Another letter to a new photographer - is it really your dream?

"Milkweed seeds" (c) Rebecca LaChance 2016, Thurmont, MD.  from the Backyard Series

"Milkweed seeds" (c) Rebecca LaChance 2016, Thurmont, MD.  from the Backyard Series

Dear Young Friend,

Let me apologize at the beginning because I’m going to say some things that might be harsh.

You’re not ready to be a professional photographer.  You’re not ready to start a photography business.  Why do I say these things?

Still in the camera?  

Well, for one thing, you still have the images from our last photo trek on the memory card - in your camera.  Those images have not been downloaded, nor have they been stored, and they have not been backed-up for safe keeping.  And they certainly haven’t been processed.

Those images are still in your camera because “you haven’t had time to download them.” 

Oh Darlin’, our photo trek was over five months ago! You haven’t had time in five months to download and process the images?  

Okay, here it is….your dream of being a photographer isn't a dream. It's only a wish.

Lonely Beach Benches (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Panama City Beach, FL.  Original film image.

Lonely Beach Benches (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Panama City Beach, FL.  Original film image.

"But, I'm busy. My life is too full,"  you say.  Guess what?  Our lives are always going to be "busy and full".  There never is a "right time" when busyness and chaos fall by the wayside.  Life always presents challenges.  We learn to work with the challenges...not wait for a perfect, challenge-free day.

Granted, you’ve only had your camera for about 8 months and you probably haven’t been around many professional photographers.  So you haven’t really learned the importance of downloading, storing and backing up your images.  

You probably have not yet had the gut-ripping experience of finding a corrupt memory card pop out of your camera.  You haven’t yet learned that a professional photographer makes back-ups from the very beginning.

10,000 images

At this stage, you should be burning through images.  

  • Taking them,
  • reviewing them,
  • documenting what worked, what didn’t,
  • failing and trying again, and again and again.

No doubt, you've heard that the Masters (of any field) have put in over 10,000 hours of practice before they become "masters".  It's true!  And photography is no different.  You need 10, 000 images (and probably many more) to learn how your equipment works, how you can control the equipment, how to finesse the fine points of art, design, composition, lighting.

And now for the practicality, you’re so new to photography that you REALLY don’t know your niche, your style.  Again, you need those 10,000 images to develop your niche and your style. 

Paying clients will find you because of your niche, your style, what your photography represents to them. You can’t deliver services to customers until you know your niche, your style, or if you want to do the hard work required to run a photography business.

You say you can't travel to inspiring places to takes photos?  You don't have the time to scout intriguing locations?  Take your 10,000 images in your house.

Start where you are.  Use your yard, your neighborhood, your dog, your partner, your kids.  Construct still lifes from items in your home.  The secret to a great image is what you see, and how you can see it differently.  It's not about traveling to exotic places (although traveling can be the "icing on the cake".)

Where’s the excitement?

You’ve said photography makes your heart sing.  Really?  Because, I’m thinking if you really felt your heart sing, you would be downloading those files ASAP. You would be so anxious to see if you captured the image you thought you were capturing.  

If photography makes your heart sing, you would not keep those images in your camera for five months.

If photography makes your heart sing, you would be excited by the artistic potential you see in your immediate surroundings

Don’t buy that full-frame camera!

For the love of all that’s holy - and your bank account - don’t buy that full frame camera just yet. You can ROCK a crop frame camera.  You know I’m a firm believer in “Use what you have.”  Keep using that crop frame camera until it dies or your dog eats it.  That crop frame camera will teach you about framing, composition, and the size of photographic prints that can be produced.   (I still carry a crop frame camera in my purse to catch those serendipitous scenes.)

Let’s wrap this up

But let’s go back to the beginning…it’s not a dream if you’re not working it. It’s only a wish.

You’re in the beginning stages.  Now is the time to just click away and develop your skills.  And be honest with yourself.  How are you going to be a professional photographer, or run a photography business if you leave your images on the card, in the camera, for five months?  

You're in the perfect time and space at this very moment.  You have a great job that supports your life. It's far too early in your journey for photography to be an "all or nothing" proposition.  Take the time to find out if photography really does make your heart sing. Start where you are. Use what you have. 

Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure.

Rebecca

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