The Leica as Teacher

Mike Johnston – The Online Photographer

Copyright The Online Photographer
Apropos the video we linked the other day, I would just like to throw this out there for what little it’s worth…if any young or beginning photographer of real ambition within the sound of my voice would like to radically improve his or her photography quickly and efficiently, I suggest shooting with nothing but a Leica and one lens for a year. Shoot one type of black-and-white film (yes, even if you’re completely devoted to color and digital, and hate film and everything it stands for. You don’t have to commit to this forever; it’s an exercise). Pick a single-focal-length 50mm, or 35mm, or 28mm. It doesn’t have to be a “good” lens—anything that appeals to you and that fits the camera will do. Carry the camera with you all day, every day. Shoot at least two films a week. Four or six is better (or shoot more in the spring and fall and less in the dead of summer and winter). The more time you spend shooting, the better. The amount of film you shoot is related but not so important. (Photographing is like jogging: benefit accrues to time spent doing it, not how fast you go or how much ground you cover.)
Proof the rolls of film by contact and file them sequentially in a notebook. Get or make between one and six workprints per roll, however you choose to do it (even if you scan your picks and look at the pictures on a computer screen), and, every five or ten rolls or so, have one nice print made, or make it yourself. Craft well, but don’t crop and don’t fuss; just take what the camera gives you.
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