A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Gear and Goals, in which I mentioned resolutions and plans for the upcoming year. The post was primarily about all the gear and gadgets I purchased last year in order to better my photography. I vowed not to buy any more cameras, lenses, lighting or other things in order to learn how to use the stuff I have now. Photography, at its roots, is about presenting a picture to the world and a lot less about what was used to create the image. What? Yes, I realize that us photographers want to know the details of how it was done, what lens was used, what settings, but the fact is that the typical person doesn’t care as long as its pleasing to the eye or pulls out an emotion.

Taken in January of 2009 while attempting to learn my lighting gear.

Am I a better photographer now than I was at this time last year?

I always ask myself this question and it’s a difficult one to answer. It’s a constant internal struggle and at times it’s taken me to the brink of selling off my gear and giving it up. I take photography seriously. Sure, it’s a hobby but it isn’t a game to me. It’s so much more. I want to take great pictures. I care about composition, I care about light, and I want my images to evoke an emotion in both the people looking at them and in myself.

Back to the question at hand…

I know a lot more about photography now than I did last year. I know my camera better, I know my lighting and I’m confident that I can take a good picture. With photography it’s more than a setting and some book knowledge, it also about the subject and what it is you’re looking at through your viewfinder. You need to see the images before you take them or learn how to make the scene more appealing to the eye with your framing or some lighting trickery.  I choose not to do a lot of post processing so I try my best to get as right in camera as I can. I have nothing against heavy post processing. In fact when done well it can really drive home the point of the photo, but it isn’t my style so I need to try to find visually interesting subject matter.

This is where I struggle.

A lot of photography is about being in the right place at the right time. I can drive around for hours looking for a photo only to end up home without even turning the camera on. On the other side I’ve found myself in a random spot in that golden hour, not expecting it and walking away with a memory card full of images. Most of us can’t afford to quit our day jobs and travel the world so we have to go out there and find the things around us that could be interesting to others.

I’m highly recommend you read a book by Malcolm Gladwell, “Outliers: The Story of Success”. It’s a quick read where the author discusses how at times success isn’t about talent but more about the situation around a person that makes them successful. Did you know being born in the right year or month could be the difference between becoming something or sitting on your couch in front of the TV wondering where you went wrong?

Find the opportunities and take advantage of them. Don’t wait for something to happen but make it happen! Just because you may live in a small country town, miles from nowhere, doesn’t mean you can’t be a great photographer. This year is going to be less about the technical aspects of photography and more about the visual. I’ll keep asking myself that same question, “am I better now than I was a year ago,” and hopefully one of these days I’ll say, Yes!