Many times, as a photographer, I find that people who are in awe of my photos wonder how someone can learn to see the way I do, and take the shots that I do. And I know I'm not the only photographer who gets this--anyone who has learned the craft and spent years doing so and refining their knowledge does. Granted, I don't have as many years under my belt as some of my fellow photographers, but I can tell you a little bit about how I learned what I know.
Photography, for me, started off as something fun. Like so many out there, I just picked up a camera and went with it. The difference is, I was somewhat selective in the shots I took, and shared. I was no Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz, but I tried. I had no technical skill at all. I set my camera to Aperture Priority, and I ran with it. Mostly because that's what seemed easy to do at the time. And rarely did I change anything except the ISO, because I only had a loose idea of what anything did.
What I did have at this time, back in 2006, was an eye. I saw things that I knew I liked, and I had a vision in my head of what I wanted. I didn't realize how much of this was done out-of-camera, so I never quite achieved it. But I did do a lot of fun things with posing, and just of breaking all the rules--mostly because I didn't know the rules. I had a creative vision, and I had a lot of fun.
When I entered the Hallmark Institute of Photography in the fall of 2007, that changed. Slowly I lost my creativity as I worked to learn all the technical details. And, when I learned the rules I naturally wanted to follow them--all of them. I didn't break the rules, and it wasn't as fun any more. Now I had technically sound photos, but the life and creativity in them just wasn't there as much. I could see it, and it disheartened me a bit. Part of this was because I was trying to do it "right", and a big portion of it was from the stress of the school. I can do well under short bursts of stress, and in fact I often excel in those circumstances, however this was a year of stress and it does take its toll after a while.
So when I left Hallmark the summer of 2008, I had all the knowledge in the world of the technical side of photography. I always properly exposed my images, I knew how to crop them, I had a finer grasp of composition than previously, I understood color theory, and so much more. Photoshop had gone from being an enemy to my best friend, my tablet was now actually an asset, and I had all the makings for starting my own business.
It's been two years since I attended Hallmark. And in those two years I have been on the third part of my journey where I'm slowly combining together the creativity I once had, with the technical skills I recently learned. It's not an easy journey, either, because I am constantly second-guessing myself on whether it's okay to break the rules, and still there are times that I get so caught up in the rules that I forget to try breaking them. But as I watch the work I produce, I see more and more of me in my photos, and less and less of technical knowledge. I know I'm on the right path again, finally.
So if you're an aspiring photographer out there reading this, wondering if you'll have a similar experience, you might. We all have to learn the technical side of photography at some point if we truly want to master the craft. The question is, will you be able to learn the technical side without loosing your creativity to it? It's not a bad thing if you do, as you can see from my experience, but it does mean your process is going to take longer than others perhaps.
Someone once told me, and sadly I am no longer in contact with this person due to the circumstances of life, that "Sometimes, I wish I didn't know all the technical stuff so that I could just shoot. But I'm glad I have it."
How true those words are.
So remember, photography is a journey. No one truly gets it over night, and few are lucky enough to have the talent to just pick up a camera and run with it. It takes time to learn your tools (camera, software, lighting, ect) and time to discover your creativity and where you do best in the world of photography.