I get asked quite often these days how long I’ve been so passionate about my photography, quite often I think, with the expectation of the answer being something like all my life. And when I reply in all seriousness that it has been perhaps only in the last few years that I have really dived right in I get some surprised responses. Photography, and in particular photographs, have been a part of my life for a long while. My dad had various cameras, many of which I recently reclaimed and shot many rolls of film of us growing up and growing older. However I didn’t really pick up a serious camera until about 10 years ago and only got my first DSLR about 6 years ago. Even still I’ve never taken my photography seriously and probably still don’t because of a few significant reasons.
- I’ve never thought myself good enough. Now this is not to say that I am someone who strives for perfection. To the contrary, I’ve always been one for trying your best and if your best is not good enough then you can always wipe the slate clean and try again. But for various reasons I’ve never felt my photography was good enough for me to call myself a serious photographer. Perhaps it has been the influence of other aspects in my life that say that, yes while I am good, I come off second best more often than not, so why should it be any different with my photography. And it’s always been the hardest thing to accept a compliment for me. Like someone would say nice haircut and I would reply with a self deprecating comment about my big head (But seriously I do have a big head). So it’s hard to actually internalise good feedback when I do get it. But its something I actively work on these days, finding the best way to accept that I may be good by first saying how I captured a shot, then what I like about it and only then saying what I think I could do better.
- Putting myself out there opens me up to criticism. Now to even get any good comments you have to learn how to handle the “bad ones”. And they always seem worse when you are getting them. But you have to learn how to weed out the good from even the bad. And be willing to admit mistakes and failure when it happens and be willing to learn. I’ve said it before on here I think, but no-one ever won anything by playing it small so you will have to put yourself out there as a photographer at some point, just so you can learn to get better. Even then there will be someone will not like your work. What has helped a great deal for me is joining a photography club and more recently joining my stock photography site. That anyone is willing to pay for my photos is great positive affirmation for me that I must be doing something right.
- Photography means I have to will have to interact with people. Many photographers I know struggle when it comes to dealing with people. They may love to take people photographs but the social anxiety of having to deal with people may just be too great and they tend to shy away. For many, photography is an escape, a way to get out and do what they love for an by themselves. So having to come back to reality and deal with people may well be a very limiting factor. I am no shrinking violet when it comes to interacting with people, believing there is always some or other common ground you can strike with someone you have just met. And I can spend hours talking about my photography. But, for the two previous reasons I think I have tended to stay away from photographing people. And many photographers go their whole careers doing just that, mastering other genres but eventually you will have to deal with people, even if it is to sell them your photos or share your photos on social media sites. So sooner or later as a photographer you have to deal with people so you have to learn how to. Even if it’s slowly over time. I have started asking my friends to pose for me and mostly they are more than willing to oblige. The feedback they will give you is honest and will also help with both previous points.
- Comparing myself to others is mostly a bad idea. This one is a general life rule I think. For the most part I avoid comparing myself to others in other aspects of my life, knowing that we not all running a giant race against each other but rather in our own lanes finding our way home. Even when I run in actual races I use the same philosophy, running withing myself more often than not, taking time to enjoy the beauty of the run rather than pushing myself to do better. I think I ended up last of everyone who did the 10km over the weekend in the local zoo trot. But when it comes to photography there always seems to be someone better. Someone who is doing brilliantly with the same kit you have, at the same places you visit. And this is often the feedback loop to the first point for me. Again I am learning to get over this, learning to ask questions and sometimes learning to be grateful to have seen something that simply astounds you.
I had to get over these mostly self thought up humps (and some smaller others such as technical know how) before starting to believe in my photography skills. And like with anything you learn, I progressed through the 4 stages of competency from unconsciously incompetent before I picked up my first camera to nearly the point of unconscious competence now. Personally I would add a fifth stage to the model – confidently competent. Where you are good and willing to put yourself out there enough to make the most of your skills, photography or otherwise. Just don’t jump the gun at the confidently incompetent stage!
P.S. Why the cover of a Giraffe you may ask? Giraffa Camelopardalis – the leopard spotted camel (who have differing numbers of humps if they are named Sally)