One problem avid photographers have is they observe everything but experience nothing. Instead of being in the pool, they’re taking pictures of people in the pool. This becomes so natural to them that they never participate in everything. Photography becomes one big excuse to sit on the sidelines at every event.
You can learn plenty from observation, but you reach the limit quickly where you’d be better off ditching the camera, sketchpad, or notepad to get your hands dirty. You cannot become a good speaker from merely reading great speeches—you have to take the podium yourself someday, frightening as it may be.
One place where people are observers is in technology. I put off getting a decent computer for five years, all the way till 2006, because I was afraid that it would be quickly outdated. Of course this was foolish since even though I was right, the immediate gains are worth far more than the eventual losses. It’s the same thing in photography, where putting off getting a good camera for a while will cost you photographic opportunities in the present. While compact cameras aren’t getting much better anymore (just noisier), they and DSLRs are getting cheaper so people still find plenty of reason to not invest in good equipment, even if they consider themselves good photographers.
I did this for years also, working with a junky point-and-shoot till I got my Canon Rebel XTi in 2007 August. Now I’m using a Canon 10MP point-and-shoot and I love it, only reserving the SLR for occasional use. Hmm… If I’d spent my time observing I’d still have a Fuji A360. Although I mostly observe as a photographer.
One problem I have is I spend far too much time reading other blogs and not enough writing on my own. Reading other peoples work doesn’t take you very far. You need to be writing your own stuff to experience vast improvement. Ironically, observing the efforts of others becomes more valuable after you’ve done work on your own, because you have the expertise to recognize their strengths and follies, and to use them for your own benefit.
Therefore, you should mix observing and doing to glean the most from both. However, most people do more observing, so the title of this encourages you to start doing. If you spend three hours a day watching comedy shows, why not film one of your own? Even if you’re the only character in it and you play all the parts, it’s a start.
It’s scarier to write a blog post than to read five blog posts… but what your scared of is what helps you to grow the most. Stop observing, start doing.