This weekend I photographed a family session for one of very first paying clients. I looked back at that first session and reflected on what a ride it’s been over all these years. I recoiled as I saw mistakes in composition, lighting, posing, technique… but I was also proud. Proud I stuck with it, even when it was hard. Proud I continue to fight off the internal struggle to be perfect and competitive. Proud I feel like I have found my “voice” as a photographer.
With photography more accessible and popular than ever, I see and hear so many people looking for their style and voice with their camera. I have been there. Trying to emulate what other people do, hoping it will work for me too, or my results will look the same. It reminds me of a child trying to laugh or talk like their parent. It’s funny, because it doesn’t ever fit their face or size. You know right off it’s a copy and not original.
Sometimes this type of process, replication/copying/mimicking/emulating call it what you want, can land you in your own space, with your own voice. When I studied art, our teacher had us copy great works. This process annoyed me at first because I wanted to be an original. Had I been mature enough, I would have seen her plan. Copying the masters taught us technique. Paint doesn’t just land on a canvas, you have to mix it just right, hold the brush a certain way, even pay attention to your posture and breathing. After we copied the work, we used the technique we discovered from the “masters” to create our own works of art “inspired by the masters”. Ah-ha!
I think this is one of the most valuable lessons of my education. While copying outright and calling it your own, is ethically, morally, and legally wrong, it is a great lesson in technique. Just as our parents showed us how to walk by walking ahead of us, each of us has our own stride, sway, stance… My hope is that the same is true in the world of photography.
Photography is art. I see my photography as a way to capture a moment in time. When I am photographing families, I count is a deep honor to capture a moment in their love, their lives together, and their growth as a force of change in their world. I am not just “taking pictures”. I wait for the moment when comfort settles in, when personalities show, when who the subject really is becomes visible. Those are the images that mother’s cling to, that father’s are proud of, those are the images that make me smile.
If you are a photographer trying to find your way. Keep looking. Everything that works for me, will never work for you. You can read a hundred blog posts and books, take classes on technique and posing, have the best equipment available, and still not have a voice. Take what works for you, and keep it. From what doesn’t work, figure out why you don’t like it, and move ahead from there. Soon enough, you will find your place. Now stay there, and grow taller. Get better at what you do. There is room for everyone, because every eye sees life differently.