For the past few years, some time in January, I have made a plan. In a way I suppose you could call it a business plan, though I have been reluctant to title it as such because that, somehow, makes it seem official. Like a commitment to achieve exactly what I set out to achieve without room for stepping sideways which is an option I like to keep open…
Now that sounds like I’m setting myself up for failure – which is inaccurate – instead I have learned that what I achieve will perhaps be slightly different from the original goal. But no less of an actual achievement.
So a kind of list making has become my thing. In this year I would very much like to achieve – would be happy if I manage to achieve – in an ideal (super efficient) year would achieve – this… It feels infinitely less intimidating and therefore my goals seem much more likely to actually happen.
My goals are not always grand either, but for a few years now, my list has included improving areas of my photography where there are gaps. Actually this applies every year because there are always gaps and if I couldn’t see that there were any, I would guess I’d have lost interest. Not yet though!
THIS YEARS PLAN
This year, I began with a plan based around my love of photography that began to hatch late last year. I have been sharing posts with practical advice on photography and Instagram here for almost two years and what I really wanted to do was create a more meaningful way of encouraging others to make the best of their photographs.
I have shared many thoughts on Instagram here, and indeed will most likely share some more, but Instagram is a game. Social media is, by it’s very nature, fleeting. It is hard to see it as anything but temporary – in it’s current form at least – as Instagram has changed to be almost unrecognisable as the platform I originally downloaded almost six years ago. Beyond the basic upload a photo & caption, everything has gradually moved along.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am as fascinated by Instagram and all of its developments as I ever was. It opened a door into a line of work that I absolutely adore and I am more than happy to speak to anyone about it (those who have met me will back me up no doubt, I can talk for Far Too Long about it). I will try my very best to help people make the most of their Instagram gallery, but my true love lies beyond social media and the fast pace at which it moves.
I am more passionate about a skill that will stay with you always once you learn it well and actually, even if you are not as enthusiastic about it as me, learning a few of the basic principles alone will change your photos for the better. Even if you take it no further than family snaps (for the record, these are my very favourite kind of photos, the ones that never even make it online).
A few months ago, I began to put the idea ‘out there’. To test the water, in part, and to commit myself to action. Is there really a need for me to share my knowledge, even if there are some gaps and I am still learning myself?
THE STORY OF LEARNING
To answer this question, I took a long hard look at where I am and how I got here. I have been asked several times recently, what’s the story? How did I become a photographer? I guess a little reflection helps perspective, so here is that story.
I have always loved and collected photographs – the photos in the image above are all of my immediate family and all I cherish. Beyond that though, family photo albums, album covers, books, imagery of any kind appeals to me. My first camera was a disc film camera – I can’t even remember the make though I can well remember the excitement it gave – in the 1980’s. It was both brilliant and frustrating all at once. I was caught up in the enthusiastic anticipation of developing a full disc of photos, only to be met with frustration at how imperfect the photographs were once printed. I guess you could say the highs and lows were just the same as they are now but with added film and developing expense.
When I was at sixth form (yes, showing my age again, it was just as they were changing the number to yr 12) I took a short photography course with a borrowed manual 35mm film SLR Kodak camera. I took photos of, well, bits of trees and buildings. Sound familiar? With perhaps a couple of portraits of friends. What I loved more though was the process of developing the film in a darkroom. The little bit of magic that happens when you transfer the image from negative to print.
This was a course I repeated when I was at university studying Fashion. But university – specifically fashion – was just not for me at that time so I left with an incomplete degree and a huge heart full of doubt about the path I would walk next.
Between leaving uni and fairly recently, photography was at the back of my mind. I actually doubted my own creative self. To be creative is, by its very nature, to think outside of the box. To be different. To innovate. These are words I have been uncomfortable with for a very long time because they bring another set of words with them. Fear, uncertainty, risk.
There is a reason for my reluctance to follow a creative road, there were several circumstances in my life that led to a very dark time. Separation, depression, illness, dark things. Creativity fled and I worked in office jobs which I always despised, but everyone needs to earn a living and I guess many of us will have that trapped feeling at some point too.
Looking back (and I am really not going to share the whole story here because it is long and complicated and at times unhappy) I can see so clearly why I doubted myself. How to step outside that box, I need to know that what remains inside the box is secure and will be waiting – just as it always was – for me to jump back in when I need reassurance.
When Anna was born 5 years ago I reached a point of desperation. Frustration. I really needed to scratch that creative itch and had come across a local Instagrammer on Twitter (of all places, not Instagram at all?!) who simply posted a photo a day in response to a list of prompts published by another Instagrammer/blogger each month.
I wanted to play too. I craved a safe, easy way to be creative. Actually photography was secondary at that point. It was the discovery of the photo a day community that drew me in to Instagram. The company and chat and, best of all, encouragement to create.
a creative road
What I realised within the first six months of Instagramming was two main things. Firstly that I found the prompt restrictive, so I posted more than once a day to fit in the other photos I wanted to share too. Secondly I realised that I wanted to improve my photography.
Not long after that I bought my first, basic DSLR. A Canon 1100d. In the sales, at a huge discount. Because it felt like a big expense when I was just looking to try out my theory. The rest though, as they say, is history. I was hooked.
From improving my knowledge and use of the technical elements of camera settings and editing, to training my eye to see the photograph I want to take, then editing it to make the most of what I have. Photography is very much a part of me. Of my life and work. And I LOVE it.
TO PASS IT ON
I have mentioned before that I learn best through observing and doing. That left gaps though, some quite big gaps, in my knowledge so when I hadn’t figured something out this way, I would always turn to reading and watching.
I have, in fact, spent years doing this. Learning as I go. Using instruction manuals, tutorials and reference charts, I find the relevant information and study it. Filling in the gaps.
And sharing that information seems, to me, the only thing to do because what would be the point in keeping it all to myself? What if, along the way, someone else could learn something too?
What stopped me doing this earlier is that, well, it’s all been done. And very well.
What changed my mind was listening to how you respond when I do share posts here. Reading your messages, comments and emails. The realisation that some of you actually engage with the way I think has been huge for me!
Honestly, I have sat on this all for too long. Some eBooks ready, some half written and a whole eCourse full of more information to come. Facing ‘The Fear’, self doubt, stepping out of comfort zones, whatever you want to call it, is my biggest obstacle.
Until one day I just stopped (over)thinking and uploaded my first eBook, closed my eyes and – with a deep breath – sent it off into the internet.
So you see the answer to my question is, I believe, yes. I think there is space for me to share what I have learned already in a way that may help others learn and improve too. I am not – and never will be – claiming to know everything, but I have learned an awful lot.
There will be things I say that really make sense to you and perhaps things that don’t. That is all part of the process. But I want to teach some of what I have learned if I can.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
What I LOVE about this is that it doesn’t matter what happens next! One step at a time is just perfect. If one person has found my resources useful then I’m happy. More than one and I’m joyful.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the five eBooks I have so far and am beyond excited about launching my first eCourse later this year so whatever happens next, I’m good. Whether long term or short, this is a path I am happy to dance along for as long as it will have me. If you would like to join in too then you’d be very welcome.
Of course I have ambitions and would love to take this course much further over time, but only time will tell if that will happen. Rest assured though that there are always plans behind the scenes!
You can find my currently available resources via the ‘learn‘ option in the menu, and it will be updated regularly over the next few months. If you are interested in hearing when new resources are online, you can subscribe via the form on this page, I really don’t email often, just when there’s something to actually say!
P.S. if you would like to ‘meet’ me and hear a little more, recently I spoke at Adobe’s online event which you can find here