In 2007, I captured my first photographs ever on a beach in Oregon. I did not personally know any photographers and had no history of photography growing up. Honestly, I only became one myself by chance, fate or blind luck but that’s a story for another day. I lived in Portland at the time and a swell of landscape photographers, many whom you may follow on social media today, was just beginning to take shape and gain momentum on a website called Flickr. For those of you new to photography related social media, the word Instagram had not been invented yet in 2007. Without 500px, the last place you and your creativity were rated by your peers was most likely your high school yearbook. Moreover, the only colored thumb people were proud to have was a green one.
Those first few years as a photographer hold very fond memories for me because my personal vision, creative process, and motivation were all pure. I photographed exactly what I wanted, when I wanted for no reason at all. My only measurement of success for one of my images was my own personal experience creating it and how it made ME feel. Maybe you remember that feeling too. If you feel that way today, hold on tight with both hands for as long as you possibly can.
It would be difficult to argue the fact that the world of social media has brought incredible advancements to photography and photographers alike. For many of us, without it, our entire audience would be comprised of close friends and family members. Some of you would simply be charging up the stairs of your parents basement yelling Mom! Check out this composition! Thank goodness for Facebook….am I right?
If you are like me, finding joy in photography has changed your life. Your excitement and search for knowledge evoked by this creative outlet has led you to try to absorb all the information you can find. And social media happily force feeds it to you at every turn. As a new photographer, it is natural to seek out the work of others who are more experienced than you. What you find will either motivate you further or begin to water the seeds of self doubt in your mind.
It is important during this process to remind yourself that you are just beginning to scratch the surface of your own creativity. Those you look up to now doubted themselves as well in the beginning. Today, thanks to social media and the relentless barrage of high quality imagery we face daily many are afraid to show anything but their very best work, once again placing restrictions on their creativity and their art.
The one most important piece of advice I can give a new photographer is the following. Never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t, you won’t, or you shouldn’t. And believe me, they will try. There are a large number of photographers on social media today who seem to think that THEY know how YOU should express your art and creativity. They speak as if the opinions and ideas that they have are concrete fact and share them openly. This is done many times at the expense of a photographer who has yet to find their own artistic voice. Pay absolutely no attention to these often egotistical people. Understand that because they have placed these limits on themselves that they are often unsatisfied with their own work.
Create exactly what you want to and how you want to regardless of how you think others may perceive it. The greater the level of freedom and creativity you allow yourself in your art, the more personal and rewarding it will become. It is crucial during this period that you follow your own vision. Do your best to filter out the noise.
Finally, regardless of your status on the social media ladder, or where you are on your path as a photographer, please do not allow yourself to believe my last note. The value of attention you receive online should never be greater than your own personal experience and happiness. Receiving praise through likes, thumbs up, high fives or fist bumps may make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside in the short term. However, these forms of “click and run” praise offer little value in the real world. Often, they inflate egos to the point of no return. Do not allow yourself to believe that your popularity online directly equates to the quality of your work. Furthermore, it doesn’t equate to your value as a person.
If you see imagery online that you enjoy, take the time to understand WHY you enjoy it. If possible, share those honest feelings with the artist who created it. Participating in this process will help your creativity. It will help you as an artist more than any award, accolade, or praise you will ever receive online.
If you would like to see more of my work, please visit my website and until next time..Happy Shooting!