An insight into my development as a photographer, from trying to be him, her and basically everyone but me.
For a long time I’ve had a passion for photography and I’m now fortunate to make it my profession. Until recently I was continually beating myself up about the work I was producing - you see the more I learnt about this industry and the more great photographers I came across, the more I convinced myself that I was not doing what they were. Now I am not alone in this (having spoken to many photographers) and in fact a recent blog by Joe McNally (this guy has done some amazing stuff) highlighted this point of how we fight daily with ourselves about the work we do (if you are a creative who beats yourself up go and read it).
I’ve invested a lot of time and money over the past years in developing myself as a photographer and will continue to do so (after all I love learning and know there is more to come), but as I was finding new photographers whose work I loved, I would be trying to figure out how they did it (what technical settings they used for the camera etc.). The more I explored the more I felt I could never be them (being them was how I thought I would succeed as a photographer).
The past year was a challenging one for me (I lost my mum at the start of 2018 and another 5 family members during the year), but there were a few things that actually made me step back and learn who I was, and who I was trying to be as a photographer.
The first was when my mum was very ill and ended up in Strathcarron Hospice (amazing place, I am fund-raising for them and you can find out more about that here), and I had created a Fun in a Box print of my kids and me and printed out for her. She has that on display next to her bed and one day she said the nurses had loved it and asked did a professional photographer do that? My mum said no, it was my son who did it. We joked that she was not getting any commission for not marketing me as a photographer.
Looking back I am so glad that she answered it the way she did, because for her I was her son and she was proud of what I had done. She did not need to refer to me as a professional photographer, the nurses loved the picture and that was all that mattered.
The second thing that has helped me is that I have been very fortunate to become a friend of a great Scottish photographer David Eustace. David has on several occasions had coffee with me and shared some of his challenges and his approach to dealing with them, and during these chats he has enlightened and inspired me. But most of all, he has enabled me to realise that to be the photographer I want to be, I need to stop looking at others and trying to be them. He gave a Ted Talk in 2017 which really hit home, I was too busy worrying about not being like others, that I was in danger of letting ‘What if’ become a ‘if only’.
A Friends Wedding
The third thing that has made me realise that I am not you, him, her, them, was when I photographed a friends wedding. Their wedding present from my wife and I was an album of their wedding. When we did the reveal of that album it was amazing to watch their reaction (especially the prep shots as they not not seen each other before hand). I gave them the digital images and said I had a few that I did not want to put in the album (to me they were not technically perfect). When they saw these, they asked straight away did I have any more, so I went back and reluctantly edited more pictures that I knew they might like (but I was fighting against showing). It is safe to say they loved them all, to them they showed their family and friends celebrate their wedding and having a great time.
I finally realised that I need to be me, and just like the picture I did for my mum, it is not about the technical aspects or about taking them like some other professional photographer. It is about me telling a story and capturing memories that will last a lifetime. I know that I have a talent and ability for helping people capture the memories they want, with family and friends. That it is not about the technical aspects, but about me being me and making my ‘What if’s’ the positive kind.