Reflection can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a nightmare.
Sometimes as people, or in our case photographers, we can get lost in time and gently go through the motions. Things can happen to us that stop us from taking the time to ask the most important question. Am I a better photographer?
What stops us from self-reflection?
There are many reasons that prevent us from reflecting on our process. Maybe it’s too hard for us to dig deep and critique our work, so we take the easier option and just keeping doing what we do and assume that that is good enough. Maybe we drown ourselves in gear and tell ourselves “I must be a better photographer, look at all this kit I have which I didn’t have when I started”.
Sometimes success can be our biggest hindrance of all. You get a piece of work exhibited or published, jobs start coming in thick and fast. In result, it gives you a huge confidence boost (quite rightly) and you start to believe you have reached the pinnacle of your talents and you never stop to think “Have I improved since my last gig?”.
Am I a better photographer?
I am not here to speak for any of you. It is certainly not my place to tell you if you have improved or not. I can however, look at my own body of work and reflect on whether I have improved. I am also happy to open the question to you, as long as you go easy me!
Let me give you a bit of perspective before we delve into the good, the bad, and the “why you even showing us this?”.
I bought my first camera in February 2014. I had messed around with camera’s before, had a basic understanding of the exposure triangle, but this was the first time I had seriously considered learning the craft of photography.
So, there I was with my brand new Nikon D3200 and kit lens. With a smile on my first and some lovely ignorance in my mind, I told myself “I can now take pictures like a professional”.
First forward to later that evening – “Why don’t these images look like the pro’s? There must be something wrong with the camera!”.
I quickly learnt there was something wrong with me, and with that I set out to go learn all I could and give myself a more realistic target for getting to a pro level standard.
For those that care. The time scale I have set myself is 5 years. To be clear, that is not 5 years to be a master, that’s 5 years to have a small set of images that say “this guy definitely knows his stuff”.
Maybe the time scale is unrealistic, maybe it is too negative. But I have set it and I am doing my best to work towards it.
My photography portfolio.
This is not my official portfolio, some of these images would otherwise not been seen outside of this article. For easy reading, I am going to break it down into 3 categories; Portraits, Street and Travel.
“Hi mate. I have just got this banging new camera. Come and meet me and I will make you look like a superstar”. We all known only a best friend would agree to waste a few hours of their time with that guy who thinks he is Annie Leibovitz because he has a fancy new camera.
Below are 3 images. One from 2014, 2015 and 2016.
I remember when I took that first portrait in 2014. We loved it. I mean ignore the weird cropping, distortion and squint from the sun, this image was mega!
I would like to think by 2015, I had come on a little bit, especially in terms of framing and posing. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t a world beater, but the second portrait is certainly an improvement on the first, right?
And finally, by 2016 I had learnt all about off camera flash. I had also bought myself a nice 50mm which does a nice job with portraiture. I still need to work on my shadows and highlights balance, but I would not hesitate to show this to someone as a measure of my skill set.
Have I got better? Yes. Could I be better? Yes, a lot better.
Street photography is such a difficult sub-genre. Having to make the ordinary become interesting is no easy mission.
Personally, I think there is improvement. Certainly my knowledge of what makes an interesting street photo has increased, however I do struggle to replicate in the images.
The jury is out on this one. What do you think?
I guess the main objective of a travel photo is to get the viewer to say “I would like to visit there”.
I think technically I have improved. Composition, quality and post is certainly better. I still think I have some way to go in terms of demonstrating what makes a good travel photo.
I must admit, I feel slightly deflated after writing this, which may not be a bad thing. My mind is bouncing around “I think I am better at this, I think I have gone backwards in that”.
To sum up how I feel in words, I would say this….
I am not as good as I think I am, but I certainly have enough skills to keep going in the right direction.
That may seem cynical, it’s not. I honestly believe if I keep working hard and follow a plan, I can reach that target I first set myself when I got my Nikon D3200 (FYI I have since upgraded and now have two cameras, I must good *wink *wink*).
My challenge to you, is to go do the same as me and go back, review your work, and ask yourself “Am I a better photographer?”. For those of you with years of experience, there is no need to go back to the time you first picked up a camera, just go back a couple of years.
The truth is we can all get better. The field of photography is always advancing and we must always ensure we keep up.
For now, it is back to the drawing board and back to getting out shooting, so in another couple of years I can look back and say…I am a better photographer.
Thanks for reading.
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