Photo Tip Tuesday: There Is No Substitute For Time

Today I'm starting a weekly series of photography tips; specifically photo tips for personal style bloggers or other people who want to get better at taking their own pictures. The focus is self-portraits in a way, not always the most creative ones, but rather practical head-to-toe shots for amateurs like myself. When I've finished the series I'll compile everything into a master post for anyone looking to find all the tips quickly. Anyway, week one is less of a tip and more of an encouragement: great pictures don't take amazing equipment, or expert advice, but rather time. It's not just the amount of time you spend on a single photograph (although that helps), but also the amount of time you take experimenting and playing with photography in general--it's getting comfortable with the equipment you have, developing a style of images or preference for times to shoot, and getting accustomed to being in front of the camera. All of those things take time and can not be manifested overnight.
There's this great quote by Ira Glass that relates to this subject; "Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me...there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through." When you're just starting to take outfit pictures, or you just bought your first nice camera you want your images to look like the work you admire, but it won't. It isn't because you can't be as good as them, it's because you haven't put the time in yet. Half of any skill is practice--you didn't wake up one morning and decide you're going to be a astronomer and expect to mentally download every bit of information on the sky in a single week, or buy a fancy telescope and suddenly write a compelling work on what you've sighted through the lens--so why pressure yourself to be a photographic genius without practicing it routinely? Give yourself a break, acknowledge that you have to produce routine, mediocre work in the name of practice in order to improve (you can always delete those images later anyway!).

As a reference point, here are some pictures I took in my first year of blogging compared to the photographs I share regularly now. Yes, I have a nicer camera today, but it's so much more than the equipment that has improved. In my earlier pictures I also look awkward, my body language is not of someone comfortable and I'm almost always looking out of the frame. I'm trying interesting settings by sitting in a flower bed, or leaning against a tree, but the composition isn't that good and I'm shooting in the middle of the day, so the light isn't as soft as I now prefer it. I've stuck to the same basic themes, but I've learned to use natural lines in the background to lead the eye and add depth. In later weeks I'll talk more of the process of taking pictures, but for today the take away message is: give yourself time. The more you practice at taking pictures the better you will be--I still consider myself a work in progress and I'm learning new ways of playing with my settings, editing my pictures, and dealing with the outdoors every day.

P.S. Since this a my first photo tip post, please feel free to chime in with the sorts of tips you'd like. Right now I'm planning on discussing everything from tools to posing; hopefully I can even bring in other bloggers down the line to add their tips and perspectives because photography styles can be as personal as the clothes you choose to wear.


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