Take a deep breath and say it with me, my friends.
We all start somewhere.
As unfortunate as it is, it's true. I couldn't go and build a brick wall right now, but if I tried and tried and learned, I could someday. It would be a pretty bad brick wall at first, but it would (over time) get better and better. As we all know, this is true with everything.
The other day I was reflecting on my history with photography. It's easy to forget when you've been doing something for so long that there's such a deep history and relationship with you and your career. It's not something I ever really think about because it's so much a part of me! Honestly sometimes I forget that there was a time when I was really, really bad. But, it's not so much about being bad it's about being new. We were all new once and it's a healthy exercise to remind ourselves how far we've come.
These are the kinds of photos that when I got my very first camera (a pink Kodak point and shoot) that I thought were going to take me places.
These top two were with my second camera, a FujiFilm. It was a step up from the Kodak, but barely. Also, I will forever be thankful to my brother, Lee, for modeling for me when he very much didn't want to.
Unfortunately, I got my first DSLR when I was thirteen so I had a lot to outgrow before I became anything close to a professional, namely thinking that I was an edgy creative genius. That's what we'll start with first.
Behold, the edgy creative genius that I just mentioned.
While I could spend time picking this photo apart and making fun of myself (which is deserving, don't get me wrong), this is an example of expression. This is one of the earliest forms of storytelling that I did.
Everyone. Starts. Somewhere.
This was a simple photo that didn't take long to create and I'm pretty sure I was proud of it. This is what I saw as expressionism and this is what I knew how to do. These were the kinds of photos that I was inspired by, so these were the kinds of photos that I made.
While it's an embarrassing photo now, it's still a part of my journey as a photographer. This was way before anyone hired me to shoot for them and that time it might be the most crucial to figuring out your voice. Since I picked up a camera I knew that it was because it was a way to bring visuals to stories. It wasn't clear to me how to do that, but I knew it was possible. This photo is one of the ways that I was able to figure it out.
Now, lets move on to one of my first paid sessions. A senior session. I'm almost positive that Landon signed a model release, but this was around nine years ago so, Landon, please don't sue me.
Fundamentally, I don't have many problems with these photos. But I definitely have a few! The first photo is simply not interesting. I was too close in and I wish I would have let it be more atmospheric with the background. We were in a cute little downtown area and I didn't utilize it! The second photo isn't terrible either, in fact I'm quite a fan of the lighting! But, the background is busy and takes your eyes away from the subject. The third photo just seems a bit off because of where he's placed in the frame. His arms are cut off and his right elbow isn't even in the shot.
The main problem, however, is that these photos completely lack story.
They're decent enough photos, but they could have been worlds better and expressed more of Landon's personality. But wouldn't you know it, I got hired to do a second session with him once he trimmed his hair a bit! Bless him and his mom for trusting me. I have no idea why, but I'm thankful.
These photos were around a few months later. I can't remember exactly how long later, but look at the improvement! (I halfway mean that, and I halfway also am being sarcastic.)
Again, fundamentally these aren't terrible. In the third photo, why in the world did I think it was a good idea to cut his right arm off? I don't know. I don't know what problem I had with Landon's right arm. But, the other three, they are more conductive in portraying his personality. Everything about these photos aren't so stiff, and that's where storytelling lives. It lives in the comfort between you and your photographer. Since this was our second session, it was easier! We knew each other more! There wasn't such a strange relationship with it being an acquaintance with a camera.
Now I know I don't have to have two sessions with someone to make them feel more comfortable, but instead just how to do that through conversation, or through consultations. Without a level of comfortability, there will be a disconnect in the photos. What a revelation!
A more recent senior guy session is this one with Andrew! These photos look simple, but they have a story to them that's more personal and more well executed than the one before.
Another thing I love about this session is that there's memories attached to it too, which only add to the story!
Andrew's brother was there, and he was cracking jokes and making him laugh the whole time. Not only does that make for awesome photos with genuine smiles, but such memories bring a person back to that moment of getting their picture taken, and that takes them back to that time in their life. That's one of my favorite parts about photography, and sessions like these that can be viewed as milestones in ours lives.
Since this session with Andrew, it taught me a ton about doing senior sessions with younger guys. It taught me another way to bring comfortability into a session, and a different way to go about storytelling.
While these photos are from this year (my sixth year as a professional photographer), it still taught me something. Obviously, I have improved with my shooting and technique and editing, be should never stop being open to learning. With any relationship that's a healthy practice, and it applies to your career as well. I'm fortunate that now I know to suggest to seniors to bring a friend on their session that makes them laugh!
Now buckle up, because this is my first wedding and it's a real doozy.
It's fun to look at work that's almost a decade old, but this wedding was in 2015! Only a short four years ago!
I have to say, while there's many things that I would do differently now I have a soft spot for these photos. Maybe because it was the first wedding I shot, or because I adored the couple, whatever it may be. These photos were crucial to my career. Having a wedding under my belt made me feel like I had this photography thing down.
That being said, they're not the best! At that time, I had a Canon Rebel t1i, a 50mm, a kit lens, and I think a 35-70mm (?) that I found at a thrift store. I can find so many things wrong with these photos just technically. The amount of color fringing makes me want to rip my hair out. And, although I don't think it's so much displayed in these photos, I missed focus a ton. I can only thank Mother Nature herself for blessing everybody with the sporadic clouds, because if not for those these photos would be a whole other level of in-between awful and alright.
This wedding was last October! I chose it as the newer comparison because the lighting was similar to the previous wedding. The photos I chose are in the same vein as the previous wedding as well! With the first couple of photos is where I was trying to get photos of the atmosphere of the wedding site and the reception hall. Then the same sequence of ceremony and couples/bridal shots afterwards.
Both weddings are stunning, but shooting and editing technique play such a huge part in the quality of the final product. Now, four years later, I know what lighting to look for. As I mentioned earlier, I know how to get comfortable with clients.
It's just the things you learn from trying, failing, and finding your voice as a photographer.
I'm proud of where I am as a photographer. I'm proud of my style of shooting and editing and I'm proud of the work I create. I'm even proud of the old, old, old photos. They're proof of not only how far I've come, but the work I've had to put in to get to where I am. Lots of Youtube videos, lots of books, but mostly lots and lots of practice.
If you have old photos, share them with me please! We all deserve to be proud of where we started from and the growth it took to get to where we are.
Talk soon! Spread love.