Focused Practice

Whenever we go about learning to do something new –whether it’s a sport like surfing, a game like chess or a hobby like photography – we have the challenge of starting from zero.

Our bodies and minds aren’t yet trained to react with confidence and everything seems awkward and so far from second nature that we wonder if we’ll ever get it.

Rest assured, though, that with time and practice, it’ll get easier.

That said, it’s not always just about practice in and of itself. There’s practice with no end goal in mind and there’s focused practice.


“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” -Bruce Lee


When you have something particular in mind that you want to improve, it’s a great idea to solely work on that technique or skill over and over again until you feel more comfortable.

With photography you not only need to know how to operate the camera, but you need to learn how to actually see the world and learn how to capture your vision. That can be asking a lot and sometimes you have to react quickly.

For example, say you like to photograph sports and you’re struggling to get the focus just right. Moving targets are notoriously difficult to get sharp. I know I struggled with getting the focus right when I started photographing dogs. They’re constantly on the go and the autofocus always wanted to focus on their noses when it’s the eyes you generally want.

I had to work at getting just what I wanted by going out and photographing dog after dog after dog. I still rely on my autofocus and it’s not perfect every time, but I’m able to nail the shot way more often than if I hadn’t worked specifically on this.

This dog didn’t sit still for long so I had to be quick about it. The first shot focused on his nose, not a big surprise, but I was able to get the soulful eyes the second time around.

Dog's nose and eyes in focus (Photos: Kim Olson)

You can also take this opportunity to focus on a weak point in your photography and just go at it for a period of time where you do essentially the same thing over and over again until you can try to nail down why it wasn’t working and then go about fixing it for future shots.

If you drill yourself on it you will start to see improvement if you keep at it. It’s little wins like these that bring you to a place in the future where you look at your images and think, “Wow, I really nailed that shot. It’s exactly what I wanted to capture.” And that’s a great feeling.

2 Responses to Focused Practice

  1. Carol May 1, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Wow what a difference in the two photos of the dog.Focusing on the eyes made a big difference. I enjoyed your article and the thought behind it… to focus on points I want to work on and really practice those.

    • Kim May 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      It definitely has a different effect! While the nose photo has its own charm and is still cute, focusing on the eyes is usually preferred.