Petra Sittig Photography - Vienna, Austria
Petra Sittig Photography - Photoshoots for Artists and Professionals
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My Journal

We all have to start somewhere, doesn’t matter what it is we do, and every start is the beginning of a process that we can never predict. I am writing about how I started photography, the initial inspiration and encouragement by my friend George, and the on-going learning process, by just doing.



















If it wasn't for George and the 20 hour theory.

I can clearly remember the conversation with my friend George about Josh Kaufman’s 20 hour theory. George is a friend of mine from my years in high school, and he comes to visit me now and again when he’s in Vienna for business. George always has the perfect timing and whatever the conversations are about, I seem to need the information after he leaves. This time the conversation was about the 20 hour theory: According to Josh Kaufman, people can learn anything without the 10 000 hour input, as Malcom Gladwell suggests. The 10 000 hour rule only applies to expert level performance. The Kaufmann theory is that, to learn a new skill, you need to be doing it for 20 hours to be able to get to a basic level of understanding.

A few months later, this idea made me take action. Photography was something that I was always interested in, but since working as a wedding stylist in the UK, I always left it to the wedding photographers to photograph my wedding styled sessions. Just the thought of shooting in manual with a camera, felt daunting. I also realised when I had done any type of photography styling, that it’s sometimes difficult to make someone else see what I see in my mind and what I wanted form the photograph. Taking the camera in my own hands seemed to be the only solution to being able to get the result that I wanted.

The first step was to see if this 20 hour theory could actually work. I took the camera, (Canon EOS 70D) and for the first time, actually studied the manual. This was me starting from scratch. My previous experience in photography was the hundreds and hundreds of photos I had taken of my children since they were born and also, since digital photography had seen the light, I used to walk around with a very basic camera and photographed trees, swans, ducks and flowers next to the Canal where we lived in Taunton in the UK. This of course was just shooting in automatic and not even a thought of editing afterwards. No colour or light manipulation, just the image as it was taken, in the light conditions at the time.

Early attempts

I am sharing these photographs that I took in Taunton, UK. I am sure they could be made to look so much better with editing, but they I’d rather leave them as they are. The camera was basic and it was not intended for anything else than for my enjoyment and to capture scenes that I thought was beautiful.

I don’t even want to pretend that going manual was easy at the start, because I had no clue at all of any of the settings. I had to learn about the ISO, Aperture, shutter speed triangle and did some practice at the table with different objects to try to make sense of depth of field. After days of reading and watching many tutorials, I almost gave up hope that I would be able to keep all the settings in mind when taking a photograph. In one of the tutorials, the photographer gave the advice to go out and just start shooting, because that would be the best way to learn. On this snowy day, I grabbed the camera and headed outside to go and do exactly that. I realised that I would have to be forced to change the settings manually otherwise I would never do it.

It was there in the snow, at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna that I started photographing. Not the easiest weather to start with manual shooting but this challenge just inspired me to get it right. Yes my white balance was not correct and with the limited knowledge I had regarding editing at the time, I would not have been able to correct it. However I think they should stay exactly imperfect as they are so that I could always see where I started.

Just go out and shoot

It was also on this day that I discovered my secret passion, the theme that was to inspire me daily, to go out and shoot, and to discover beauty in people and so much lovely couples in Vienna. This photograph was the first and the beginning of me looking out for couples in love and couples holding hands.

Holding hands, I realised was the first thing we do at the start of a relationship, and it’s something we still do right up to the end. It is so wonderful seeing elderly couples and young couples walking, holding hands and clearly in love.

Since this day in the snow, I was determined to get it right. I kept on reading every day, watched tutorials over and over again and exceeded the 20 hour mark without realising. I wish I kept count, but it really didn’t matter anymore because I was hooked and determined. Maybe this was the idea of the 20 hour theory, that if it sounds achievable, we would have more courage to try new things.

I am grateful to George, who told me about the 20 hour theory, my friend Thomas, who planted the seed for me to take the camera in hand, and who patiently allowed me to photograph him right from the start, when I still didn’t know much. Most of all, I am grateful to a very talented Photographer, Dimo Dimov , who once gave me a huge compliment, that I will always remember, and this gave me the confidence to think that I might be able to pull it off.