A Mile of Film

Merlin Mann posted about getting better at photography by shooting a lot, and that reminded me of an observation in a photography book I read in high school.

The author observed that the difference between an amateur photographer and a professional photographer was a mile of film. I’m pretty sure this was from The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook by Aaron Sussman. If it isn’t, there was a lot of other good advice in there and the book deserves a link anyway. If you don’t have a calculator handy, a 35mm negative is 36mm wide, roughly 1.5 inches, so that is over 42,000 exposures or nearly 1200 36 exposure rolls of film.

Hmm, 42,000 is awfully close to Herbert Simon’s estimate of the 50-100,000 chunks of information needed to become a chess grandmaster. Simon later generalized that to a “ten year rule”, where ten years of heavy labor are needed to master a subject (for a nice survey, see the Scientific American article, “The Expert Mind”.

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