If you were to ask my five-year-old son what he wanted to be, he would without hesitation reply that he wants to be a ninja. And so, like so many mornings recently, the conversation revolved around what ninjas did, and probing questions like “how do you become a ninja, mummy?” Obviously, I have no idea how to become a ninja, or I would already be one. So I did what anyone would do, and turned to google. The answers were quite enlightening and struck me as being just as applicable to photographers as ninjas.
This is how to become a better photographer by training like a ninja, according to the interwebs. (Disclaimer: This is purely a light-hearted article and DIYP does not condone violence in any way shape or form.)
- Dress to fit your environment: “To be a proper ninja, you must blend in completely to your location”. Ninjas wear black, and so do photographers! Seriously though, even if you’re sticking to all-black you still need to adapt it for the type of shoot you’re doing. Landscape photographers need to be dressed for the outdoors, and a wedding photographer must look smart to fit in with the formal occasion. Fashion photographers should probably have a slight leaning towards something a bit fashionable! No brainer really.
- Learn to move stealthily: “A true ninja moves around without notifying their enemies of their presence”. Ninjas can creep around undetected, and while I would hesitate to label any client an enemy, that’s an invaluable skill for any concert or wedding photographer to move around silently and undetected!
- Move in darkness: “A ninja nearly always operates under the cover of darkness…” Sounds like many a landscape photographer that I know! So many times you are up well before dawn and hiking in the dark to capture that perfect light.
- Build strength: “A ninja must be extremely nimble” The guide suggests climbing trees, swimming and engaging in martial arts and parkour. I wouldn’t say that you have to be quite that specific to be a photographer, but keeping in good physical shape is a definite advantage no matter what type of photography you do. Landscape and outdoors photographers often have to hike long distances to get their shots, any photographer shooting on location will have gear and equipment to schlep about and let’s not even think about wedding photographers! Honestly, the last wedding I shot took an entire weekend to recover from. I seemed to spend the whole wedding doing squats, a ninja-style fitness regimen before that might have helped! The guide also suggests that you need to run quickly. Again for wedding photographers when you don’t want to miss the shot, and also Urbex photographers this would be very useful if you’re suddenly chased by security guards or ghosts or something!
- Fight with staves: I guess by this they mean wooden sticks. The closest thing then for us would be monopods? Use monopods! Actually, they are quite useful, especially when shooting video!
- Master deep breathing: “Controlling your breath is crucial to fully inhabit the life of the ninja”. Very useful life skill, breathing. Actually mastering the centering breath is useful, particularly during stressful situations. Photoshoots and demanding clients can occasionally be stressful and it’s really good to have some strategies to calm yourself down effectively.
- Eat a ninja diet: “You cannot eat any food that can lead to unforeseen body odour”. Again seems like sensible life advice, no one wants you photographing them if you reek of garlic! Take regular showers!
- Practice in secrecy: “Finding a secluded location, especially when practising your skills, is crucial to maintaining the secrecy of your identity”. Well, I’m not sure you actually need to remain secret as a photographer, most of the time you want to be more visible. But, if you’re trying out something new and you’re still in the process of learning and getting better at something it might be worth keeping it under wraps and not sharing absolutely everything with everyone online until you have some good images. Just a thought.
- Minimise and simplify your existence: “Embrace a minimalist lifestyle by cutting down your possessions to the essentials.” Yep, maybe you don’t need that new camera and lens? Or if you do, maybe you can sell your old equipment that you don’t need? Gear acquisition can become a bad habit. One rule I try to live by is to ask myself whether I can manage to get enough clients who need me to need that piece of gear, or is it just a shallow want? We do need to be a bit sensible no matter how exciting new gear is! Learning to shoot with the gear you already have is actually a great way to improve your photography skills without relying on new equipment as a crutch.
- Use your inner strength and peace: “Patience is the ninja’s virtue”. And also the photographer’s. It takes many many hours of practice to really hone your skills in anything and photography is no exception. And if you want to become professional? Then you’ll need even more patience because it takes time to build a client base, develop a strong portfolio and start getting the work you actually want. You cannot rush these things. Remember that overnight success story you read about? Probably took 10 years of constant effort to get there. As long as you’re doing better than yesterday you’re on the right path.
So thanks to my 5-year-old, those are 10 ways in which being a photographer is like being a ninja! Would you add anything to this list?