Jim Jones Photos

On being a competent photographer…

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot lately about the idea of competence as it relates to photography. From my point of view, being a competent photographer is like a 3-legged stool. In this post I’ll give a broad overview of what I consider the required elements or disciplines of competency, and will follow up with blog posts that dive deeper into each area.


First is technical competency. This is knowing how the dials, levers and options work for your equipment. In my personal experience, there are few things more frustrating than fumbling with the settings on your camera while trying in vain to capture a fleeting sunset. Technical competency helps you avoid this pain.
Second, there’s artistic competency. I define this as the ability to make a photograph out of a scene or an event. It’s things like knowing the rules of composition (and when to break them), knowing how to tell a story through the lens, and generally being able to maximize the emotional impact of your photographs upon the viewer.
The third discipline is processing competency. Back in the days when film was all we had, this was pretty simple for most photographers…take your photos to the nearest super-store, and you’d get prints in 3-5 days. But with the advent of digital, things get a lot more complicated. You have to know how to intelligently organize, catalog and tag your photos so you can find them. You need to know the basics (and maybe even more advanced features) of post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop.
It all sounds like a lot to tackle – but the good news is that there are tons of resources (and helpful people!) that can teach you some of what you need to know. Of course, as they say…experience is always the best teacher. So go out and shoot, and compose, and process your photos – and learn as you go.

More to come on all these disciplines in future blog posts.

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