What Does 40,368 Photographic Hours Give You? - Carla Coulson
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What Does 40,368 Photographic Hours Give You?

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All Photos Copyright Carla Coulson

Dear Friends,

A huge, beautiful and joyous 2017 to you and your family.

I know many of you are on your photography path and the most important thing is to enjoy it no matter what point you are at.

The aim of this blog and photography for me is joy and personal reward and I want to encourage each and everyone of you to take the photos you love.

But recently I was asked by someone unsure if they were ready to start a photography business ‘how much time had I devoted to photography’?

I have never ever tried to quantify it? How many shutter clicks? How many kilometers? How many hours looking through the viewfinder? How many hours looking at works of other photographers? How many exhibits? How much money? And how many mistakes (plenty of them)?

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But just for fun I did some sums of just my photography hours.

Here’s what I came up with on paper:

First year of photography school 6 hours (min) a day x 7 days x 52 weeks taking photos (there was no stopping me) …sometimes it was all night – 2184 hours

Year two I had nothing to do but photography. I went on a photo spree and created 15 photographic stories that I sold to magazines and travelled far and wide in Italy. I would calculate at least the same as above if not more –2184 hours

Year 3 I started receiving commissions and travelled to Spain, around Italy and worked full time at photography – 3000 hours

Year 4 I received my first book commission and continued working with magazines and travelled around Italy – 3000 hours

Year 5 – 15 I created a further 7 photography books, hundreds of magazine articles, started a portrait business doing up to 30 shoots a year. . My guess would be approx 3000 hours a year x 10 years – 30,000 hours.

So in my humble accounting estimations I calculate approximately 40, 368 hours not including the hours at the computer, the post processing, the grading and the uploading and downloading etc.

But what does that mean photographically.

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It means confidence. It means knowing how to deal with bad weather, bad moods (not mine) and bad hair days. It means knowing when you have it or when to keep going. It means going the extra distance to get that shot that will be the hero. It means giving the person in front of you ALL your attention, love and care as long as the shoot lasts. It means never walking away from the job knowing in your heart you don’t have what you need. It means no matter how tired, cold, hungry you are, you will get what the magazine/client or what you want.

It means a ton of laughter, of wonderful relationships and friendships born, of wonder, it’s filling your creative tank up with beauty, it’s having time to reflect on life and on your values. I like to think all of those minute decisions, the shutter clicks are personal questions, now or later, yes or no, good or bad, right or wrong. It means really getting to know myself as much as all the wonderful people and situations I have had a chance to live.

It means knowing you can ask a client to hold a chicken and you can get away with it!!!!

You may look at this number and groan and think is this how many hours I have to do to get anywhere? Please don’t groan, this has been the greatest learning I have had the chance to live. Every hour a lesson, every new situation a little more stretching me out of my comfort zone, another couple of clicks letting me stand stronger in my shoes and really know who I am.

It’s been a joy, it was the most beautiful mountain I have ever had to climb and every footstep has been a ‘teacher’. Doing the work, the hours, the time, call it what you want has been the true reward.

So if you you are wondering if you have put enough time into your craft or do you need to do the required 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers to master something?

No, you don’t but do know when you reach your 10,000 hours something special seeps into your bones, your work and your consciousness. It’s a goal worth striving for because nothing else will get you there and no other reward is greater than feeling confident about what you are doing and the life experiences you get to live along the way. Don’t be afraid of the work!

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If you are unsure about whether you are ready ask yourself the following questions:

1. How many hours, years have you done?
2. What have you mastered, really mastered that you have no fear of doing?
3. Would you pay for your services?
4. What courses have you taken?
5. Do you know the true basics of your craft?
6. Have you given your craft time to develop?
7. Is there are hurry to start?
8. What are the chances of you walking away time and time again with the material you have promised?
9. Did you shoot last week, last month, this year? If you can’t answer yes to two of these you are probably not ready.

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All Photos Copyright Carla Coulson

If you are feeling insecure for any reason or have a blind spot in your craft do the following before you start.

1. Do a course or workshop that will give you answers and skills in that particular area
2. Practice, practice and practice. Do the work, climb your mountain.
3. Face your fear. Whatever it is, do it over and over again

And if you haven’t read my ‘If I Was Starting Out Today’ PDF you can read it HERE.

For all the rest of you enjoy your photography, experiment, take photos from new angles, with new eyes and enjoy this beautiful world we live in and have the chance to cherish every day through our viewfinder. You will climb your own mountain without even knowing it.

Wishing you the best year ever

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2 Comments
  • Wonderful summation of an arduous and joyful artistic process. I’m a writer, not a photographer – but the same rules apply. There are no shortcuts. Fear must be faced. Challenges accepted. Sweat expended. Time allowed. And then, incrementally and miraculously, like the earth’s journey around the sun, our practice evolves into a thing of beauty. And 40,000 hours pass in a happy flash. Kudos to you!!

    January 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm
  • You have such a terrific eye for the fabulous and unique! Thank you for sharing how your talents evolved…with a lot of hard work. I particularly love the photographs of the Contessa! It was such a nice wink to one of the Mitford sister’s book cover, at least the English edition!

    January 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm