I was on the phone with one of my favorite people and photographers today, Liz LaBianca. Liz and I became fast friends when she interviewed me last year for Inspire Me Baby.
That statement alone makes me laugh on the inside. Me, interviewed. For you see, I'm still such a work in progress in photography, that to have someone want to interview me made me feel a little weird. Flattered, but weird.
We had a conversation today about the idolization of photographers in the industry. And how damaging it could be... to the person doing the idolizing.
We talked about how every single photographer has a so-so session. How not every image in 'their' Gallery is perfection. We are only human. We're supposed to make mistakes (thanks Billy for the insight there).
Imperfections are everywhere, no matter how long you have been shooting, how many Facebook fans you have and how many books you have published. No one is immune.
So when you go to compare yourself to the hottest shooter in your mind, stop. Insert a shake of the shoulders by me. And get over it. Because it is more damaging than you think.
You are your own unique self. That should translate into every area of your life, including photography. Photographers are some of the most insecure people I know- myself absolutely included. We eagerly lie in wait when we post images to Facebook to see if anyone commented (refresh page. refresh page. refresh page. Darn. I knew I should have went with another image for the sneak peek!)
When I started out in this industry in early 2009, a mere 3 years ago, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do versus what a lot of the trends were: I knew after my first shoot with a newborn and props that was not me. I failed miserably. I was shaking putting the baby into the basket. My black cloth to use as a backdrop was wrinkled and full of lint. That awkwardness was NOT the way I wanted to feel shooting, ever.
I decided I wanted my images to make people feel something and be like a mirror held up to their lives.
So great. I had my style, and it was called lifestyle. Let's go with that. Check that off the to-do list.
But then the problem arose of pining for my images to look like something I just couldn't translate them into when I clicked the shutter. Indoor lifestyle shots with a Nikon D40? Epic (noisy) fail. Why couldn't I get the results 'x' got with her camera?
Guess what? The camera DOES matter. The equipment DOES matter. The mantra of 'it's not the camera it's the photographer' is certainly true, don't get me wrong. But shoot, the camera and lens play a pretty darn big part in the difference between a snapshot indoors and an image worthy of charging people money for!
When you look at someone like me, for example, who is blessed to own a Nikon D3s take pause. Your images are noisy at 1,000 ISO? Of course they are! Stop kicking yourself because your D90 doesn't crank to 100,000 ISO and you can't shoot in the dark. Baby steps. I saved, saved, saved, and poured (and continue to pour) money back into my equipment to get better results. Unless you have the numbers to the next lottery, it takes time.
And speaking of getting better results, I did something starting out I bet a lot of you did (or do) too- I asked about settings in the camera. It's fine to ask, don't get me wrong. I try to include them as much as my 40 year old brain will remember to, but in the end, settings mean nothing if you don't know why you are choosing those settings.
Photography is a constant education. I still learn something new nearly every shoot- and some things work and some things don't. But what I can tell you absolutely works is shooting time under your belt.
I often liken it to a pilot accumulating his/her hours to become certified. You simply do not get better through osmosis- you. must. shoot. And shoot often. With different subjects. In different light. In different locations. The more you shoot, the better you become. Simple fact.
How about some examples?
Here is an image I shot circa 2008 of my daughter. I'm a fan of head chops but yikes! The light is all wrong, focus is off, color if off (but she's still so darn cute :)).
2009 had me getting a little better. At least focus and light was improving a wee bit. Ok, ok she's a bit green...let's move on.
2010 I really started seeing the change...though those eyes were way over sharpened and her skin a bit cool, it's a big leap from the prior year.
2011 is my sweet spot. That is when I really started understanding my camera, settings and finally when my 'vision' was coming to light and it literally clicked.
And now, 2012. A similar shot as the one above, only now it's more polished. This year it's all about experimenting with my edits, angles and composition. Never stop learning and challenging.
So there you have it- my journey over the past few years.
In the end, please learn to embrace your 'mistakes' because they are helping you grow. Stop going crazy following every photographer's feed and getting yourself into a lather because you can't BE them.
You are right, you can't, you won't and you will never be them. You will be you.
And that is awesome.