Starting Out

Being an amateur is difficult. Starting out in pretty much anything is guaranteed to be an uphill battle. This goes double for those of us perusing more creative career choices. I think there are two main issues that cause frustration for young photographers, passion and self-criticism.

Passion and self-criticism go hand in hand. I believe anyone who is truly passionate about their work is also extremely critical of it. While this is beneficial in that you are pushing yourself to constantly improve and create better work it can also be the source of much frustration when your work doesn’t live up to your own expectations.

To draw from my own experience, I look at a lot of photography.  Over several years I have narrowed down my taste to certain types of photographs that I enjoy and have a fairly concrete list of photographers I admire. I strive to create photos that I am interested in and, in the process, get a lot of inspiration from the work of others. In a sense I am directly competing with the photographers I look up to, whether they be fine art or commercial, I aim to create work that is, if not above, at least at the same level as theirs. The fact however is that I can’t.

Not because they were born with some sort of skill set that I lack, but because of experience. I often look at a photograph and wonder, how on earth did so-and-so create this image, not taking into consideration that that photographer has several decades of experience versus my three years. It is at this point that I become frustrated with myself and begin doubting myself. I am sure this happens to everyone and this belief has been reaffirmed by an email I received recently from a friend I go to school with.

The simple truth of the matter is that photography isn’t just about setting your exposure and hitting the shutter, that can be taught in a couple minutes. To create meaningful and beautiful images, one needs years of experience, by years I mean ten or twenty, not two or three. I feel deep down we all know this, however the need for instant success pushes it to the back of our minds. I have been in a bit of a photographic low myself lately and find that I am constantly reminding myself that I’m just starting out, taking my photographic baby steps so to say.  Only once you realize and acknowledge that you won’t magically start pumping out work at the level you wish to be at, can you begin to work towards that level.

Here is a great video on being an amateur that everyone should watch, it just goes to show that we are all in the same boat

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