This week, I wanted to take a quick break from the business side of photography and talk about how I got my start taking pictures. One of the first things I do when I meet a new photographer is ask them about how they got involved in photography. I’ve been able to learn a lot about my business rather quickly from information I gathered from other photographers. By taking the time to listen I’ve been able to skip unnecessary obstacles and learn from their mistakes. But as I said, this isn’t about my business today. In short, this post will mostly be me making fun of myself in the early stages of what I’ll call my photography hobby. My growth as a photographer has been a slow, painful, fun, exhilarating, and puzzling process…but I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed the journey. The most enjoyable part…I’m not done learning yet.
I got my first camera as a freshman in college. Until then, my only experience with a camera was with those you disposed of after clicking through the 24-26 film exposures. You know…the ones your Mom always picked up for you before the family vacation…most likely to be lost or destroyed before you ever develop the film. I will also proudly, though half reluctantly admit, my first camera was a 4 megapixel, Kodak C330 digital camera. It was a special kind of slow in every way, had 3x optical zoom, a fuzzy 1-inch LCD screen, and can currently be bought on eBay for $8. At the time I thought it was absolutely amazing. I put that baby in AUTO mode and starting clicking away at every flower and brick wall I could find. It was the beginning.
Recently looking through old SD cards packed full of pictures of the things inside my dorm room I uncovered picture after picture of my mundane masterpieces. Or at least what I thought were masterpieces at the time otherwise I would have formatted every one of those cards. I shot my guitar, desk, textbooks, window decorations, my laptop, the doorknob …I didn’t care. Even though I laugh hysterically now at the quality of these archaic attempts, I find those early years nostalgic because there was no risk. I was a free spirited shooter, not overly critical of myself, taking pictures of everything I saw, knowing little to nothing about exposure or camera settings in general. Contrast that mentality with now, where I often don’t even want to pull my camera out because I don’t feel like taking the time and patience to do it “by the books.” In a strange way I really miss the old way of doing things…the discovery of it, the wonder, the tinkering, the fun.
But what I know now that I didn’t know then is that at its core, photography has very little to do with equipment and everything to do with the moment. I’ve learned so much more over the years just by shooting and fiddling with settings than I did by listening to other people. I held the opinions of other “photographers” way too highly in my early years and I would encourage you to do the opposite. Photography is best learned by trial and error. I am always amazed at how many photographers I meet who don’t pick up their cameras very often. I have read books and blogs, listened to seminars, talked with veteran professionals…but none of that compares to me picking up my own camera and trying to capture something interesting. When in doubt, get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot.