The tools of our trade are many and varied, depending on your chosen path in photography. I would argue that the most important one is the one that you are born with: your mind and your creativity. How you choose to develop this tool is a big key to your success. It is the biggest factor in your development as a creative professional. We all have a creative aspect of our thinking. Those who get in touch with this aspect and all of its parts will succeed.
This may seem oversimplified, and on the surface it is. When I say that you must get in touch with all the parts of your creativity I’m not just talking about what you create with light and lenses. One of the great things about photography is that it offers a creative outlet to all types—there is no other art form that offers a more broad range. I don’t want to stereotype people, but we must face the fact that we are all different and view the world from our unique perspectives. There are those who are purely creative and don’t worry about the technical side of the art, and then there are those who are purely technical and don’t worry about the “proper” aspects of our art. I suspect most of us fall somewhere in the middle.
When I was in school and much less mature, I saw this in black and white: I felt that if you didn’t “get it” you were wasting your time and money in art school. As I have matured and become a teacher, I now feel that each of us have a creative side, while it may not be suited for a career in fine art, say as a painter or illustrator, it may find an outlet in photography.
The key to finding your outlet is in finding your creative voice, breaking down all the walls that block you, and looking in your heart. Take a look inside yourself and listen to the creative voice that lives within you, then follow your path. I’m sure there are those that will strongly disagree with me on this point and wonder what “I’m on.” However, over the years in this business, I have seen people grow into themselves as they discovered their “creative selves.”
So, when worrying about what the next tool to buy, a camera, a lens or lights, don’t neglect the tool that makes these work. Challenge yourself as much as possible, investigate new techniques, spend time viewing the art of others, and apply all of this to what you do.