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Learning and Performance Zones
Learning and Performance Zones – an overview
The most effective people and teams in any domain do something we can all emulate. They go through life deliberately alternating between two zones: the learning zone and the performance zone. In our case the performance zone is the photography zone.
The learning zone is where our goal is to improve our performance. We do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven’t mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.
|Learning Zone||Performance Zone|
|Goal||Improve||Do as best we can|
|Concentrate on||Hasn’t mastered yet||Have mastered|
|Mistakes to be||Expected||Minimized|
|Benefit||Growth and future performance||Immediate performance|
This is very different from what we normally do when we’re in our performance or photography zone. There our goal is to do as best as we can, to execute the repeated practice in the learning zone. In our performance zone we concentrate on what we have already mastered and try to minimise mistakes.
The table opposite describes the pro’ and cons of the Learning and Performance Zones
The Photographer’s Problem – not enough time in the Learning Zone
We spend much of our lives in a high risk performance zone, we are doing what we normally do to make a great picture. In order to improve any photographic skill, for some of the time we need a low risk learning zone. We cannot learn or improve the performance of the skills or knowledge at the same time as doing them.
Improvement and performance of the photo skills are separate but linked functions.
The intended output of the two zones are completely different and should not be confused.
When you are continually in the photographer performance zone your ability to learn, grow and ultimately express yourself stagnates due a lack of influence and training.
In the learning zone, you are in safe place to fill your learning gaps in a structured way through deliberate practice and feedback.
“Your first 10,000 pictures (film negatives) are the worst.”
Hitting the shutter button many thousands of times does not help
We do not improve as photographer because we are constantly in the photographer zone pressing the shutter release button. It is highly recommended that you dedicate your time and effort to the learning zone as the accepted best practice to improve your photo skills and knowledge.
In the learning zone shortfalls of artistic awareness and technical competence are identified, embedding skill exercises are used to build skills and knowledge. The range of embedding skills exercises are designed to be just beyond your current level of attainment, so mistakes will happen. Consistent and accurate feedback is given at the time to help rectify errors in technique and thinking. This leads to significant improvement with a far better outcome than extended time pressing the shutter button over and over again.
|Learning Zone||Photographer Zone|
|Aim||To make your best, better||Doing the best you can with what you know|
|Activities for||Skill embedding exercises designed for learning, growing and self – expression||Accomplishment|
|Concentrate on||Artistic and technical topics that have not been mastered – yet||Skills and knowledge that have already been mastered|
|Mistakes to be||Expected and welcomed||Minimized|
|Benefits||Enlarged growth, future performance and self-expression||Immediate performance, restricted future growth and self-expression|
Best Practice – frequently switching into the Learning Zone
The way to become a better photographer is to switch between the learning and photographer (doing) zones, in well-balanced proportions. The amount time you spend in the learning zone will be for you to decide.
How can we spend more time in a low risk Learning Zone?
1 Believe that you are a talented photographer with a growth mind-set
2 Have the passion and purpose to expend your time and effort improving your achievements
3 Have ideas about what and how you want to improve your photographic practice
4 Choose low risk environments to learn within for example reading books, on-line videos, courses, workshops and masterclasses
Creating a low risk Learning Zone
1 Find a mentor or a trusted friend to give you honest feedback
2 Set a regular date and time to read, watch on-line videos, or take an on-line course
3 When editing your pictures straight after a shoot, review what went well and what did not go so well and make notes. You are in the learning zone when you observe, reflect and adjust your photographic practice.
Real confidence as a photographer comes from making solid improvements to your artistic awareness and technical skills in the learning zone. Confidence grows enabling you to fully express yourself as an expressive photographer when you spend more time exploring, asking, listening, experimenting, reflecting, striving and becoming. You will be well on the way to unconscious competence in the picture taking and making workflow when you are sure of what you know and that you can use your knowledge at will in an appropriate situation.
When you get clear in your mind when is the right time to learn and when to perform as a photographer, your best photographs will become even better.