I don’t know about you, but my photography journey is far from being all cupcakes and unicorns.
Having shown no interest in photography until I was 23 and having my highest level of artistic training in grade 8 art class, I was a terrible photographer when I first started. Luckily I picked up photography when digital was just starting to go mainstream.
If I had lived in the film era, I honestly think I would have quit. I can imagine how crushed I would have been if I had seen those same first pictures after buying a roll of film, developing it into a print and then trying to figure out what went wrong. The instant feedback of the LCD screen allowed me to fix a lot of issues in the field. Easy right?
But then I would get home and look at the images on the big screen. Disappointment ensued.
Photos were out of focus.
My horizons were wayyyy off.
I didn’t use the light in the best way.
I’d crop body parts off along the edge of the frame.
The images had no emotion to them. No feeling.
Did I have what it takes to be a “real” photographer?
I don’t know if you can relate, but that feeling I got was a combination of:
- Am I good enough?
- My photography is not where I want it to be.
- Should I keep at this?
Have you ever felt anything similar?
Does it go away?
Unfortunately no. I still get that feeling.
I’ll come back from a shoot and see the following:
Photographs that are out of focus.
A few horizons that are wayyyy off.
The light isn’t quite right in some images.
Body parts cropped awkwardly in the frame in a few cases.
Some images have no emotion to them. No feeling.
Of course the rate of each of these issues has decreased as my technique and artistic eye have improved. But they’re still in there.
Even though my photographic journey has taken me from beginner all the way to full-time photographer I still look at my work very critically. My photographic craft is not where I want it to be. I look at my images and see the things I would do differently next time in order to get closer to the results I want.
Keep the benefits, discard the rest
I don’t enjoy that feeling at all.
The questions then becomes, how can I use that feeling for my benefit?
What I’ve learned is that my unhappiness with my work is a huge part of what drives me to become a better photographer. It’s what has got me to where I am today.
If I was happy with the quality of my work, where’s the incentive to improve?
So I use that feeling to drive me to learn and practice more. I push myself into situations that are uncomfortable and difficult so that my problem solving skills and artistic eye develop further.
The key things to remember is that you’re judging your photographic work and not yourself as a person. Keep those separate. Don’t make your disappointment mean that you’re not good enough as a person.
Keep the drive, but lose the judgement.
Do you get that feeling? How do you handle it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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