As an artist, I believe that it’s essential to revisit your old creations and compare them with your current ones. In this world, we have a lot of talented people who may not always see the value in their work. They might even think that their creations are terrible, worthless, or not good enough. Despite this, they keep trying, keep practicing, and keep sharing their work. This kind of perseverance is bravery in action.
I recall a few years ago when I received an invitation to visit a local video game bar in Orlando, FL. They were hosting a Star Wars Day celebration and had encouraged everyone to attend dressed up in their best Star Wars costumes. As a photographer, I arrived there eager to capture some amazing photos of the attendees carrying light sabers.
Once I got back home, I edited the photos using the skills I had acquired up until that point. The outcome of my effort was not terrible, but it was clear that there were a lot of mistakes and things that I could have done better. However, I choose to look at those photos as a stepping stone to where I am today, and not as a source of self-criticism.
Admittedly, many people scrutinize their past work every day and berate themselves for not doing better. But, for me, it’s important to acknowledge that my past work was a vital part of my learning journey that brought me to where I am today. I am proud of the fact that I took those photos and used all the skills that I had at the time. And, more importantly, I was willing to keep learning and acquiring new skills as time went on to continue improving.
If I hadn’t continued to learn, I would not have been able to take and edit the stunning photos that I took of my wife this year on Star Wars Day. These pictures are a testament to the progress that I have made as a photographer and artist. And, for that, I choose to celebrate my past work instead of belittling it.
Last weekend I was asked if I had any advice for beginner photographers. To be honest I am always a little surprised when someone wants my advice because despite the fact that I have been taking pictures for 11 years I still feel like an amateur. And depending on who you ask you will get several different answers, because everyone has a different path and everyone’s experience will be different. For example when I first started learning the art of photography 11 years ago someone told me how important it was to read the manual for the camera you were shooting on. I did as the person suggested and learned…wait for it…nothing! It was a big fat giant waste of time. Why? Because reading a technical manual for a camera was not my learning style, and no matter how important it was for someone else it was never going to be how I learned something.
So that being said I can only offer you limited advice. It might work for you…It might not. If it doesn’t work for you don’t get discourage you might need to try learning a different way. Hey for all I know you might learn a lot by reading the cameras manual.
When it comes to taking good pictures I think a good starting place would be to consume as much photography work as you can get your hands on. I was an avid reader of National Geographic since I was around 8 years old and loved the photos inside…still do as a matter of fact. One of the first photography books I remember reading and studying was Life.Love.Beauty by Keegan Allen. His story telling along with his beautiful images really helped me understand what photography really was. I was obsessed with Tumblr (still am) and would spend many enjoyable hours scrolling through the beautiful images on it’s platform. I followed photographers on social media. Photographers like Denny Llic and Annie Leibovitz and studied their photos trying to understand how they created the images they did, and then with my camera in hand would go out and try to recreate their images using my own props, models, and lights.
That last part is really the biggest piece of advice I can offer. Go out and practice. Shoot everyday! Make mistakes, screw up, reset and try it again. If you only get 1 really good shot in 1000 go out and take more photos till you get 1 good shot in every 100. The ONLY way you will ever get better is to go out and DO. The more pictures you take the better you will become.
I am a much better photographer today then I was 11 years ago. I have no idea how many photos I have taken in 11 years but it HAS to be in the hundreds of thousands. In another 11 years I will have taken even more images and I will be a better photographer because of it.
I know what kind of photographer I want to be in 11 years. That future me is out there, and he is counting on me now to do the work, make the mistakes, and learn the lessons I need to learn in order to become him. I very much don’t want to let him down, and I doubt you don’t want to let the future version of you down either.
So pick up your camera or cell phone and go out and start taking pictures. Your future self will thank you for it.
Don’t believe me? These are some of the images I took 11 years ago. Look at these images and then look at my photography today and tell me you don’t see improvement. We only improve things that we practice and photography takes a lot of practice.