an actor, a philosopher, a make up artist… I’m just mentioning a few here, because the sad truth is that there are many other unskilled people who promote their supposed talent in the attempt to make others believe they’re savants.

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More than their lack of aptitude, it’s their delusional confidence that peeves me. Couple that with the outpour of compliments from people who are equally unknowledgeable and lack the keen eye for talent, it’s this very fuel to the fire of this delusion which ignites their over inflated confidence.

In a nutshell, it’s great to have creativity oozing out of you, as well as the drive to better yourself both personally and professionally. It’s even greater if you’re prepared to develop said creativity into something that you might want to eventually adopt as a profession. But the underlying point I’m trying to outline is that to do this, it takes time, effort, energy and practice. Many people fail to recognise or even try to understand this. They miraculously leap from amateur to expert in the blink of an eye, without appreciating all the toil and trouble the metamorphosis a skilful professional would have gone through to get to where he or she is today.