I was a big imposter, or so I felt. There I was, a full-time photographer at a small newspaper, standing before groups of high school athletes who were waiting to get their team photos taken, my camera in hand, flash attached, nervous.
I was supposed to do something creative. The other photographers from the bigger papers with bigger gear would show up, and every time they asked what I wanted to do, I said, "No, it's OK. You can set everything up."
What I was really saying, sheepishly, was I had no idea how to craft a professional portrait, from exposure to creative posing ideas to lighting. I felt this way with every assignment -- and they were paying me to photograph the news!
Yes, I knew the basics of aperture, shutter speed, ISO and why to use them, and I was better than average, but I didn't understand manual mode (which means I didn't really understand exposure), and most of my pictures were about as interesting as watching rocks think.
Also, I was constantly fighting with exposure, wondering why my shots were inconsistent even in the same environment during the same shoot.
I was coming face to face with the fact that simply knowing about camera controls and settings, with years of experience, even finally owning top-end gear, wasn't going to advance my images. I was still missing something, and I knew I had to figure it out.
Watching and listening for hundreds of hours as someone speaks a foreign language to you doesn't enable you to speak it as well, and this principle is what's holding back photographers.
How many times have you listened to your favorite song, watched your favorite movie, or read your favorite book, yet you yourself can't record a hit song, make a movie or write as well as your favorite author?
You'v seen great photography. You've read great books and watched great videos on the subject. You've shot hundreds, maybe tens of thousands of photos. Maybe you've even gone to some seminars, talked to some pros and tried a few tips and tricks. But that doesn't mean you yourself can go out and create a professional image.
Why? You haven't developed the language yet!
This is why the guy next to you with worse gear gets better pictures. It's why you don't invest in 40-inch prints, why people's eyes glaze over as you show them your vacation photos and they say they're "nice," why you don't get images published, why your pictures still don't have that professional look and consistency, why you don't feel confident presenting your images in a professional marketplace, why you think your equipment isn't good enough and why spending a half day in forums talking about photography is more exciting than going out and making pictures.
The good news is you can learn the language and build better images, in some cases on your very next shoot.
The bad news is you can't do it by taking the same pictures over and over without changing anything or accepting outside help. You can't consistently do it on accident. And you can't do it without getting off your duff and putting some work into it.
In other words, you're gonna have to learn something and actually practice it until it makes sense and becomes another word in your visual vocabulary.
You may be thinking, "Joel, the Internet is full of thousands of videos and courses trying to show me how to do photography, and I still don't get it."
My point exactly. They're all stuck: stuck on the exposure triangle, settings, gear, and all the other stuff that doesn't make any sense and actually gets in the way until you start with the language of photography and how to form your first coherent, visual "sentences" with it.
Here's the thing: Although I struggled for 20 years, it didn't take me 20 years to learn this. It took me 20 years to figure out I could do it in 2, if I dove into the language.
If you really want to get better at photography and stay better, here's what you must do:
1. Admit what you don't know,
2. Submit to the teachings of those who know,
3. Commit to putting the information into practice until you master it.
I can't make you do any of these steps. It's up to you. But I can ask, how is what you're doing working?
Contact me for a 1-on-1 today!