Fstoppers, a popular photography website, released a 2 part blog series this past July entitled “How Long Will It Take You to Master Photography?”
While they did address this opinion in their part 2 post (linked above), I’m here to firmly say that you will never master photography, and you shouldn’t want to.
Become an Expert
Learn everything you can and keep learning. Hone your craft and continually adjust how and what you shoot, how you edit, how you show your work. Keep working at it, forever, and never let the drive to be better leave you. Do this for long enough and you’ll know your stuff. There’s no real time line, the progress meter is different for everyone.
I’ve been working in toy photography for 11 years and I keep up to date on photography, the toy industry, miniature trends and toy photography. I also try to continually better the ideas behind and the look of, the images I’m making. I consider myself an expert in toy photography. Not photography as a whole, but in my specific niche.
Alternately, I’ve been working in product photography for 2 years. While I’m quite skilled and aim for my images to always be precise, well lit, etc. I don’t know that I’d consider myself an expert in the field just yet. Some may disagree, as I’m helping lead a team to improve our company photography processes, procedures and methods. But I still feel like there’s more to learn before I can appoint myself ‘expert.’
You’ll know when you’re there. Confidence is key. If you’re questioning your expertise that’s okay. There’s always room for continued growth. And even once you feel you are an expert, you lose that title unless you continue learning and growing.
But Don’t Become A Master
To me, a master is someone who has met the end. There is no more to learn. All the wisdom has been obtained. I don’t believe this is possible, and I think without the drive to learn more, to be better, your work will become stagnant. Stagnant, repetitive work doesn’t strike me as master work, nor does it strike me as fulfilling, exciting to create work. And that creative drive to make the next best piece you’ve ever made is one of the most, if not the most important parts of being a good artist.
Strive to be great. But put any dreams of mastering your field out of your mind. Focus on the here and now, never stop learning, never stop creating, and if you’re going to become a master, don’t do it until the day you die.