As I sat here at my desk thinking of something to write about which would inspire, direct, and encourage, I kept coming up blank. I mean, lets be honest, we all have those days. So then I decided to write about something that is very dear to my heart. Something I don’t discuss with a lot of people, because my self consciousness when it comes to this subject often keeps me silent.
I am going to talk about my journey of becoming a photographer. Not many people know this, but a year and a half ago, (yes, only a year and a half ago) I didn’t know the first thing about photography. I knew that I wanted to be a photographer one day (I had known that pretty much my whole life), I knew that photographs inspired me beyond words, I knew that I had gigantic dreams about one day traveling the world with a camera (that I thought I would never be able to afford) and photographing that which I loved most: people. I also knew that I loved taking little photographs with my cell phone, but thats just about all I knew.
So then one day, I saw that one of my friends who was a photographer was selling her Canon Rebel XSI. I couldn’t help myself.. I had wanted a camera for so long. So I bought it and fell in love.
Then I started attending the Photo Program over at Spokane Falls Community College. Let me remind you, I still didn’t know the first thing about photography. I didn’t understand all those numbers on the back of my camera. I didn’t understand what the heck “Manual” mode meant, and I definitely didn’t know how to shoot in it. I also didn’t know the first thing about editing. It was so bad (and to all you fellow photographers who are reading this, don’t laugh at the next statement I am about to make) that I didn’t even know what Photoshop or Lightroom was. I was just a kid, with a camera I didn’t know how to work, and a big dream. So you can imagine that when I started a program that was filled with people who had oodles (thats a word right?) of past experience, could work their camera settings like pros, and flipped through editing software like it was no big deal, I went into full on panic mode (on the inside, of course). I felt like a fish out of water. Or a polar bear in the desert. Or a whale in a movie theater. Okay, you get the point. I felt completely stupid. And of course, my first reaction was to give up. I wanted to give up so badly, before anybody found out how little I knew. But of course, my fierce determination kicked in (like it always does) and I refused to let myself give up. I remembered all the years that I had dreamed of owning a camera and being able to go to school to learn about the thing I had loved all my life.
So I dove in, head first, without any arm floaties, and I fought to keep my head above water for a long time before all of it finally started to make sense. All I have to say is I am incredibly thankful to all my photographer friends who were willing to patiently sit down with me and explain all the gibberish that the teacher had just said. I will forever be grateful to you guys (you know who you are).
So, as the months went on, all of it finally started to make sense. My camera made sense to me, I understood the settings, I knew what they meant, I understood their purposes. I could sit down at a computer and open up editing software without wanting to fall on the floor, roll up in a pathetic ball and cry until it all made sense. Photography, this thing that I thought I would never understand, suddenly became my favorite thing in the whole world. But I wouldn’t have reached that point if I had given up the way I wanted to in the beginning.
I started going on photo shoots, doing photo shoots for other people, and I learned more and more each time I went out with my camera. That’s the absolute best way to learn. Experience and practice. I swear by it.
This last summer, I even got hired at a local camp in Spokane, WA. to be their camp photographer. Like, what?! ME?! A camp PHOTOGRAPHER?! It was beyond my wildest dreams. Now, I still had so much to learn, but I had gotten somewhere that I never thought I would be, because I kept going when I felt discouraged and beaten down. If you are ever feeling tempted to give up on a dream because it seems too impossible, keep going. Just keep going. You’ll get to where you want to go sooner or later, it just takes time and experience, and you won’t get either of those if you give up.
So, that summer I got my camera out every single day. I walked around a camp filled with happy kids who felt as if they were in paradise, and I got to capture their purest moments of joy. I got to walk around the river and take photographs of little kids as they covered their faces and their friends faces in mud. I got to catch photographs of kids splashing each other with water in the mid-day sun. One of my favorite parts of the day was when I would be taking a photo of some kids on one side of the river, and then I would get called over to the fishing area to take a photograph of a beaming child who had just caught their very first fish. I even got a photograph of a kid full on bear-hugging the fish that he had caught (those moments are priceless). I caught pictures of kids raising their hands in worship to Jesus, and I caught photographs of them clasping their hands in prayer. It was an honor.
That summer I also got the incredible opportunity to be a second-shooter for a wedding my good friend and fellow photographer Topher Fischer was photographing. Topher has probably helped me the most out of anybody in my journey to becoming a photographer. He was the most patient when I didn’t understand, he explained it in ways I understood, he never made me feel stupid, and he gave me opportunities that made me believe in myself. That wedding was one of them. I was still a beginner, I didn’t know half as much as I should have, but he took a chance on me that day and showed me what it looks like to be a fantastic wedding photographer, because thats what he was that day. Thank you, Topher, for being such a good friend and for helping that scared little photographer who didn’t even know where to begin.
By the end of the summer, I made the decision step out of the photo program and to go the rest of the way on my own. Partly because I wanted to get enough transferable credits in order to transfer to Moody Bible Institute, and partly because I wanted to discover photography in my own realm of creativity. I wanted it to become my passion, without restrictions. Though I miss the program in so many ways, I am glad I made that decision. I have been able to learn so much and grow more than I ever have before.
I have recently purchased a Canon 7D (which is an incredible camera) and a new lens. I never thought I’d be able to afford these things, but I have learned two very important lessons: never say never, and never question God’s provision.
I look back on the first photographs I ever took, and I smile. Because I have come so far in such a short time, and because I remember how scared I was… and how I had no reason to be. Now I know my camera like the back of my hand, I edit with Lightroom and Photoshop like its no big deal, and I am not ashamed of who I am anymore. I even get to professionally photograph my first wedding this summer. I have learned so much and come farther than I ever thought possible. And the best part? I have so much farther to go and I have so many more things to learn. That excites the heck out of me.
Some people might get confused with how I am doing my 365 photo-a-day challenge because it is not like the normal ones that are done. Most people take a new photograph every single day and post it. I am doing that for a good majority of my photos, but on other days I am posting photographs that I never had the guts to post before. Photos from past photo shoots that I was ashamed of and didn’t want to show to anyone. Its kind of like.. A journey to confidence. Every day I post something, and every day I get braver. A year and a half ago I was too ashamed to even show my photos to my family. And now I am posting a photo a day! I would say that is pretty good progress.
Anyway, I apologize for the length of this blog post. I kinda just started going and couldn’t stop. Oops.
Thank you for reading this, if you read it, and thank you for being a part of my photographic journey. It means more than you know. I still have so much more to learn, and I will probably look back in 3 years on the photographs I am taking now and cringe, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the present and what I decide to do with it.
Never give up on a dream just because it feels hard. It always gets easier, I promise. Just keep going.
And with that, I am going to sleep.
Keep dreaming, my friends. Life is so boring without a few dreams.
This is a photo I took of my best friend on my trip to California this last winter break. Isn’t she a beauty?