Rubric of personal skill progression in photography
Rubric for photographic skill level.
This rubric is designed to address all facets of the field of photography. Together, they encompass the entire body of photographic knowledge. One caveat, the world is never black and white. It consists of gradations, and from a critical standpoint, one cannot categorize a person’s status in such a manor. This material is intended only as a very rough outline, of what I think an individual’s growth pattern consists of. I also acknowledge that there are many things that I may have missed in this descriptive process. This is the first iteration of these observations, and I will continue to improve on it. Furthermore, my conceptualization of this growth trajectory is neither unique nor critical, and others have attempted this very thing. I only propose this framework, as a personal observation and can consider it potentially unique, in the fact that I have a background in philosophy. I hope that this serves as a useful guideline for your personal photographic endeavors.
- Operating novice
- Inspired enthusiast
- Superficial intermediate
- Technical intermediate
- Technical, artistic and creative intermediate
- Advanced: technical 95%, creative 60%
- Advanced: technical 99%, creative 75%
- Mastery: technical 100%, creative 85%
- Mastery: technical 100%, creative 95%
- Grand mastery: 100% creative, 100% technical
- A novice: This photographer only knows that the camera is an imaging device. They do not know anything more than pushing an automated button. They may be aware that photography extends beyond this, but they do not have the motivation to delve into those realms. This and other basic features may even challenge the user at this level. The goal at this level is to document personal memories, and nothing more.
2. Inspired enthusiast: Something about photography stimulates them. One attempts to frame photographs in a way that is pleasing to the non-critical viewer. They are framing photographs from a purely subjective aesthetic, rather than utilizing any principles or guidelines.
3. Superficial intermediate: Is aware that there are aesthetic principles that can apply to photographic composition. They may even loosely employ them. This person may understand basic concepts of light, and may employ some kind of diffusion for their on camera flash. Or at least, they are starting to become aware of various forms of light properties. The may find that light from direct on-camera flash, is harsh. They are not creating aesthetically attractive photos yet, and therefore, they are not using the camera modes, because they don’t have a need for them.
4. Technical intermediate: Someone who is learning how to use the various basic modes of the camera for, for different applications. They understand how shutter speed, ISO and aperture value can effect a photograph. They may have purchased a hot shoe mounted flash and some form of diffusion to soften light, and they may bounce the light off various surfaces to create different qualities of indirect illumination. None of these things are intuitive at this point. They have to consciously make adjustments, through trial and error. And, they have to time to consider, when to use certain tools. They may know something about optics and lenses, but may not know enough, or care enough to purchase better or more specialized lenses, to improve the quality or variety of their work. Framing their subject is important to them, but rules are commonly ignored, as they are unwilling to invest more time and energy to find the ideal framing or composition.
5. Advanced technical: Has most of the qualities from the technical intermediate, but with some important advancements. At this level, the individual has become familiar with most of the camera functions and features. Their ability to assess their environments is improved. They have more intuitive use of the tools at their disposal, to produce technically good photographs. They understand the basic rules of composition and employ them occasionally. They have an intermediate understanding of the digital post-processing workflow, or its equivalent, in chemical based photography, such as dodging/burning, and cross-processing. They have a basic understanding of the printing process of various mediums. They are able to use lighting and off-camera lighting to creative dramatic effects, but have limited control of creative expression.
6. Advanced technical: Has the qualities of level 5, but has a basic vision of what they want to create. They are still exploring the various genres of photography, but they find that they gravitate towards particular forms. They are beginning to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and are either attempting to address those weaknesses to become better-rounded or exploring the genres further. Or, they have identified their passion, and are now committed to developing and specializing in a particular style or subgroup of styles.
7. Advanced technical: Knows how to operate their gear within a small margin of error. They can create unique works of art, occasionally, but not consistently. They have any eye for beauty: They can identify attractive compositions. They may even put forth the effort to compose images, rather than framing what is easily available, viewable and self-evident. They have not thoroughly reconciled the psychological and technical components of photography. And the three subcomponents of these two, which are; The projection of one’s own unique perspective onto the medium, the technical and scientific, and the narrative, which imbues a work with the capacity to suggest a message, story or idea, independent of its creator.
8. Technical mastery: They have all of the previous traits, but they are beginning to delve introspectively to draw inspiration from within, while continuing to learn about the external world. They seek to make works that stand the test of time, but they are still in the self-discovery stages.
9. This person has all the technical skills to accomplish the work envisond. What they lack is inspiration. This comes from introspection and personal growth. At this point, the person needs to answer philosophical, existential questions to move forward. AS and artist, they need to critically understand their motives for their creations. The need to contemplate their contribution to humanity. Their goal is to have an enduring piece of work, which will continue to have an impact on future generations. They are attempting to address the metaphysical components of social construction. This is a journey of personal growth, which is oriented to the apex of self-actualization. All individuals aspire to this state. It is not isolated to artists alone.
10. Grand mastery: This person has the capacity to produce a work that will leave a lasting impression on humanity. This person has left a legacy and is potentially satisfied with their life accomplishments. At this state, they may seek scholarly pursuits. They may take on apprentices, to pass on their wisdom and to further actualize their contribution to humanity. This person is celebrated within that field and perhaps outside it. Very few reach this status.