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Sharpen the Saw

Sharpen the Saw is Stephen R. Covey’s seventh habit from his highly popular self-help book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. How does “Sharpen the Saw” relate to a photographer?

I didn’t think much about this until I watched some photography and editing videos on YouTube over the weekend. As I am quite used to my own ways of getting things done, sometimes I do tend to forget better shortcuts or better methods of doing things. Back in the days before I started photography I attended a motivational course whereby the instructor mentioned that the best way employers can gain more from their employees are for the employees to attend yearly training.

So when it comes to me as a photographer, practice doesn’t necessarily means perfect. Going for training (or just watching photography videos), and seeing how other photographers approach their work, will make me a better photographer. Most Malaysian photographers tend to be self-trained now and quite a number of them do great work and are highly successful. The measure of their success maybe doing overseas training with their own students. But I wonder – will they be even better had they worked as assistants under different photography mentors?

My badass mentor Victor Chen used to assist a few photographers – famous French fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon, Hiro Ihara, Roberto Sandoval and Frank Yarborough. So when he taught me about his approach to photographing different subjects I am actually learning from 4 different photographers, no?

Places where you can “sharpen the saw”:
Behind the Shutter You can join their website at no cost and download their monthly photography magazine or read it online
Good Light! Mag Magazine isn’t free but there are lots of nice tips and techniques scattered on this website by Michael Zelbel


Which of the above images do you prefer – the newer edit or the original one? The newer one was edited with some techniques shown on YouTube. I was already doing color grading via Curves adjustment layer but what was added to my workflow now is Selective Color adjustment layers with some masking thrown in. It made a whole lot of difference to some of my old edited images and I think this is the way forward for my new portrait work.

Here’s a clue to what to look for on YouTube – use the search term “Color Grading”. You can even search for it on websites like FStoppers or Petapixel. Alternatively if you want the easier route, just use Alien Skin Exposure or Nik Color Efex Photoshop plugins.

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