My photography journey encapsulates deep learning and discovery of my calling in a specific photography genre – portrait of humans. The journey started with my love-hate relationship with the art. In absence of a mentor and dedicated time for long learning-curve, I studied, explored, and practiced alone. Eventually, the mundane, thankless, and unrewarding journey resulted in unyielding passion!
Read on to deep-dive into my roller-coaster ride and share your thoughts if you’ve also experienced same in your creative pursuits.
The first lesson and my unboxing moment!
Discovered the shutter-press button and got overwhelmed with the gear.
Not too long ago, in 2016, I went to a camera shop in Gurgaon with one of my photography enthusiast friends. I told him to get me the same DSLR that he possessed for 3-4 months by then. We got the camera and unboxed it at the shop. He looked through the viewfinder – showed me the shutter button.
“Dude, this is how you’ll hold the DSLR and here’s the shutter button.” He taught me the first lesson!
While I was holding the gear in my hand, got overwhelmed with so many buttons and icons on the camera. I trusted my self-learning capability to crack every button, settings, and master the technology to take my photography journey to mainstream. The learning started next day.
The first setback and how I overcame!
Learning photography seemed uphill task.
Next one week was so bad that I thought I should sell my camera and save my money and time. I was not even able to get objects in focus. Hell, I didn’t know the half shutter press keeps the subject in focus. I thought ‘A’ is auto mode. I saw so may numbers (he, he! Those were shutter, ISO, and Aperture), that I thought let me not worry about those and see the results after pressing the shutter button. Because that was the only lesson I had learned so far that my friend had taught at the shop!
Alrighty… Somehow, I felt I shouldn’t give up so soon and decided to stay in the game…
In a span of next couple of years of my deep learning, I viewed hundreds of hours of photography tutorial videos on YouTube, browsed online photography tips, and blogs of successful international photographers. I read dozens of photography books and hundreds of articles for beginners and specific genres such as landscape, wildlife, portraits, and food photography. I learnt about composition, lights, camera manual setting, back button focus, exposure triangle, aperture priority, shutter priority, Photoshop, Lightroom, posing for portraits, lighting, noise correction, depth of field… and you know, the list goes on and on!
Few days felt like I’m on the path of becoming world’s best photographer. Other days felt like I should sell my camera and save my time and energy!
The moment I started grabbing the concepts of photography, I started hunting for the subjects. The simplest options were the stationary items at home. Those objects (photographers call them subjects) follow your instructions, they stay where you want them to, and they won’t get impatient like your family and friends would get annoyed.
What do you think I tried first with those subjects?
2. Blurrrr background!!
My practice and studies went hand-in-hand till I qualified (and graduated) myself to ask humans to pose for me. Friends, family, colleagues… whoever I owed something, I asked them to return favor by posing in front of my camera. I attempted everything I learnt so far – composition, non-distracting background, quality of light, and a little bit of posing.
My second lesson!
A photograph is not complete till it’s edited.
I was getting ok pictures but not better than my smartphone photos. So, I started blaming my DSLR, kit lens, subjects, ambient lights and everything else than my acquired skills. I was high on ego because I learnt so many concepts that I could talk for full day about photography. But why is it that my camera was not supporting me? What was the missing link?
I used to take pride in sharing straight-from-the-camera photos. On hindsight, I thought of giving editing a try. Photoshop entered my life and my love/ hate relationship with editing software started.
Photoshop had so many tools and options, I didn’t know where to start. So, I just played with contrast and brightness for few weeks… But even these two settings were doing magic with my raw photos. It led me to think what magic I can create if I learn most of the capabilities an editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom can offer. Learning and practicing Photoshop and Lightroom started along with relentless photographing of human, birds, and streets.
As a result, my colleagues started praising my photos. My friends were ok with my photography (maybe they were jealous!). My family thought I’m going crazy and I must stop pursuing it further. Family thought I’ll quit job and start pursuing my photography passion. They were not completely wrong! I had this in back of my mind.
My second setback!
Monetization opportunity got me distracted from artwork.
After couple of years of my rigorous self-training and practicing…
Most common thought people shared when I improved on photographing and editing… that I’ve a good career in photography.
This thought distracted me from both — job and photography! Because I started thinking about setting up business and was ok to take hit of my earnings momentarily to achieve bigger dreams. My attention from job receded. Since I was not finding way to monetize photography so passion in creative pursuits of photography also diminished.
Realty stuck me when few people asked me to do photography for free. Well, I did couple of them to build my portfolio… but then I realized, I’m doing disservice to my photography fraternity who is slogging with their art for money and this is their only source of income. Eventually, I dropped idea of monetizing photography for commercial purpose and decided to enjoy the passion.
The next challenge was where do I take my photography from learning, practicing, and expanding my portfolio…
My third lesson!
Blend both the passions to enjoy the journey – photography and writing.
I saw an opportunity in blending my writing passion with photography. The days I’m not able to travel or step out – well, lockdown provided ample of such opportunities – I decided to write about my photography experience, share thoughts with the world and, hopefully, help them learn from my mistakes or experience.
So, the idea of the book came in my mind… I launched my first photography in the genre which I loved the most! Street Portrait Photography.
To launch the book, the learning started on how to draft the book, get it edited, launch on Amazon Kindle. I didn’t want to go to traditional publishers for three reasons:
1. They’d not love to launch a fresh author. I had heard/ read the horror stories of new authors.
2. People are reading digital so even if I don’t launch physical copies, I won’t compromise on reach.
3. I can expand my readership to multiple countries.
To my luck and power of Kindle platform, the book became bestselling in one of the photography categories. I felt empowered to release more books. The journey of learning, practicing, sharing, and writing continues. My photography is companion of my lifetime journey now!