Luck, Talent, Skill

I just got back from a week-long project in the Caribbean, where I shot well over 10,000 new images with my beloved iPhone 15 Pro Max.

As a general rule, when I’m in the field, shooting, regardless of where it is, I intentionally and deliberately stay focused on the Capture part of the equation. Not the editing or sharing part which comes later, often much later.
I tend to let my new images “marinate” for a few days, sometimes a few weeks, before I edit them with fresh eyes.

But, after an early breakfast today, at 5.00 am, over several cups of coffee, I looked, for the first time, at what I shot on this recent trip.

Humility aside, the work, by my standards seemed exceptional.

I’ll be editing and sharing many of them later. Not now.

The point of this short essay, reminiscent of my Corn Flakes musing is…… what part of what I shoot is luck, talent, or skill?

It’s a complicated and complex question.

First of all, I think it is important to acknowledge that luck, talent, and skill are not mutually exclusive. They can all play a role in creating a great photograph, and they can also influence each other. For example, luck can create opportunities for talent and skill to shine, talent can inspire skill development and
improvement and skill can increase the chances of getting lucky.

Luck is often seen as a random and unpredictable factor that can make or break a photograph. Sometimes, luck can be a matter of being at the right place at the right time, such as catching a rare life moment, a dramatic weather change, or a fleeting expression.

Other times, luck can be a matter of finding something unexpected and interesting, such as a hidden gem, a quirky detail, or a creative angle. Luck can also be a matter of having the right equipment, settings, and conditions for the shot.

However, luck is not entirely out of our control. We can increase our chances of getting lucky by doing some research, planning, and preparation before the shoot. We can also be more aware and attentive to our surroundings, looking for potential subjects, compositions, and lighting. We can also be more flexible and adaptable, ready to seize any opportunity that arises, even if it deviates from our original plan. And we can also be more persistent and patient, willing to wait for the right moment or to try again if we miss it.

Talent is often seen as a natural and innate ability that gives some photographers an edge over others. Talent can be a matter of having a unique and original vision, a keen eye for beauty, or a strong sense of aesthetics. Talent can also be a matter of having a distinctive and consistent style, a personal and expressive voice, or a compelling and engaging story. Talent can also be a matter of having a good intuition, a creative imagination, or a sharp instinct.
However, talent is not entirely fixed or predetermined. We can nurture and develop our talent by exposing ourselves to different sources of inspiration, such as other photographers, artists, genres, cultures, and media. We can also challenge and refine our talent by experimenting with different techniques, formats, genres, and themes. We can also learn and improve our talent by seeking feedback, criticism, and guidance from others, such as mentors, peers, or audiences.

Skill is often seen as a learned and acquired ability that enables photographers to execute their vision and achieve their goals.

Skill can be a matter of mastering the technical aspects of photography, such as exposure, focus, composition, lighting, color, and post-processing. Skill can also be a matter of understanding the artistic aspects of photography, such as mood, emotion, message, and impact. Skill can also be a matter of knowing the practical aspects of photography, such as workflow, organization, backup, and delivery.

However, skill is not entirely static or final. We can enhance and expand our skills by studying and practicing the fundamentals and the advanced topics of photography, such as theory, history, and ethics.

We can also update and adapt our skills by keeping up with the latest trends and innovations in photography, such as new equipment, software, and platforms. We can also maintain and sharpen our skills by reviewing and revising our work, identifying and correcting our mistakes, and setting and pursuing our goals.

In conclusion, I think that luck, talent, and skill are all important factors in photography and that they can all be influenced by our actions and attitudes. I think that the best photographers are those who can balance and combine these factors, and who can also appreciate and enjoy the process and the outcome of photography.



Jack Hollingsworth