BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS
Lately, I've felt like I'm coming up short. There are a lot of articles circulating on the web about goals - how to set them, how to reach them - but it has come to my attention that I, personally, with all my writing to inspire others, have somehow failed to inspire myself.
Don't get me wrong. Writing so much "day in and day out" has changed me in a lot of ways, mostly for the better. I have found through blog postings a creative output that I really like. However, it has also taken away from a great portion of my time in the field photographing. I can remember my first digital camera and how I toted it with me everywhere I went. I have hard drive folders full of really terrible photographs I took back then. They are not really worth saving as I will never do anything with them, but they remind me of the enthusiasm I had then as new worlds opened before me. There is something to say for the ardor of a beginner.
You cannot stay a beginner. I like to think I have improved my craft. I have pictures now that I am really proud of. I feel that over the years I have managed to learn something about photography and at the same time to keep my enjoyment of it. I still love, love, love photographs.
Writing about photography is so much fun. To take all those things I've gathered - through my own experiences (or lack thereof) - and have them categorized and set down is gratifying. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and comprehend my position in the photographic world, but in reverse, it also shows me the areas where I need improvement. So in the interest of self-preservation and growth, I have decided to publicly examine three areas where I feel I am inadequate. After all, sometimes looking at the negatives in your life pushes you more towards the positives.
Types of Photographs
I have had four digital cameras since my start in photography. Each time I purchased a new one, it was to have more features than the previous camera. I have graduated more and more toward manual settings. I preach all the time about being able to take your camera out of AUTO and make the right decision for the best photograph. I have reached a point in my photography now where I need the big gun. I have avoided DSLRs to this point because, frankly, they scared me. I wanted the abilities they offered, but not enough to forsake the lightweight convenience of a point-and-shoot. Toting around a heavier camera and constantly having to deal with lens changes seemed like too much of a task for "little ol' me".
Yet now, the more I write about photography, the more it seems is expected of me as a photographer. I have been asked to do photo shoots that I have had to decline because my equipment just can't handle it. If you think that doesn't require swallowing some pride, you'd be wrong. It's very tough to say "no" and then have people look at your work and not understand. The fact is non-photography people assume when you can photograph flowers and insects and do it well, then why can't you photograph people too? I have in some ways sold myself short by not upgrading sooner.
This brings me to point number two, types of photographs, or I should say types of subjects. I have pretty well limited myself into the area of nature photography. I love photographing flora and fauna more than anything else. Yet when I have to move my thoughts back into my writing and the graphic design I do at work as well, sometimes the photo of a dragonfly or a lily flower just doesn't cut it. I then have to use the images of someone else instead of my own.
I see incredible work on the web of subjects I have never attempted to photograph. People photography is my biggest area of deficiency, but also architecture and more modern shots fail me. I can think of one guy in particular who does the most amazing images of road signs. Every time I filter through his pictures I find myself saying, "That is SO cool!"
I have decided the best way to improve the types of subjects I photograph is to make myself a list. Whenever I realize, "Hey, I should have pictures of that," it is most important to write it down. This list will therefore become a sort of inventory of my goals because where goals are concerned I am lax. My family would tell you I like everything to be the same all the time. It is comforting to me to have nothing change. On the other hand, I am aware that it also severely limits me. Perhaps this new list will push me to walk more outside of my usual boundaries.
This leads me to my third area of insufficiency - self promotion. I have not really had a problem showing my work or sharing images with others. I Facebook. I Twitter. I blog. I am owner and moderator at a number of Yahoo groups. However, there are a number of things I avoid like the plague. Photo contests is the biggest.
When I began taking photographs, the field of digital photographers was relatively small. In the matter of only ten years, it has grown tremendously. Whereas you could enter a contest and had decent odds for placing or even winning, now the statistics are mostly against you. Knowing this, I never enter anything. It's not that I hate to lose. I am a graceful loser and will congratulate whomever wins. If I am being totally honest, my real reason is that it feels like such a fruitless use of my time.
I equate this deficiency to writing a book and never sending it in for publication. Why would you spend hours, days, and months, formulating paragraphs, plot, and characters and then never show it to anyone, never put it in print? That makes no more sense than not being proud enough of your work to set it up against that of others and have it judged. This goes a bit against my grain, and I am the first to admit it. I like "pats on the back" as well as anyone else, but the truth is I do not like the attention that comes with it. I am content to be a wallflower most of the time, admired once in a while and forgotten the rest. But this does not, I see now, set me towards accomplishing anything. If I don't try, I will then never complete. I will instead remain stagnant, exactly where I am.
I never try to sell anything either. I have sold things, but never through any promotion of my own. "The love of money is the root of all evil," so the scripture says. (1 Timothy 6:10) Well, I like buying new things; a few dollars in hand are great. However, my friends and family would tell you I definitely don't "love" money. I am as happy giving a photo away as I am selling it. At what point, however, does my ability to offer things for free begin to hurt me as a photographer? I'm not sure just yet I know the answer, nor do I think I'll ever be someone who feels their photographs are worth hundreds of dollars. That smacks of snobbery, which I can't stand. Yet I should be able to earn something for all my efforts. After all, people do not generally speaking employ themselves at a job and then decline their paycheck. "Oh no, Boss, you keep it."
I am all about honesty, and writing this particular blog is as honest as I can get, about my photography and my ability as a photographer, and a bit about myself. I now have a goal, one which I have made for myself, and that is set for myself more goals. More than that, it is to accomplish these goals. I know in the end I will become better at my chosen craft, and you, the reader, in the end will benefit more as I write about it.
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.