"An amateur does it over and over until they get right while a pro does it until they can’t get it wrong" Chef Mario Battali
A while ago I met a gal who was looking for some photographic insight. I told her that she could buy me lunch and show me her folio. So over some very nice French fare I saw a book of very rough photos from a very green photographer who never the less seemed to have the beginnings of a good shooter. So I did what any caring person would do: I tried to scare her off.
I gave her a bit of homework that stopped most people cold. From a given distance using a fixed lens where neither you or your subject can move produce 36 totally different compositions. Where many others never came back, she finished the assignment and proved her spunk. I took her under my wing and have watched her take my various rants to heart and apply them.
Two things that I tried to beat into her are the importance of method and practice.
Method keeps things consistent. I said to find ways to "automate" your various actions so that you always do them the same way. So you always pack your bag the same way so that you can find things in a rush or in the dark. Always start by establishing camera position and lens selection before placing lights and lighting controls.
Practice is something that photographers rarely do. Musicians, dancers, athletes they all practice their hearts out. They are training their bodies and minds to perform without thinking about it. It automates your self so that you can worry about other things. You get used to analyzing the light in a room as you walk in and before you even grab your light meter. You start prefocusing your lens before you raise it to your eye.
She’s taken those and a bunch of other things and learned to apply them. She’s watched me work, spent a lot of time trying to decode my methods, put time into training herself and as of yesterday is no longer in the "learner" phase but graduated to the stage of being a fully functioning apprentice and a pretty good photographer. She works smoothly with me on locale and has figured out ways to make that all work for her when she makes photos on her own. Yesterday we had a long and technically complex shoot at a bio-med company doing photos of essentially large shiny and boring machines in small off-white rooms where people in white scrubs mill about. We had to make it look interesting for their web site and we pulled it off with style. She was a great help and it’s a pleasure to work with her. She’s come along way from the gal who had practically just started to make photos. I’m proud of her.