I was looking through my Facebook memories yesterday and a photo popped up that kind of took me aback. Someone had asked me to take their portrait, and while I didn't feel qualified, they insisted, and so I said I'd do my best. So I strung up a very wrinkled white sheet, pulled out some construction work lights, and used whatever little very basic, consumer-level camera I had at the time to take what I knew were quite mediocre photos. It wasn't all that long ago, really, and seeing that photo left me feeling some type of way, part of which was embarrassed by the terribly amateur result, but mostly, it reminded me of something I never quite get over, whether I'm taking photos, writing, public speaking, teaching, or whatever, the feeling that I'm just not quite there yet. That ever-present imposter syndrome. I think it's part of what keeps me going, is this striving for perfection, this need to prove myself, this competition with myself to be better, both technically and creatively, while maintaining a level of affordability for my clients and simultaneously investing in better equipment, better booking and online storage tools, more learning opportunities, and, of course, better equipment. It's a wild balancing act that always has me scheming creative ways to add to my equipment collection without going into overwhelming debt. Many times, when I'm editing photos from new shoots, I get frustrated, I think I'm not improving. I chastise myself and my equipment for missing focus on an otherwise promising shot, not getting a tack-sharp image, forgetting to change settings, struggling with capturing proper skin tone, or not fully understanding how to use studio lighting. Struggling within the financial limitations that keep me from investing in my studio space, that elusive lens, necessary camera repairs or upgrades, more appropriate softboxes for my style of shoots, that elusive lens, advertising, online classes, that doggone elusive lens. I feel like I'm always practicing, always experimenting, always guessing.
But I also have moments of being very proud of the photos I've taken. I've been a photographer in some form or another for most of my adult life, but it wasn't until 2010 that I really began to lean on photography seriously as part of my livelihood and creative identity, most of which came about as an extension of my feature and profile writing, of the need for decent portraits of my writing subjects. That aspect of my work opened the doors for more photo opportunities, like company group photos and large family photos and product and marketing assignments, each of which expanded my knowledge and portfolio.
I spent a lot of time traveling around Holmes County to interview clients, and then during a stint as a tour guide in the area. That afforded me lots of opportunities to photograph the people, events, and places in the hidden corners of this gorgeous community.
Traveling to Nicaragua in March of 2015 was probably one of the most significant turning points for me in terms of equipment, ability, and focus. After my friend Andy Hart asked me to accompany a team to document the medical and dental care they would be providing to the people of San Ramon, I decided to upgrade from a Canon Rebel to a used 6d. I also purchased a used wide-angle 17-35 mm lens and an 85mm portrait lens to go along with my Nifty 50 workhorse. During that week, I concentrated fully on understanding my camera, lenses, and subjects. I worked against the language barrier to ask permission to take people's portraits. Some of my very favorite photos ever came from that trip.
That trip's intensive dedication to photography provided some of the skills I needed to come home and provide portraits on a regular basis. That really became my passion. I love portraits! I love capturing something in a person's eyes or posture or tilt of their head. Every single second offers a whole new person standing before me. That absolutely fascinates me. It makes me wish I could catch portraits of every single person I know. And, believe me, I have nagged quite a few people into letting me photograph them!
Eventually, I hope to have a body of work filled with the faces of all of my favorite people, and I guess that's the main thing I keep striving toward. So even if I can't make it financially in this business, I imagine that, as long as I can get my hands on a camera, I'll keep shooting the people I know and love. I guess I'll find myself always practicing, always experimenting, always guessing, and always competing against myself to be even better than I was the day before.