Learning – {The Hard Way}

So, like many others, the time of the end of the year rolls around and we start reflecting back on the year that has been.

But for me, as i actually often do, i take moments to reflect on my journey in photography, and start making goals – or resolutions – for the year ahead. A chance to re-jig things and start fresh come January one – today.

( This is a long post, so i will break it up with some pretty images from the NYE fireworks last night! )

There has been on thing that has been on my mind for the last few weeks, perhaps because i’ve told the story to a few people recently, or perhaps because i understand it more than i did previously. And so i wanted to make sure that i put this down into words, and in turn share a little part of my story, my journey with you all.

I suppose we could look at this as a one off story, just a little snapshot into my life… or we could take it bigger as a life lesson, perhaps that there are some people who read will this, and perhaps are traveling a similar road and might get a little bit more from it…

So way back when, one day i decided i wanted to start out in photography. I actually knew nothing. Literally. I am not ashamed to admit it. I knew not a single thing. Actually, i think i knew Canon was a brand. And that would be the extent of it.

And in all honesty i thought that i was just about clicking a button… i thought that you just learned what looked good, lined it up, and took a shot and then that’s it. And i thought perhaps you would use Photoshop to make it a bit speckier, like make the sky more colourful or make myself skinner. I didn’t realise just how complex and just the full extent of capabilities (and i prob still don’t!) that came with Photoshop.  I had no idea. About anything.

I didn’t know it was so technical (and i think perhaps i might have re thought my grand idea if i had, i so not technically minded). I didn’t know it was about lighting. I didn’t know that you needed a bunch of lenses. Or that it’s so expensive. Or its a totally different language. At this point i hadn’t even picked up a camera, besides those disposable ones you use at weddings and a $100 point and shoot that all i did was turn it on and happy snap away, only knowing two features – on and how to look at the shots you have taken.

I was naive. I was uneducated. I was a thousand things… but i was most certainly not a photographer.

NYE14 Sunset
Anyway, one day, after a handful of “shoots” i sent a local photographer a message asking to catch up for a coffee so i could “pick her brains” and if she would mind me “as a fly on the wall” watching her do a shoot one day.

I got a very abrupt no.
A big fat smack in my face… no!

And i thought she was such a cow!
I thought “gosh, you can say no but surely you could phrase it nicer than that, or give me a little word of encouragement or a hint to point me in the right direction”.

It seriously rubbed me up the wrong way.
And truth be told, i held a grudge against this photographer for a long, longggg time.

And then one day some time later, about a year i think it was since that initial email, i actually met her in person at a workshop. And i pulled her aside, and i thanked her for her reply to me that day a year before. I thanked her for being so harsh. At the time i would never have known how much of a valuable lesson she was giving me. At the time, i had no idea what it was like to be in her shoes, or to be in the photography industry, or to have “photographers” emailing all the time asking for advice.

And now, this photographer, she has my absolute up-most respect, and out of all the things that i have learned, this was, and still is, the biggest and most valuable thing that i have learned in this journey.

The title “photographer” is far too loosely used these days. Everyone owns a half decent camera. Anyone can start a business FB page, create a watermark, stamp it on their happy snaps and call themselves a professional photographer. Unfortunately that is the way it is…

Now that is not to discourage people from aspiring to be a photographer. That isn’t to say that all those who do that don’t have any skill or talent or won’t one day make it in the big league. We all start somewhere. That is true.

But it is important for those who are traveling this road to understand why they might just get that abrupt no from other photographers to their emails asking for help. It isn’t because we are cow’s…
It is because it is the best thing that we can do for you.

NYE14abc

You need to understand that photography isn’t something that you learn in a day or a week… it isn’t something that you just master with a bit of trial and error. Its not something that is short term… it is a long, journey. It requires patience, it requires practice. It will take from you your blood, sweat and tears. It will posses you and keep you up all hours of the night. It will consume your life. In fact, the journey never actually ends. You are continually learning, adapting, changing, evolving. You ask one question only to get the answer that proceeds with another 10 questions. Its hard.

And those of us who are established, and legitimate professional photographers, we have given so much to get to where we are. And we understand the importance of you taking your own journey to discover yourself and your art.

We have spent days away from our families, we have invested thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, thousands of tears…

It has been a struggle, at times a hopeless battle…

But this is what sets us apart.

That we have endured all this. And this is how we have learned.

And for us to reply to your email and invite you into our world and give you all the answers you so desperately want… for nothing? Hand them to you on a silver platter?

There isn’t anything in that for us. We’ve been down a tough road to get here. And now we are reaping the rewards, we have begun to triumph. We are seeing all that we have gone through finally start paying off.

And there certainly isn’t anything in it for you either.
You need to learn to walk before you can run.

And one day, if you work hard, if you are patient, persistent, and persevere… you might get to the point that you too receive email asking for help, tips, advice, to tag along… and you won’t want to give away all your secrets so easily. You will want to keep your cards close to your chest.

NYE14

Now, this all isn’t to say that you can’t approach established photographers, networking is fabulous and certainly beneficial and i do encourage it… however it is important to think before you do about whether you are contacting them for a quick and simple, easy, answer. Or whether you are doing it with the right intentions.

I read a really great article, could have been a blog post, and of course now that i want to reference it, i can’t find it…
But it was talking about how you phrase your questions…

So for example… rather than “what settings are you using?”… say “can you tell me about how you came to determine your settings?”. Because while i could reel off what my settings are… do you actually know what it all means, what each component does? What you actually want to know is WHY i am using them. You could be standing there, with your camera right next to me, line up the exact same shot, punch in the exact same settings and guess what… get a totally different result. So unless you actually understand them, there isn’t any point me telling them to you. So consider that next time you want to ask that question.

Or another one was “what camera do you have?”. Who cares. Its not the camera that counts. You could put the worlds best camera in a toddlers hands and it won’t make the least amount of difference.  What you actually want to know is “so what do you like about that camera?” or “what made you buy that camera over all the others on the market?”. Ask me what camera i have and all you get is a brand and model number. Ask me why i use that one and i will tell you the pros and cons, what i look for in a camera, what features i like about it etc etc.

Stop for a second… stop with searching for quick and simple answers. Understand and accept that you aren’t going to make it doing that. You just won’t. You are actually going to have to put in what you want to get out.

So like i said, it isn’t to say you can’t approach and chat and network… but just be mindful of what and how you are asking… not because you might offend us as we sit on our throne, but more because we are more likely going to give you the time of day if you are writing and showing that you have researched, investigated, tried, attempted, thought for yourself, given it a go, put in some time and effort etc etc… rather than just being lazy and hoping someone will wave their magic wand in your direction and all your troubles will be instantly solved.

Pretty obvious now which one i was, and why i got the blunt “no” in reply, hey. Lesson learned.

So if you understand just what photography involves, what it takes, what the road is like… then ensure you have respect those who have walked this journey before you, because one day you will be in our shoes and have earned your respect too.

NYE14ab

Another aspect to consider is that photography is an art form. And we are all individuals and are gifted with unique visions, interpretations, ideas etc. So it is important for this aspect alone that you really go about your photography journey on your own… you need to fill your own shoes, find your own groove, toot your own trumpet.

Photography has the power to burn you… given how i’ve already explained just how much needs to go into it, and how much it consumes you… its a powerful, but ever so wonderful thing…
but if you are doing it for a true love of it, with all the right reasons behind you, then you will succeed… but you need to be doing it from deep within your soul, from that individual, personal spark inside you… creating your own art, your own signature…

So don’t go out there trying to be like everyone else.
Draw inspiration from… but be yourself.

And in actual fact, for a long time, i tried to be like that same photographer.
And i failed. To the point that i wasn’t enjoying photography any more.
And i couldn’t understand why i wasn’t any good at it.

The second that i took a look inside myself, at who i was, and how i wanted to reflect that into my craft… THAT is when i became successful. Because i was being true to myself and who i was. I was doing something that was inside me. Not forcing or faking. I stopped comparing and competing and i started to dance to my own tune. I am not like anyone else in Hobart. Heck, i am not like most newborn photographers anywhere. My own art, style, vision, brand.
Another valuable lesson that i owe to her.

So… to wrap up this blog post… as day one of 2015 comes to a close…

NYE14a

I sit here and reflect on the year that has been, or the years of my journey more like it…
I still say thank you to the photographer who pushed me away, because you pushed me in the best direction possible… and i am so ever thankful for that… i have come a long way since then, i have come a long way in the last 12mnths, and i know i still have a long way to go.

And to all those aspiring photographers who may read this… I hope that you can take something away from what i have written here… a couple of lessons that i had to learn, alas the hard way. I hope that now my experiences from my journey can help to positively shape yours… that you can take my words and know that you aren’t alone, that we all have to go through the tough to get to the other side, and that not only is the outcome worth it, but the battles help to shape you, make you stronger, wiser and will set you apart from the rest. I honestly believe it is those people who endure the long and hard adventure that is the world of photography, and those who are creating and producing art true to themselves from deep within… they are the ones who will succeed in what is a crazy industry. They are professional photographers. There isn’t an easy avenue in this game, there just isn’t.
Please email me, i am always approachable for a chat, but just know that this is my story, and i won’t just give you the answers, i will push you to walk your own journey, find your own way, and you will be better for it in the long run, i promise!

Happy New Year…!

{as always} x

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