What I’m learning about myself through Photography

Photography exposes more than just what was captured with the click of a shutter. It shows what the person who took that photo finds interesting enough to capture. And when you look at a collection of photos taken by one person, that collection as a whole starts to expose elements of whom that person is.

Self-portrait (Second Attempt)

At the beginning of this year I started getting more serious about taking photographs on a near daily basis. That’s really not something all that new for me. But this year I wanted to be more intentional about the photos I took, and then be more reflective about my general photography style, so to speak. What are the common themes that I find in my photography? What kind of moments cause me to take out my camera? What kind of light is common in my shots?

What does my photography say about me?
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself so far this year.

To be able to answer that question, I decided that I needed to understand what the photography of the masters that have come before me says about them. I knew I needed to learn from them to truly understand what my own photography says about me.

Nana at 99

So I’m currently on a journey of both creating photographs, while also digesting the photos from the masters of the past (and present). So I have been watching documentaries and reading books about many of the top tier influential photographers. I’ve gotten a number of photo books filled with incredibly inspiring photos.

I have been learning so much about photography. About light. About composition. About portraiture. And it seems the practice of studying the masters and then going out to take photos myself, then studying my photos, then going back to the photography of the masters has been a great way to do it. It gives me a bit of validation of what I see as good photography, and challenges me to notice what makes a great composition. What makes a photo stand out compared to others.

Playing with light

So far I’m learning that photography is something I find therapeutic. I’m introverted, so taking photos gives me a way to express myself to the world in a controlled and intentional manner – just the way I like it!

Thankfully I’m not deeply motivated by follower or subscriber counts, or by how many likes a photo of mine gets. I simply love the process of taking a photo of a moment that interested me and then sharing that moment with the world.

I often get excited to go out simply because of the possible photo opportunities that may arise. I have my camera with me pretty much 90% of the time anymore just in case there’s a moment that presents itself that I would want to capture.

Sarah in the hotel room

My camera challenges me to be brave and interact with other people. But at the same time, the camera is a tool for me to realize that even though talking with strangers can be intimidating, other people often want to be noticed and appreciated. A huge challenge I have for myself this spring is to get out into the streets and take photos of random people. Some candid, but my real goal is to ask for posed street portraits – probably my favorite genre of photography.

For the longest time I didn’t know what my camera and lenses were capable of. What were my limitations? Would the photo I want to take be possible with what I have? And I’ve come to realize, eh, that was just an excuse. I’m never going to have photos that look as great as the posed large format film portraits of celebrities with great lighting. It’s about capturing moments and people and things that catch my attention in this world. I can ask to take a photo of someone, and they can say yes, or they can say no. And that’s about it.

I have various chapters within my photography journey. I think I’m in a new chapter, pushing forward with more boldness. As I’ve watched the photographers that have given me so much inspiration, I’ve noticed how they were unfazed by people’s reactions of them taking photos. I think that’s been one of my issues for the longest time. I didn’t want to seem rude or weird out in public with friends, family, or even around strangers. But the moments that get captured are much more important than any reactions I get out while taking photos. Keeping that in mind is the key. There’s not a worse feeling to me than wishing I would have had my camera with me so I could have captured a specific moment. That regret is way worse than any reaction I might get for taking a photo.

And so, I press on within my photography journey, challenging my own boundaries so that I can get the sorts of shots that I want and notice all around me.

me in the mirror

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