The Path To Expertise in Photography

Today, the key to becoming an expert photographer, the 10,000-Hour Rule, and a Japanese train station.

Always Shooting; The Path to 10,000 Hours

I’m sure most of you have heard of Malcolm Gladwell. He has developed quite the following with his books such as Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Outliers: The Story of Success, and Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by overturning conventional knowledge, showing us we’ve had it wrong all along, such as in his latest book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants where he shows us that it was Goliath, not David, who was at the disadvantage in the classic Biblical story[1].

It was in Outliers that Gladwell gave us the 10,000-Hours Rule which states that the key to success in any field is doing the task you want mastery in for a total of around 10,000 hours. In other words, if you do something for 10,000 hours, you will become an expert at it. One of the examples he uses in the book is the Beatles, who played in crappy bars in Germany nightly for well over 10,000 hours which gave them the practice to gain a sound no one had every heard before and that would lead them to success.

Now Gladwell has been rightfully criticized for dramatically oversimplifying things in his books, and the 10,000-Hour Rule is a gross oversimplification of what it takes to become an expert in something, but the basic idea is sound: If you do something a lot of times you will become better at it.

That may sound obvious, but is it? How many people accused Larry Bird, for example, of being born with his talent instead of working hard to gain his skill, shooting 500 free throws every single morning before school. Sure he was great—he worked very very hard, putting in well over 10,000 hours, to get that way.

Photography is the same. If you want to get better at it, you have to put in the time, you need to be out there shooting every single day; and, when you’re not shooting, you need to be reading about photography, studying photography, thinking about photography.

That’s tough to do, and I won’t claim to that dedicated. But I am always trying to get there.

One way to shoot more often is always have a camera with you. And with smartphones these days, you do always have a camera with you. You have no excuse.

(I address this to wannabe photographers, but fill in the blank for the thing you want to be an expert in. Learning Japanese fits well.)

Daily Photo: Off and On

Off and on, on and off, another day at the train station. Brought to you by ClassicToy, one of my favorite iPhone camera replacement apps, a great app to use in your 10,000 hour journey.


  1. I linked to the Kindle editions of the books because 1) I’m starting to prefer ebooks and I think you might too, and 2) The Kindle editions are only 3 or 4 bucks each! Incredible deal.  ↩

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