As photographers, we are always wanting to grow and improve and leave behind our earlier works. It’s easy to feel frustrated and to feel like you aren’t improving at a rapid enough rate, or to look at work from photographers that you admire and wonder how they got there, feeling like you never will.
The thing is, that while this is human nature, it’s just not particularly productive. In my own personal experience, it leads to a defeatist outlook that ends with putting down my camera and watching a lot of bad TV (which, let’s be honest, is needed every now and again).
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t find photographers whose careers you aspire to have and look at their work, far from it. What I’m saying is that it’s also important to look at your own work and to find perspective in your own growth.
I hate looking at my early work, I really do. Frankly, it’s terrible. I’m not saying this in a self-deprecating looking for praise sort of way. I’m saying it because it’s true. It’s really awful. I had clients sitting on the ground in front of a wrinkly blanket or on the grass and I shot them from above in JPEG mode on auto. All professional photographer no-nos. Then, I popped them into Lightroom and tried to weirdly smooth their skin using clarity. The results are cringe-worthy. Until this week, I just NEVER looked at those photos.
So, why am I taking about this? I’m part of a lovely community of photographers called Shoot and Share and this week someone posted a challenge for all of us to post a throwback Thursday of our first “professional” or paid shoot. Eager to participate, I combed through my archives to find one of these monstrosities. Nothing. I’d burned them all in effigy. Luckily (and unluckily) Facebook can be forever and I was able to find a copy of my very first headshot client back in early 2009. As a special treat, I’m including it below, which I’m still not sure is a good idea.
I hate the picture. I hate it a lot; but, a funny thing happened after I dug up that photo and posted it. I felt good about myself. I compared that first shot with my current work and I realized how far I’ve come.
I’m not finished learning or growing as a photographer, nor will I ever be, but I have worked hard and six years’ worth of growth shows. I’ve taken classes, I’ve upgraded equipment, I’ve worked in front of the camera as a model and behind the camera as an assistant on major fashion shoots, weddings, you name it – anything that I could get.
I’m now working professionally consistently, shooting weddings, production work, corporate work, headshots etc. and I’m still often challenged and occasionally frustrated, but I enjoy every moment that I am shooting or editing.
I’ve included some more recent photos that I took of that same early client (she forgave me for the 2009 atrocities thank goodness!), as well as a couple of other now and then goodies.
I encourage all of you out there, whether you are just starting out, or full professionals to look back at where you’ve come from. It really does fuel the fire for future growth and development. Be proud of how far you’ve come and take steps to go even further. I look forward to 6 years in the future when I can look back and see how much more I’ve learned.
And here are a couple from some more recent and very different 2015 shoots just for fun (and to make me feel better), but also to illustrate how important using (and difusing) lighting is, which is something that I'll cover in next week's post:
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