It has been said that to master something we need to go at it for 10,000 hours. The famous corollary in photography is that "your first 10,000 images are your worst..." These are all different ways to say: "Practice Makes Perfect".
Since the moment we begin life, we as humans, are subject to this concept. Initially, we see our parents in our cribs and we process the information over time, that these are important people. These are the "things" that bring us food when we are hungry.
Later, we hear words and we "learn" to associate sounds to mean our name or the names of the people who show up within the frame of our small crib world.
It comes a time when we have to learn how to walk. We see something and we crawl to it initially, but our brain figures out that there most be a better way; so we try to stand up.
"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst."—Henri Cartier-Bresson
Failure after failure, we work our way defeating the challenge that is our inner-ear balance. We practice to perfection! We get applause and recognition when we are able to do what took millions of years of evolution, in just a few months.
And so it begins the process of learning how to speak, how to communicate, how to potty train, how to draw and how to write. We have accomplished so much!
Then we get to that certain age when we think we are running out of time and that we have to time to learn a new skill. We want immediacy.
But like everything before it, we need patience and perseverance. Nothing we have accomplished so far has come easy. We all want easy, but by been impatient we get bad.
As an example, some people think that they can't draw. It has been proven, that no one has an innate ability to draw. What some people have is an innate ability to see and the capacity to capture what they see on paper. Anyone can draw. They just have to train their eyes and hands to do it in a good enough way; for them.
The Internet is full of people who are self-taught in different disciplines. People like you and me that have learned: photography, drawing, painting, woodworking, needlepoint embroidery and every other thing you can think of, just by reading a book or watching some videos. We live in exciting times where there is so much free content out there that can teach us everything we need.
The web has become our virtual parent!
"The joy is in the pursuit more than the realization. In the end, mastery attracts precisely because mastery eludes…"—Dan Pink, Drive
Photoshop has become an application that some people might say is extremely complicated. Nevertheless, you can find 10,000 courses online where you can learn every part of the program.
But watching videos is not enough. We most apply what we see. We have to practice and practice for those 10,000 hours until we master the techniques. Mind you, 10,000 hours or those 10,000 pictures are just a number. Is a way to set ourselves an unreachable goal, so we can keep at it. It is much closer that it seems...
In the subject of learning editing skills, we sometimes are fearful that we might damage our images. It's not so.
Massaging pixels is not like developing actual film. When we open an image in our editor, we are presented with a copy of said photo, The original remains, untouched, inside the hard drive. Everything we do up until the moment we save is performed on this virtual copy. No need to fear.
You should know that we never stop learning and that thanks to technology we are presented with new learning opportunities.
It took me my whole life
I will ask you to consider the famous story about Mastery from Pablo Picasso:
Picasso is sketching at a park. A woman walks by, recognizes him, and begs for her portrait. Somehow, he agrees. A few minutes later, he hands her the sketch. She is elated, excited about how wonderfully it captures the very essence of her character, what beautiful work it is, and asks how much she owes him. “5000 francs, madam,” says Picasso. The woman is incredulous, outraged, and asks how that’s even possible given it only took him 5 minutes. Picasso looks up and, without missing a beat, says: “No, madam, it took me my whole life.”
Mastery is not doing 1000 things at once but one thing 1000 times so you get better at it. Repetition is the mother of skill.