As college students are preparing for thier final exams, I thought this would be a good time to look back and review myself. I took advantage of a home-bound day to go through some old images. and boy was I surprised!
When you actually stop to take a look at the pictures, it is actually pretty easy to see the progress (or lack thereof!) that you have made. The evidence is right in front of you! I had a lot of opportunities to shoot back in 2006, so I got out that year's collection. What amazed me was the amount of images that I had decided back then might one day be worth another look. I ended up deleting almost 1/3 of the pictures that I had kept! Some were poorly focused, others simply lacked focus; some were so far off on exposure that they were not even worth thinking about salvaging. Composition was poor in many, and the list of photographic errors of the bunch was just too long to enumerate! If I was really honest, many of the ones I saved were more memories than photographs.
Here are a few of the ones that I deleted today:
Like I said, I am embarrassed that I even kept these! Even with that, not everything I shot back then was a disaster. There were certainly more than a few shots that I got to see again for the first time and am am glad that I kept:
Why do I admit this publicly? Well, its a lot like the exams our students are taking. We cram in so much stuff that it really does not have time to sink in and make a difference at first. Even though I "knew" what makes a good exposure and composition, I had not mastered the technicalities of making it happen consistently. I really had not developed my own eye or way of seeing. If I was really honest, very few of my images from back then were very compelling. Most were just a guy with a camera exploring. That is not to say that they were snapshots -- far from it! Some succeeded, some were mistakes; some were very horrible mistakes. But it is through this trial and error process that we learn our photographic vision and skill. Just like in the moral life though, I am not advocating that you go out and try to make mistakes -- plenty will come your way!
But you cannot sit around and just wait for photographic skill to pop into your head. You have to try things. Some will fail, some will succeed. And when you undertake these projects, you will not know which is going to be which until you have tried. And if you then take the time to look back and see your journey, you will learn even more.
One of the most helpful things you can do is to hang out with other like minded people. We do it all the time in our clubs and churches and it seems to work well there. So too with photography. Hang out with photographers who can help you learn. Join a camera club. Participate ina workshop. Ask the opinions of people who will give you honest feedback. They will help you to improve far more than browsing some internet sites. And chances are, you'll have a lot more fun!