A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post with some tips for those of you who may have received a DSLR during the holidays and are now navigating the world of DSLR photography. The last tip in that post was to compare yourself only to yourself. Yourself before today. I wanted to talk about that point a little more because it's something that is important to me, and something I see others struggling with a whole bunch.
The internet is a wonderful place for lots of people. It's an especially wonderful place for photographers. There is so much information available for learning, and there are so much opportunity to instantly view the work of so many other photographers. It can be overwhelming! Whether you're someone just starting out or a seasoned photographer who is always growing, seeing beautiful work from other photographers can be inspiring.
And if you let it, it can also be disheartening. If you let those little voices creep into your head that say I can never be that or I will never get there.
I am here to tell those voices in your head to shut the hell up. Stop comparing yourself to others. You're not others. You're you, you're great, and you need to blaze your own path to awesomeness!
I shared these photos in my original tips blog post a few weeks ago. This is the same little girl. The top photo is summer 2011. Bottom left is summer 2014 and the other two are fall 2015. It looks like some improvements were made.
I was very comfortable shooting film. Digital came around and I embraced it (I'm into technology!) but I was also young and poor and so I couldn't afford a DSLR, just digital point and shoots. By the time I got a DSLR, I was a tad rusty with how to shoot on an SLR but I was even more overwhelmed with ALL THE CHOICES. With film, there was no white balance...you just chose the right film for the environment you were shooting in and used a filter if it changed. With film, there was ISO, but it didn't really go very high. New metering modes confused me. Having different flash sync speeds confused me. Heck, jpg vs raw confused me. In film days there was just...film! So easy to expose. It came out looking like I knew it would. Occasionally there would be an off shot. Digital? Just shoot me! Too many buttons!
My wonderful nephew is the person who made me realize that I actually enjoy photographing people rather than things. He is also the victim of so, so many photo and editing sins. (Top: February 2011. Bottom: November/July/August 2015).
The internet led me to so much information that allowed me to understand how to create the photos I wanted to create. It also led me to the work of zillions of amazingly talented photographers. I wanted to be them. I wanted to shoot like them. It made me sick to realize I couldn't be there not yet. Maybe not ever. I could never be them.
And then I woke up, because it's true! I could never be them! I could only be me!
I stopped actively following other photographers online for a long, long time. I still saw lots of beautiful photography from day to day, and when I needed to see or learn something, I would seek it out. But when I stopped wanting to be like others and used what I learned to be me, everything started falling into place. I follow a handful of photographers now because I admire their work, I appreciate it, and I am comfortable enough in my own style to recognize that something that looks different than what I shoot is just that: different. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. That said, often enough their work is something amazing that gives me ideas and goals to strive for.
There were lots of times when I felt like nothing was happening. But any time I would take a look back at my older photos and editing, a little voice in my head would say, HELLO! You're making some progress, Amy. Just sayin'.
Top: January 2011. Bottom: January 2015. Who knew the water in RI was yellow?!
It is absolutely fine (and not a bad idea at all) to seek out knowledge from photographers you admire. I have done so. A lot. Technical knowledge, lighting knowledge, editing knowledge (lord knows I am the target market for Photoshop For Dummies!). Take that knowledge. Try it. Use it. Use it to create then hone your style. It's OK for your style to evolve and grow and change over time, but make sure it's your own. Put yourself into everything you make. Shoot and edit from your own heart.
Left: March 2014. Right: October 2015.
One last tip: if you can, shoot every day. Or as often as you can. In 2015, I did a project 365, where I took a photo each day for a whole year. My cat Lionel was a frequent subject. We got Lionel in October of 2014 after losing our previous cat, Reina, in June 2014. I took photos of her, but not nearly as many as Lionel. Lionel is one of my main personal subjects. He's a wily sucker who doesn't stay put much and has helped me improve a number of skills that come in handy when photographing children who also don't like to sit still. There is not a large time span between some of my Reina and Lionel photos, but I can still see things I've learned. It makes me happy to see changes in a relatively short period of time. I know you will also see these changes in yourself and they will make you happy, too.
So whether you're a mama with a new camera looking to take photos of your kids or someone who's been doing this for awhile, be you. Become you. Keep becoming you. Don't stop. Celebrate all your victories and always look back to see how far you've come, even if you're just looking back to last week. You're awesome!