I'm freaking out just a bit, because I've just realized that I'm in a group on facebook with Robert Cornelius. And how flipping awesome is that?! He posted this amazing blog today about the self deprecating comments we make that are actually pretty harmful- and how we all just need to calm down and realize that with work and time we can all be "as good as" our favorite photographers. Go read his blog post and then come back to me, because I have some stuff to add. -------> "YOU CAN DO IT- BY ROBERT CORNELIUS" <------------
Did you read it? I love every bit of what he says and it's really really true. All of it. I remember when I first got back into photography after a long hiatus, and at the time, I was internet stalking family photographers and still life photographers and getting frustrated that my work didn't even come close to theirs. So, I practiced, and then I learned through a multitude of failures and very few successes. I asked questions mercilessly of every advanced photographer who would talk to me, and eventually I made a picture I was very proud of. It does happen! Have you ever heard this quote?
"The difference between a novice and a master is that the master has failed more times than the novice has yet to try"
It's true. You cannot beat yourself up when things don't go the way you want- your only true failure would be if you take nothing away from the experience.
If you line up all the work you've created from start to finish, I'm guessing you'll be able to see a great improvement if you've been at it for any length of time. If you don't see improvement- then ask yourself what you love about each piece, and conversely, what you hate. Think about the result you got vs. the result you wanted and if you don't know where you went wrong, don't be afraid to ask someone. Facebook has some really amazing groups for photographers to share knowledge and ask questions. You just have to develop a bit of a thick skin and be ready to accept critique. (Yes, some people can be real douchebags, but just blow those idiots off and listen to the ones who can be respectful and helpful)
Secondly- I'm going to parrot what Robert says in his blog. Be mindful of the language you use and how it hurts you mentally. If you are constantly telling yourself that "you'll never be as good as..." or "It's never gonna happen for me" you are eventually going to believe it. Instead, change your language. It worked miracles for me. Instead of saying "This work sucks compared to... " I started saying to myself "I'm not that good, yet- but I am getting closer" or "When I have mastered that, I will create this" Or even, "This might not be what I wanted to do right now, but when I improve, I'm going to try it again"
Those are truths you need to start telling yourself. You WILL improve, You WILL learn, You WILL reach your goals if you put the work into it. Don't let that negative voice in your head tell you the lies that suffocate your creativity and drive.
I thought it was awesome that Robert added a slideshow of his very early work, So I thought I'd show you mine. It goes from my earliest attempts at photo manipulations, back when I was still using Paint Shop Pro 8, to some of the stuff I made over the last few years. Try not to laugh too hard...
Here are a few exercises you can do to help you grow and learn:
1. Start a 52 or 365 project- This is where you make it a priority to make an image once a week or once a day for a whole year. It does take some stamina, but it is so worthwhile. Make the most out of it and make a list of things you feel you need to work on, or would like to try- use that list as inspiration.
2. Hit up websites like CreativeLive or Phlearn.com and make a point of watching one video or class a week, and then apply what you've learned to your own work.
3. Find some like minded photographers or artists (in the real world or on facebook) and set up challenges with them. Keep it fun and keep the competition at a low boil. That will motivate you to do your best and try your hardest.
4. Take Self portraits. The thing about self portraits is that nobody has to know you're even shooting!! So, if you come up empty handed, if your image just doesn't work out, then there is nobody to know but you. That takes SO MUCH pressure off and leaves you free to create and experiment. I cannot count the number of times I've set up my living room and tripod and just shot stupid stuff. I wanted to experiment with lighting- so I did, I wanted to try an idea... Whatever! Who's watching? NOONE. Be as weird as you want to be.
5. Quit being afraid to fail. That is where you learn!! I can't remember who told me about this, but she said that whenever someone in her family suffers a failure, they throw a "failure party" to celebrate the chance they've had to learn something. The celebrate it. Because it's not really a failure- it's a learning opportunity.
I hope that this has helped you, if you're feeling like you'll never get there. Trust me- every single artist out there is feeling like that too. Even the ones you think are amaze-balls. They still have that self-doubt. The really successful ones have learned to stuff it in a corner and pep-talk their way out of it.
Good luck out there!
My Fellow Fine Artists
Tammy Zurak of Z Photog Studio | Memphis, TN, USA | Fine Art/Illustrative Photography Gallery:
Pam Korman of District Photography | Philadelphia, PA, USA | Fine Art Photography:
www.bonniealrifai.com Fine art photography
Handy Andy Pandy