As often as I’ve run across discussions about art and photography, I’ve never really heard anyone ask this question. Most artists, painters, writers, musicians, sculptors, dancers, etc, practice, routinely. But how much practice do you, as a photographer, actually do?
I don’t mean “time in the field shooting”. I mean time in the wood shed, practicing, honing your chops? I mean sitting working on a particular technique, idea, composition, theoretical study, etc.
I have, and virtually every musician I know has, spent countless hours sitting with my guitar on my lap playing the same thing over and over and over; I don’t think photography has any equivalent approach.
I’ve definitely read photography books, and taken classes, and worked on an idea, or composition, but I don’t think anything comes close to a real substitute for practice. Repeating a particular pattern or motif endlessly trying to make it feel second nature.
I’ve also spent time with my gear, making sure I know how to use it (well, to some degree; I’m pretty bad about doing this). But that’s not really practice either. Practice is repetition. I’m not sure photographer’s really try to repeat something; we try to do it differently, not duplicate it (unless we’re at shooting an icon, of course).
I’d differentiate this from polishing compositions. As a musician, I do that every time I write. Photographers do this, a lot. But I think that’s markedly different to ‘practice’. Don’t you?