Updated: Jul 17, 2018
Starting next Monday, I am running a series of seven daily quick-hit mini-tutorials on the Blog and I thought I would kick things off by penning a short (never!) introduction about my journey with photography, the (learning) curves and key lessons learned along the way.
Hope you learn something new next week or, at least, find yourself spending a few minutes reading something enjoyable.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a know-it-all, not do I wish to appear to claim to be an expert. The aim of the next few posts is to share some basic knowledge that I think can help anyone make a good start in understanding Photography a little more beyond clicking a button.
*Read all the way to the end to see some progress samples with the 'Early Days' and 'Current' selection*
When I first started out with Photography, I dived in head first, straight into the deep end and not in a graceful, Tom Daly way.
I scored myself a DSLR and started shooting - I remember feeling pretty ‘pro’ sitting in semi-automatic mode - aperture priority (because I liked a blurry background and that was all that mattered). Thing is, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with having the fanciest camera and using it on maximum auto it allows you - that’s what it’s there for and as long as you’re getting the images and satisfaction you need from the process, who has the time to mess around with all the cogs and buttons? The reason I may sound a bit condescending to my 19 year old self is I *wanted* to learn, to be a ‘pro’, to be ‘good’, I knew auto wasn’t enough for me to feel the satisfaction I craved.
At this time I relied heavily on editing - looking to get the results in editing programs, but also not being too sure what my ‘style’, ‘look’ or even preferred subject was. Of course, this didn’t HAVE TO be defined at this stage - experimenting is how we learn about ourselves best, right? No issues there. I used magazines a lot at this stage, picking up tutorials and tips and reviewing critique given on readers’ submissions featured (dreaming that some day I might be good enough to be featured for a critique or even praise!), I joined forums (these were the days before Instagram and YouTube’s usefulness wasn’t quite obvious beyond watching some amateur unfunny comedy) and submitted my work there, asking for opinions, but, truthfully, not taking too much onboard apart from enjoying the fact that my ‘stuff’ was out there. Also, to this date I get annoyed with overly kind feedback givers - when someone asks for an honest opinion, don’t tell them their photos are ‘nice’, give them a bit of a sandwich - constructive criticism/compliment/constructive criticism: ‘I love her hair, but wish the eyes were in focus and the overall photo a bit brighter’. It’ll do them good in the long run. Anyway, I digress - I was so lazy - but this is ok, I was learning a VALUABLE lesson: that nothing comes from nothing.
So, all that awesome machine that my camera was, I didn’t take the time to understand what all the buttons meant, how any external factors (Light? Movement? Colours?) affected my imagery. I would click-click-click, then check the screen and - if I liked it - keep going, if I didn’t, put the camera down until whatever magic needed to make my images better came along (Light, Movement, Colours). Not the best technique, granted, but it kinda worked, my interest in photography persisted and being a university student at the time, I had plenty time on my hands, so the creativity was getting an outlet... for a while... All the while, I still loved photography, I loved capturing fleeting moments - though not completely defined and undecided in style/look/subject matter. I did a few weddings, which I really enjoyed, as I love weddings anyway, but also this was my first hint at WHAT it is that I love capturing: emotion, joy, unity.
Looking back, I can totally understand why, a couple of years down the line, I ‘lost my phojo’. My technique was not sustainable for a long-term relationship, because, just like with anything else, a hobby needs to be nurtured, encouraged, challenged and it should probably evolve.
I had a three-year-long break-up with photography and it was the best thing I could have done for my passion.
When I picked my camera back up, I had a clearer vision of what I wanted my images to look like, I started shooting in full manual - taking full control (Light! Movement! Colours!) and I also realised what (or rather WHOM) I wanted to focus on (pardon the pun!) - families and children!
I started hungrily searching for more learning resources - blogs, YouTube (I got there eventually!) and podcasts have become my bed-time stories, car-journey companions and a timely replacement for the Game of Thrones addiction. I have also discovered that I learn best in person from others and have been selectively attending some amazing workshops with local and touring photographers (most recently with the brilliant Nina Mace!). I have joined ClickinMoms and came across so many inspirational artists - always happy to share their knowledge and expertise. I started following many artists, whose work I admire, using their work as an encouragement to learn, push the boundaries, explore, but most of all, to trust and believe in my vision and nurturing my confidence.
I am also delightfully growing my circle of photographer friends and enjoying the interactions on a personal level, mixed in with some photo-chat - sharing the funny, the daunting and all the while insightful experiences and practices. No one will understand your journey and the trials and tribulations (and the joy!) quite as well as a fellow photog will!
Having our son nearly two years ago can not go unmentioned, having a little unknowing model running around and at constant availability has been great for practice and experimenting. Taking beautiful imagery of him and also seeing how fast he changes and how fleeting those moments are is also giving me encouragement to offer the service of providing the same to other parents - wanting to capture their little ones’ fast-flowing, constantly-evolving childhoods.
This is my story so far.
I love what I do and I love seeing clients' happy faces, when they see their family captured just as they are, just how they feel. The sessions are a joy, because love is a joy - the smiles, the coyness, the apprehension - it is all unforgeable and makes for a treat to capture. Don’t get me wrong, photographing children is not always easy, dads usually hate photos and moms don’t think they will like them. Fortunately, my clients are very generous in trusting me with their precious time and allowing me to capture their intimate family dynamics and hearing glowing feedback (and seeing dads soften during the session and children running around wild - making mom more relaxed and enjoy herself more) is priceless!
Learning is a never-ending process, but it is what keeps us going, what keeps us growing, improving and our passion burning. We live in the wonderful times, when there is an over-abundance of information out there, for any type of learner and it only needs to be taken advantage of.
Enjoy next week and I would love to hear some feedback - please be kind and sandwich a little compliment in-between the layers of criticism ;)
Some of my earlier work: the heavily-edited days, experimenting with Protoshop and a LOT of self-portraiture (easy target):
My current work: the emotion, the 'Now', the eye-contact (with the lens, or the people)
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