Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Being a Beginner

by Kelly



So the other day I was chatting with one of my girlfriends at work.  She bought her first DSLR camera about a year ago, and since then she has been taking some of the cutest photos of her two adorable little girls. She has even started dabbling in children's and family photography. 

Anyway, that day we were talking about photography and she shared with me how she was a little frustrated with her photos.  How they didn't have that special quality she’s looking for – what she called an ‘it’ factor.   And I could totally relate because I have been there. In fact there are many times when I still consider myself a beginner.  But I reminded her that pursuing photography, like any passion or hobby, is every bit a journey.  And I encouraged her to just stick with it.  Reassured her that if she just hung in there, eventually it would all come together.

I was thinking about that conversation a lot over the weekend and my own personal journey in photography. Like a lot of  people, it began when I bought my DSLR camera in 2010.  And even though in the beginning I managed to get some pretty decent shots once in a while, most of the time, when I look at that those old photos I just want to cringe. 


For me, it didn't really start to come together until the fall of 2011 when I took my first BPC photography class, Picture Fall.  Because it was there that I discovered the kind of photography that really spoke to my heart.   


The only problem, though, was that I had just barely scratched the surface of what I like to call {capital P} Photography.  I had just started to understand the basics of exposure.  And it seemed like once I figured out one thing, there was always still so much more to learn – focal length, white balance, metering modes, etc. Not to mention post-processing and photo editing.  Truthfully...at times it was completely overwhelming. 

On top of that, I had a very bad habit of comparing my work to the other talented ladies in the class.  And I was frustrated that I couldn’t seem to get the kinds of amazing shots that they did.  Discouraged that I couldn’t seem to tell the story of my life in photographs…at least not the way I wanted to. 


Looking back now, there were two things that really inspired me to stick with photography.  The first was the community at BPC and the encouragement of the other women in my class.  Because they seemed to really get what I was trying to do and they were so supportive.  And then the second thing was stumbling across this quote by Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
This quote was such a liberating gift to me and I immediately took these wise words to heart.  I started reading everything I could get my hands on about the basics of photography.  I scoured the internet for inspiring photography sites.  I took pictures.  LOTS of pictures.  And I just kept at it.  Kept plugging away.  And bit by bit…I got better.


So fast forward several months and a couple more BPC classes later…I specifically recall it was a beautiful evening last June.  The light coming through my neighbor’s front yard was just amazing. And so I walked over to get some shots of the purple coneflowers in her little flowerbed. There I snapped a few photos that didn’t really stand out to me.  But then I knelt down and found the light.  And finally there it was...the light, the color, the bokeh...and to me it was magical.


That was the photo – the game changer in my photography.  The first time I ever felt like the picture in my head matched what showed up on the back of my camera.  Finally…it had all come together and I was overjoyed.

Since that day, nothing much has changed.  I still read, practice, and push myself to get outside my comfort zone.  I still look to the internet for community and inspiration.  Because the truth is that photography continues to be very much a learning process for me.  But you know, I think this is one of the many things I LOVE about it.  The chance to grow.  To evolve.  To view every day as an opportunity to look with new eyes…to see things differently. 


So if you happen to be a beginner and are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, please…don’t give up.  Just keep at it.  Keep learning and practicing.  And while you’re at it, don’t compare your work to others.  Try not to get discouraged when your photos don’t look like the shot you see in your head.  Additionally, I would also encourage you to find a group to connect with.  It is our sincere hope that you will find the community here at FOL to be one of support and encouragement. We were all beginners once too, so we understand how important it is to have a safe, nuturing place to grow and learn.  And finally, get your work out there...even if you think it isn't good enough.  It is through those types of challenges that you stretch your wings.  

You've already done the hard part...you began the journey.  So just keep at it and I promise you that one day it will all come together. 

Until next time, 

Kelly

P.S.  Don't forget to enter the FOL 'Thank You' giveaway!  Follow this link to see the beautiful prize we have for you and to get all the details for entering. 



17 comments:

Indigo Janson said...

Thank you for this inspiring post, Kelly. It was encouraging to read about your own journey. I know we all fall victim at one time or another to the demotivation that comes from comparing our work to that of others. There will always be someone who is more experienced or has perfected a certain creative style. What we ought to do is aim for personal best, and keep raising the bar each time. (By the way, I found your blog via Sherry Galey and can see I'll be a regular visitor.)

AFishGirl said...

Oh Kelly, loved that Ira Glass quote and your shots and musings on that "it" factor. Yeah. The times we take a shot and gasp. And heaven knows, it's not as common as we'd like, lol, because art is like that. But for those isolated moments when the heart hammers and the breath catches and you see it on the screen and think oh. My. I saw it. I caught it. I bet Henri Cartier Bresson got down on the ground and stood on chairs and all that too and sweat and cried and tried over and over and over. Applauding to you . Bravo, great post.

Kim Stevens said...

Beautiful post Kelly...sometimes I think I'm always going to be a little bit like a beginner because as my techniques and my vision changes (and certainly not at the same time) it will be like starting over again. I guess that it what I love (and hate) about photography is that I don't think it is something that can ever really and truly be mastered once and for all, it will always be about the journey and not the destination and THAT for me keeps it fresh and real.

Kelly said...

So beautifully written and rich with wisdom. I love to look at other photographers work-and I use to doubt myself-I still do-but the difference now is-it pushes me in a positive direction to learn more. I too cringe when I look back at some of my first photos and I thought " that's a great picture " and it was considering where I was in my journey! I'm still in many ways a beginner because now I'm focusing on the technical part of the camera-you've just energized me Kelly!

Carol said...

So well put, my friend. Artistic inception is personal, but it sure helps to see the process in others, and to hear the encouragement. It's like authors who's manuscripts are rejected again and again, but the joy of the writing keeps them going. I love the process, and being fortunate enough to experience it. You always start my day so gently - and I love you for it!

Carol said...

And BTW - These shots are really great - especially the top one, and the apple. A feast for the eyes.

Dotti said...

Beautiful post. Wonderfully encouraging to those just beginning this marvelous journey called 'Photography' and a timely reminder for those who have been following this journey a bit longer. The photos are gorgeous but the cone flower is a stunner! {I hope you pointed your friend in the direction of FOL!}
And I think this is why photography continues to resonate with me: it is a constant journey, always new things to learn. Great post, Kelly, for all of us.

CarolHart said...

well written post Kelly and such beautiful images!

terriporter said...

Amen, amen, amen! I sat here nodding while I read this, agreeing with every word. I think one of the things that keeps us so passionate about this hobby is that it is ever-changing and you never feel like you can quite master it but you want to keep trying. As Ira said, "The most important thing to do is do a lot of work." I think that is why the Picture classes helped us all to grow so much, that daily shooting, striving and sometimes accomplishing what we set out to do. The encouragement of others and the inspiration from others. I too hope that FOL is that kind of place for our readers. Thank you, Kelly, for this wonderful post, one I know I will read and reread. And your photos? Just amazing!

abrianna said...

Thank you. Most of the time I do pretty well at not comparing myself, but then are those other times where I wish my photos were as lovely as some of the others I see around the blogs.

Cathy H. said...

Thank you, Kelly, for this most encouraging post! Photography is a struggle and only a handful of the images I take are what I really want. I thought it would be easier and I became discouraged. Then, like you said, one day it clicked and that day hasn't been too long ago. Finally, I captured something just like I wanted. I have always admired your work from way back in those first classes together. I have seen your growth and it is so inspiring to me! Yes, this is a beautiful post with beautiful photos!!

Katie said...

So beautifully written, Kelly, so encouraging. I think the other hard thing to do is to "own" your accomplishments, to admit that "yes, I'm good and yes, I'm a photographer." I can never look anyone in the eye for a couple seconds after I say that. I'm getting better, but it's a struggle, Lovely, lovely photos tonight.

sherrygaley said...

Great post, Kelly, and lovely images. Every day I strive for that difficult balance between giving myself credit for how far I've come and challenging myself to learn more, experiment more, create more, and realize my vision better. I don't want to get stuck in a rut and fool myself about my abilities. Neither do I want to denigrate my creative output to date. So, for me the solution is not to get too hung up on where I am and instead trade judgement for joy, and just get busy doing what I love...I happen to love learning so I get a great kick out of trying new techniques, even if they don't work out that well. I happen to love looking at beautiful images created by others so I try to understand what it is about them that I love. I find my images also teach me a lot about myself, and greater self-awareness is never a bad thing. Many great artists are great because they maintain a beginner's mind even after they attain a measure of success...

Ashling said...

Thank you!! With both my writing and novice attempts at feltwork, I so often throw my hands up in despair because I'm just not good enough; what's in my head doesn't make it through my hands. I don't do beginning well, but your post here is inpsirational, motivational and strengthening. So very glad you stuck it out past the beginning.

Roxi -Coppercurls Designs said...

I have s much more to learn. Your photos are great!

Cathy said...

Great post Kelly and I love the Ira Glass quote. The moment when we look through the lens and think, oh yes, this is it, and how it makes up feel. So good. Great photos.

Viv@within the Frame said...

Thanks Kelly your words sum up my feelings exactly, so I am doing the work and taking classes and taking lots of photos and, every now and again I get it , that magical something.

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