Above: Image, Gina Milicia
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is a musical genius who recently blew the music industry away with her Coachella performance.
So what does Beyoncé’s musical genius have to do with photography? Before I explain this, I want to share my favorite quote on greatness.
“Greatness is a lot of small things done well. Day after day, workout after workout, obedience after obedience, day after day.”–Ray Lewis
Beyoncé is the epitome of this quote on steroids. Her dedication to her craft is unrivaled. She works her guts out, and each performance takes her to a new level.
The best story I heard about Beyoncé’s preparation was in an interview she did for The Times of India. Beyoncé shared her training protocol from her early days, explaining, “My father, who was also my manager, made me run a mile while singing so I would be able to perform on stage without becoming exhausted.”
It seems a little over the top, but it’s this type of training that gave Beyoncé her extraordinary level of fitness so that when it was time to perform on stage at Coachella she was able to sing and dance and high intensity without becoming fatigued.
Beyoncé wasn’t just learning the technical side of singing and dancing, like knowing her dance moves and learning her lyrics. She was training her muscles to be able to cope under extreme pressure so that by the time she hit the stage she didn’t need to remember a thing. She was blockbuster ready.
Beyoncé isn’t the only performer at this level to apply extreme training techniques. Professional basketballers dedicate several hours each week shooting hoops to train their muscle memory, so when it’s game day and they are lining up a three-pointer to win the game in final few seconds of the match, they are not thinking about technique. Shooting hoops become an intuitive action.
The best comedians in the world also train each day. They will perform in tiny clubs often for no fee just to practise their acts and fine tune their jokes.
Greatness comes from doing the small things repeatedly. It doesn’t matter what your niche is. The best way to improve is to hone those skills with repetition.
The one complaint I hear from my photography students most often is, “I know how to light, pose and direct a shot but when it came time to shoot, and I was under pressure my mind went blank, and I forgot everything.”
It may feel like a waste of time training as a photographer, but believe me, the best way to hone your skills is to do the work. You don’t need to dedicate hours each day, just five minutes in your lunch hour will make a huge difference.
Then when the opportunity presents itself, like an amazing shot that requires fast reflexes to capture or complicated lighting you will be like Beyoncé and nail it!
A few suggestions to try are:
- Practise your focus by shooting birds or cyclists in a park.
- Hone your exposure skills by trying to guess the f-stop, shutter speed and ISO of each new venue you walk in to.
- Learn to see the light by pretending you are photographing your local barista, shop assistant, or coworker.
The harder you work, the luckier you get, and luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.