This post is going to be much different than the content I have been posting to date but I feel so strongly about it that I hope you understand and read on.
I don't intend for this post to be a rant but at the same time, the information I read today really struck a chord....
The intent of this post is not to "call anyone out" but to "call everyone in".
It all started with signing up on an email subscriber list.
I love visiting photography sites, especially those that involve still life and food photography. You know those sites that have such gorgeous images and fabulous tips? Those sites that inspire you to want to be the best you can be and have lists of ways to get there? Well this site in particular was ideal for all of these things. I scanned the archives, the galleries, the "how to's and features and then, with the promise of email content to take one to the next skill level. I signed up.
As the first couple of emails arrived, the information was truly informative, fun, and inspiring. New ways to look at photography, goals to personally improve photography skills, and words of encouragement. This, I felt, was the start of something fun.
I received my next email today and although the content seemed familiar I scrolled through the message further. As I neared the end of the email, I summarized that the message was to keep moving forward with practice and diligence. Sounds good right?
I read the last paragraph which further talked about how we all started as beginners when learning photography (yep, I agreed) and that we learn from our mistakes (uh huh, agreed again)....but then the author suggested that we take a peek into their personal first photography attempts, in this case food photography and said "look at these hilarious examples"....I clicked the link and saw what I thought was a very nice picture of a head of lettuce in a strainer. I thought the color of the lettuce and definition to be quite stunning actually. Taken from a "flat-lay" perspective, I couldn't help but think "man, I must really suck if this is "hilarious".
That was just the beginning.
The next image was of a tart the author photographed and this was also described as "hilarious". I noticed a nice looking tart, again from a flat-lay perspective and thought that looked nice as well. The colors and focus were quite nice and the props were complimentary to the image.
I could not help myself from feeling even more inept at this craft and was becoming irritated with the whole message. I was suddenly feeling a bit bad as perhaps I was way off the skills mark.
After looking at approximately 4 example images that the author describes as "beginner" and again, "hilarious"...I found myself getting angry and unsubscribed from the email list.
Here is why....
I don't care if you shoot images with your phone, a point and shoot, a mirrorless, crop sensor or a full frame camera. I admire you and your efforts. If you had the heart to show me your very first photography images, you can be guaranteed that if you called them beginner "poor" or "hilarious", I would stop you in your tracks.
You picked up that camera and you saw beauty or potential for a great shot. You aimed and pulled the trigger. You were courageous and hoped the images captured what your eyes saw. You had the heart to try and try again and again. More pictures, more planned scenes, more recipes for food shots, so many more ideas. You caught the bug and were pleased with what you captured.
Had the author not described these images as "beginner hilarious", I would have thought differently. It really angered me as I realized that this author just made me feel even farther behind the eight ball in skills progression and this was a complete contradiction of what the author stated as their intention of promoting and teaching new photographers. Are you still with me?
Ok, I am a big girl and I love listening to others opinions and views. I am tough when needed but also take things to heart more often that not. I am more often kind than snarky but also know when to laugh when needed most.
I love to learn from others and ask questions.
What I DON'T love is being told that unless you have a full frame camera, your photography quality will suffer. Unless you shoot with the most expensive lens you can barely afford, you not reaching your potential. And if you can show off your beginning images and laugh at how hilariously bad they are then you are increasing your skills because you call your first attempts basically "crap" and then follow that up with "but just look at me now and how great I am".
That whole email message suddenly felt wrong, saddened me, and started to piss me off. I don't want you to ever feel that way either EVER about your craft and where you started in order to claim greatness.
So without beating this dead horse any further, I will try to summarize my thoughts.
I distinctly recall when I got my first DSLR camera and took it out for a spin. Fresh out a divorce, living on my own after almost 20 years, and scared as hell at times, I needed to find "me".
My first camera was a Nikon crop sensor entry level with a simple kit lens - I was truly poor as a church mouse so used every single penny I could find to buy this camera.
As a lover of coffee table design books, beautiful images, and creative stories, I wanted to create my own and share them on a blog. I had read countless articles on the basics of digital photography, especially in manual mode, and wanted to try it out. The first images I took were of apples and peaches on a step ladder - very simple and nothing fancy.
Here is the difference though...I flipped dials, I changed settings in manual mode, I played with all of the settings with fearless abandoned. I was by myself, I had my own imaginary crew, and I was on top of the world.
When I pulled the memory card out of the camera and imported the pictures to my PC, I was so proud of myself. I smiled, I laughed, I cried. I had done it. To the best of my ability with no hesitation. They were my beginner attempts and I "tried"...I was so happy.
So I have included my very first images taken with this camera. Please take a look at these first attempts and if you think they are hilarious, that is fine with me. What you won't hear is me saying "check out these hilarious, poorly lit, and fumbled pictures I took way back when..." I personally remember that day so clearly and will for the rest of my life. That camera and my new image creations were the start of an exciting and creative new life.
These pictures will always be near and dear to my heart due to the way they made me feel. I was proud of myself and wanted to learn more and more. I caught the photography bug something bad and it has not left me since.
That was about 4 years ago and to this day, each time I import from my camera's memory card after taking many images, I get so excited...happy....proud... and although I see things I would do differently, I am learning. The difference is I am learning by NOT feeling my first images were hilarious.
So to cease the yammering and end this quick post I would simply like to say to anyone learning how to be a photographer in any environment or niche, your first images are a foundation...a strong foundation. It is your foundation to build up as high as you want. As long as you want and how you want. Absolutely NOTHING hilarious about that.
I hope that when you look back on the first images you took, you remember excitement, maybe a little hesitation, some laughter for the right reasons, and pride.
I wish for you to share your first images with many and talk about your first attempt at taking pictures with proud strength. By using whatever type of camera you choose, shooting portraits, lifestyle, sports, nature, weddings, newborns, or wherever you see potential, that your experience and enthusiasm will spread to them and everyone will smile inside and out.
The photos in this post were the first I had taken with a DSLR and these first photos I have shared with you will forever be loved and important to me.
So whether you are a beginner, highly skilled, or a professional, please remember this...
Everyone has taken a "first" image and EVERY ONE of those images are precious.
There, I am done now and thank you for reading....