Wednesday, May 2, 2012

on my mind lately: photography

I spend far too much time looking "out there" at other people's work.
Wondering how they get wonderfully clean, color edits. I've not been happy with my color edits lately. I sit down to edit and I'm overwhelmed with choices and actions and knowing what I want it to look like but having no idea how to get there. I don't really have time to spend hours in front of my PC playing around in Elements or watching tutorial videos. I have a five year old. My time should be spent with him, not some computer program. So I don't pick-up my camera.

Wondering how they can take photos with high contrast and not end-up with chromatic aberration. I've been researching and reading and Googling, and I just walk away from my computer more frustrated than before. I know there is a solution, but I have no idea what it is or what I'm doing wrong. So I don't pick-up my camera.

I look at my surroundings and wonder what is worth photographing. All I see is a mess. So I clean and vacuum and wash dishes and try to make peace with the clutter. So I don't pick-up my camera.

I think about what to blog about and my mind is blank. No ideas. Nothing creative. Writing is not my forte, so sitting down to be creative in this space is really tough for me. I spend so much time reading everything else out there that I end-up feeling overwhelmed. So I don't pick-up my camera.

I have so SO many questions and no one to ask them to. And in this creative world there seems to be this unwritten rule that people aren't going to share too much with you for fear of letting you in on the "secret" to their style. I totally get that and I completely respect it, and that's part of the reason I don't ask the questions. I feel like I shouldn't. I'm a hands-on learner. I learn best by talking with others and exchanging ideas and information. I don't have any photographer friends here to bounce ideas off of. So I don't pick-up my camera.

You can see the pattern here...not picking-up my camera.
And I know (I know) that the best way to resolve all of the above problems is to pick-up my camera.
But it all seems so overwhelming some days:
I pick-up my camera, struggle with settings, delete a few photos in-camera, download, criticize my work, delete a lot more, see if there is a blog post among one or two of the photos, sit down with Elements and criticize some more, get overwhelmed with editing options so I hurriedly edit and settle for something other than what I envisioned, struggle to say what I want to say in my blog post, publish, and walk away wondering what I'll post about next time. Wondering what I'll take photos of next time. 

Why is it such a struggle? Why is the creative process so full of self-criticism? I don't look forward to it. I really kind of dread it because I know it will take me to this place of comparison and self-doubt and frustration with my photography skills, and ultimately with myself.
I'm frustrated and I don't know what to do.

And that is what has been on my mind lately.

(And it took me a long time to hit publish on this post.)


Erika said...

I get bored when I look at too many photographers. I start to think, "Well, she copied her. And she copied him. And he copied her." And then everything is trite. Stop looking for a while. And maybe you won't go back to some. I'm in a rut. I take a photo just for the project and then it almost kills me to edit it. But when something really really makes me happy to shoot, it feels even better.

And I think people don't share for two reasons.
1. They don't know how they got there. Either it was an accident or they use someone else's editing tools.
2. They're afraid you'll copy them.

2. is BS. Everything is a copy. Everything is "inspired" by someone. And no matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to get Photog XYZ's picture because I don't have their creative eye.

Shoot from your gut. And tell your mind to bug off.*
*easier said than done...

Anonymous said...

Erika's comment is GOOD. :)

Mine will be less good but heartfelt. I go for days and even weeks without picking up my camera. I also do that with blogging. And cleaning the toilet. ;)

Life ebbs and flows. When we force ourselves to do things that we aren't "feeling" I feel like we aren't necessarily accomplishing anything except frustration. We're all different and have to find our own way in the things we do. I don't have good advice for you but I can say to you that "I get it." :)

Kristi said...

Nice comments. Really. As a newbie here, I can't add anything that would improve upon what Erika and Michelle said... but I'm glad they shared because the comments are good reminders for us all. On a side note (related though), Tricia and I always tell the students that to become good writers, we have read some good writing. We all learn from those that have gone before us - it's not copying, it's learning. You know where I get some of my best ideas for jewelry I make??? The Sundance Catalog. :)

Shawntae said...

I agree with everything that Erika and Michelle have said and I'm right there with you. :)

You say writing isn't your forte, but I have to say I think you're great at it! I wish I were, but I can never really seem to express my thoughts in a way that doesn't end up a jumbled mess of ideas.

I wish I could help with chromatic aberration, but I haven't the first clue! I know I end up with it a lot. If you figure it out, could you please blog a tutorial about it? :)

Kristi said...

I was thinking about your post some more today, and I wanted to add some clarity to my earlier post. We all learn from each other - regardless of the endeavor we are undertaking. You said in your post you learn best by talking with others and exchanging ideas. Have you ever checked out There are some photography groups in our area that you could join. Just an idea - since you said you don't have any photographer friends here.

ZeldaMom said...

Yup, I know just how you feel.
We are our own worst critics.
Michelle nailed it.

Skeller said...

welcome to the photographer's path. we all walk it at some point (and sometimes more than once!). so, really, you're in good company ;-). and here's the good news about the frustration: each time you revisit that place of self-criticism/condemnation, you'll recognize it faster and shake it off quicker. it's just part of the photographer's cycle ...

about editing ... color is totally harder than b/w if you don't have the dream location with the dreamiest lighting. if you want to find some good tutorials, search back thru some of the oldest Fix it Friday posts at I Heart Faces. Julie Rivera's earliest edits had some really detailed descriptions of her editing process (which was the process she learned from an expensive workshop she attended). Do you have Lightroom? If not, there's no other editing/organizing program that I recommend more highly. It's awesome. Truly. And with the release of LR4, they slashed the price in half.

Heather M. said...

oh man, andrea, i can totally relate to your words. about a month ago i was really to sell my camera. i've ebbed and flowed through this creative cycle many times but never before was i ready to get rid of it all. i can't say i'm out of it but slowly it's coming around. i wish we could go for coffee, a long walk and discuss these things. as hard as it is to hear in these moments, i think you are an amazing photographer. look down at your 365 post from april and see those amazing photos you captured. that one of sammy on the stairs is absolutely amazing. seriously.

something that's really helped me in the past year is separating my 365 from the equation. for me (and this may not be true for you) 365 is about documenting my life and that style of photography is very different from taking artistic photos with beautiful light in an amazing location. i was always trying to combine the two and getting so frustrated that it never worked but not realizing there was a difference, kwim? this hit me hard when i was putting together my photo-a-day book for 2010 and i had some random (and pretty) flower photos in it and thought, "what the heck do these photos have to do with my everyday? they don't tell anything about the story of what was going on in my life at that time besides the fact that i like pretty flowers." this was huge for me because it helped me to realize that i actually wanted my own personal 365 to be all about my life, my kids, our story and let go of the need to try to get these artistic beautiful shots every day. and besides, i didn't want photos of my kids dressed all pretty in a field of flowers posing for the camera because what on earth was i going to write about the photo that would help tell our story when i put it in a book besides, "took the kids out for a photo shoot tonight". i'd rather have a photo of them reading together on the couch and be able to tell part of the story of who they are.

anyway, i'm rambling and i have no idea if this makes any sense but i just felt the need to put it out there. hang in there!

stacey said...

Okay, somehow I missed this post.

I totally agree with Erika. Even if someone tells you EXACTLY how they edited a photo, tells you the exact settings, you still will not be able to produce the exact same picture. That's what makes us all unique. Creative eye is it. And you have it, Andrea. You do.

I've learned a lot about this the past year. I stopped looking at photography blogs. I follow my friend/photographer/bloggers and that's about it. I pick up my camera and shoot. When I feel like it. I try not to stress out about settings. I take blurry photos. And sometimes I like the blurry photos more than any of the clear ones (my tree linkup as an example). I don't worry about the mess. It's real life. I don't worry if I don't pick up my camera in awhile. Eventually I know I'll pick it up again. And I'll be drawn to something and fall back in love again (those photos of my neice are a perfect example). It's a journey. And just because you may be somewhat passionate about something doesn't mean you ALWAYS have to do it and ALWAYS have to love it. With passion comes turmoil and growing.