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The other day, I was retouching an old photo while jamming to Jay-Z’s “On to the Next One,” and there was a line that really summated one of the biggest lessons so far in my career.
“…don’t be mad cause its all about progression”
I took this image almost two years ago. I was about six months into teaching myself photography and every friend willing, I gladly made my subject. This was one of my first forays into directing a model and using off camera lighting. Everything I wanted was there: chiaroscuro effect, highlight detail, perfect model form, and yet I was so disappointed it didn’t look like the Vogue covers Testino and Meisel were producing–it’s OK, I laugh too now. So I stashed in it the catalog and pined for the day I’d have the really expensive camera to make my photos look amazing.
So a few months ago, as I scanned the archives for new site worthy images, I come across this testament of scrappy days with a temperamental Canon 10D, some borrowed Lowell lights, and a determined heart. I saw some potential, so I decided to have a second go to see if I could breathe some life in it, and I’d say it was for the better.
Turns out, I didn’t need a fancier camera or better lighting, what I needed was the knowledge to know how to make good from mediocre. That knowledge comes from experience and the desire to keep learning.
I’ve spent the majority of the last two years shooting, reading, asking, following, researching and I’ve learned that the true genius of photography is not just showing what’s there, but bringing out what it could be.
I sent my before and after to a mentor* for a kick at the progress I’ve made along the way, and as mentors are supposed to, he sent it back with a lesson on dodging and burning and ways to make it even stronger. So I gave it another go, and again, I come away amazed at what subtlety can bring out of a photo.
Here’s the gist: photography, as most things in life, is about progression. You can’t settle for where you are, constantly strive to better your talents. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’ve done that in two ways I hope I never become
dumb “good” enough to stop.
So next time you’re frustrated about what you don’t have or what you can’t do, remember it’s all about progression.
*Thanks to my mentor, Rick Smoak, for always having an answer or a resource for my many questions.