Sunday Reflections - July 3, 2016
I have been interested in photography since 1982. Between 1982 and 2011 photography was a hobby, even though I did have a darkroom and developed my own film until about 1990. In 2005, I made the switch to digital single lens reflex cameras after about a 4 or 5 years hiatus from most photography except for the occasional snapshot on holidays, birthdays, or vacations. Within a short period of time, I discovered digital processing of my photographs. I soon thought, and in retrospect mistakenly, that I was ready to "charge for my services".
I occasionally review old photographs of mine to remind myself of my beginnings. This week, I became involved in an online forum frequented by a lot of new or beginning photographers. Some are anxious to learn, others believing, as I did, they are ready for business. Before I venture further I would like to say that I do encourage new and beginning photographers but I also would like to caution them to not be too quick to decide to become a business.
Below is an example of my beginning paid portrait sessions.
When I look at the photograph above I cringe. I see so many technical things wrong. I see a bad pose. I can't believe I charged the client money for this photograph, even though it wasn't much money.
There are many times where new and beginning photographers believe those with more experience and training have forgotten we too were once new and beginning. While I can't speak for others, I can say I remember. When I caution new and beginning photographers about jumping into a business it isn't because I believe I'm better than they are or that I am worried they will take business away from me. It is because it reminds me of my beginnings and mistakes. I caution those new and early photographers because I don't want them to make the same mistakes I made.
The photograph above I took in 2007, two years after I made the jump to digital and in retrospect was just a beginner again. I thought I knew what I was doing but in reality, I didn't have a clue. The sad thing, to me, is that I didn't know that I didn't know. I didn't take heed to the advice experienced photographers gave me. I often became offended when I received comments critical of my work and explaining to me how to improve. I believed all the "likes" and "awards" I got on sites like Flickr after all the quality of the work from those people was similar to mine so I "must be good."
Today, I still make errors. I can still improve and know that. The difference today is that I photograph with intent and a plan. This doesn't mean the plan always works out but I have a plan. I share far fewer photographs today than I did a few years ago. I spend a lot of time practicing lighting, controlling light, learning to deal with light, and experimenting with camera settings. Most of those images never see the internet or online forums.
The photograph above is from a session I did recently as a "trade for" session. The model traded her time for my time and gear. The purpose of this session was to practice. Practice lighting, composition, posing. This image can even be improved upon and I know that. My plan is to take what I learned from this session to apply it to the next.
How long does it take to learn photography? A lifetime. How long does it take to be ready to start a business? It depends on a number of things, but I honestly believe you need to work for a few years. Become your own harshest critic. Compare your work to the work of the "big time" professionals. Can you really do what they do? Be honest.
The conclusion to my Sunday reflection is that once you think you're good, check your ego. Really compare what you do to those who you believe are better than you are currently. Is your work on par with them?
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