Grievances of an Amateur Photographer

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Much like the colonists listed their grievances to Great Britain before the aftermath of what became the Revolutionary War, I want to discuss the challenge that an aspiring photographer might face. I do not intend for these grievances to become excuses for why I feel I’m at stalemate, rather I see them as hurdles I will eventually overcome. I have only conquered one of them, but as for the remaining, I am still battling and will continue to for years to come. There’s a famous quote said by Henri Cartier-Bresson that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. Knowing this, I want the photography section of this blog to be for those amateur photographers who like me are frustrated with their current position in this amazing field. Those who suck at taking photos, and need to be reminded that it’s ok to suck. My 10th grade English teacher once lectured us about embracing our suckness. I was too young and naive to really ponder on the meaning of his lecture so I don’t remember much apart from the title, but I’m sure the me today and my English teacher then would arrive at the same conclusion… You have to start somewhere. You have to embrace the fact that you suck as harsh as that sounds, and from there you can embrace the opportunity to not suck. There’s not much rocket science to it. you just can’t expect to have been born yesterday,  and start leaping over walls today. Photography is my hobby, but I love it to the point of obsession and even though it is not something I want to pursue as my entire career, I still want it to become an art that I can speak through since I’m bad at using words. And so, here’s a list of things that as an amateur photographer you might feel impairs you to bring out your best as an artist:

1. Fear
2. Lack of Equipment
3. Location
4. Style
5. Editing Software
7. Support

Fear

I can’t even begin to fathom the number of times I’ve been on the street with my camera, saw someone or something interesting, and was too much of a wuss to take a picture of it. Or, I have internal conflicts about posting pictures online because compared to professional photographers, mine aren’t up to par. Writing this out now, I feel as if I want to give myself a kick, and I hope I’m not the only one who has experienced these scenarios. The reason I put fear as the number one grievance (They are not in order of importance) is because this is probably what most commonly inhibits young photo enthusiasts from growing in photography. The fear to be criticized about your work, the fear that your work is never good enough, even the fear of interacting with people (like in street photography). Unfortunately fear makes every one of us act in irrational ways which is why we need to overcome it. How do you overcome fear in the photography realm? Well, the best way is to delve into whatever you are trying to do slowly. A prime example happened a few days ago where I was setting up a Flickr, uploading pictures to it like there was no tomorrow knowing full well that those photos sucked. The next morning, I regretted putting up most of those photos and quickly took them all down. I should have contemplated more about which ones would make the cut instead of uploading even the worst ones for the sake of uploading.

Lack of Equipment

I was using a lame point and shoot for years before I bought myself a dslr. That point and shoot really taught me a lot of things that maybe if I had dived into buying a dslr before hand, wouldn’t have taught me. Since my point and shoot was so limiting, I had to find ways to over come it by thinking out of the box. You may not have a dslr, you may not have a number of lenses at your disposal, you may not even have simple gear such as a tripod. But it’s good to work with what you have until you are able to buy those things. I can’t even begin to count the number of crazy setups I had to come up with because I didn’t have a tripod. Or when I had my point and shoot and couldn’t do macro photography, I would cover my camera lens with cheap magnifying glass to achieve the effect. Become a master at what you have now, and when you know that you really need to upgrade to better equipment, you will find the transition easier and more rewarding.

Location

If you’re like me and live in a boring town, you feel that you’ve already taken all the pictures of your surroundings from every possible angle. You’re also probably a bit jealous when you see the work of traveling photographers or of people who live in amazing areas. I’ve found myself using this excuse for why I can’t see any growth in my photography, and it’s obviously a pretty lame one. There is always something to take a picture of, and sometimes you have to think a little. I recently found out that my basement actually has really cool lighting, something I never would have stumbled upon if I didn’t take on the challenge of a photography contest I entered. Challenge yourself. Think what picture WOULD make your location look interesting in some way, and then aim to get that shot.

Style

This is a big one that I have been dealing with at this very moment. The question of what type of photography I want to do and what kind of style I want to achieve and call my own. I’m sure it took some of the best photographers that have lived years to develop their own style. It takes a lot of experimentation and failure to finally master your art. For amateur photographers like myself, I find looking for inspiration in another person’s work is a good place to start. I’ve recently started to pick certain photographers whose work I like and which inspires me. If they have a certain photo I like, I study the things that made that photo stand out to me. I don’t wish to copy them, but maybe they are using a prop in which I can use in a different way, or maybe the composition of the photo is very striking and I try to think of other ways I can do that. From there, I have started to pick out what kind of photography keeps interesting me and now I think I know what I want to focus on. I’m still testing out different things, and it really is a difficult process. Another thing is that I don’t want to take pictures just because they look pretty, I also want pictures that have meaning, something that I can relate to and in turn inspire others.

Editing Softwares 

Adobe, who makes some of the best high end editing softwares out there unfortunately likes to charge an arm and a leg for their products. For some time now, I didn’t have access to these editing programs and sought out other programs to to substitute for them. Maybe I’m a gullible person, but I have come to find out quite recently that cool pictures you may come across…don’t really look like that at first. Some people edit their pictures drastically, some just touch it up. I’m now starting to experiment with Photoshop and Lightroom and have come to realize that they are so handy, I have to be careful with overusing them. I’ve always believed that editing softwares should be used as an “extra” tool to give your photos that oomf. However, when it comes down to it, it depends on what photography you are doing and what message you are trying to get across with your photos. The type of photography I personally am starting to go for requires the use of hardcore editing softwares such as Photoshop and Lightroom. This does not mean I’m going to think to myself, “Who cares if I take bad pictures, I can always fix it on the computer.” I want to able to compose nice shots that still look great, and go into the computer to patch them up.

Support

I find that when I try to do street photography around friends who do not understand what it is and find my picture taking of strangers stalkerish, it is very upsetting. I really wish to have a connection to people just like me, who instead of ridiculing, would join me and help me out. Maybe you’ve been practicing photography and you have no one to go to for advice or criticism. I tend to show my work to people close to me, but now I’m starting to branch out to the internet in places like flickr. I’m sure your friends and family don’t want to hurt your feelings and try their best to praise your work, but it is also good to get some feedback from the public. They are in fact the ones in which someday, you hope can connect to your photos.

Tip #2: Practice, Practice, Practice! And then you’ll see yourself grow, grow, grow!

My Flickr, which I’m still figuring out.

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