Patience and slow growth have made me a better photographer

Let’s start this off with a good ole confession: I’m not as patient as I claim to be.

I grew up practicing patience. I learned it from my Dad, the most patient person I know. He does everything slowly and deliberately (my mom would say too slow!). I always admired that about him. When I was younger, I would ask him a question and it might take him 10 minutes to craft a response. He thought about what he wanted to say and made sure it perfectly represented him, always with a calm and soothing demeanor. I wanted to be like that too.

Fast-forward to having children and I knew my “patience” quality would take me very far. WRONG! Patience with kids requires practice and let’s just say, I haven’t been the best student. 🙂

I rediscovered patience during my photography journey.

When you strip away some of the creative and technical aspects, the essence of creating a good photograph lies in waiting for something: the right lighting, a decisive moment, or an interesting composition.

Waiting is not something we have come accustomed to doing in this modern age where it’s all about speed, efficiency, and recognition. We try to rush the photographic process. With digital photography and social media it means we go out and take photos, get something we think we like, immediately process it, and upload it online. But a week or so later, we realize the photograph wasn’t as good as we thought it was.

If you decide you want to pursue photography seriously, you learn that immediate gratification doesn’t always come.

The best option we have to become better photographers is to use time to our advantage.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to slow down in my journey and how they’ve helped me be a more patient artist:

I keep my gear  limited.

My current gear consists of the following of one full-frame camera (Nikon D750 and one prime lens, Nikon 50 1.8). That’s it. I have a backup camera, but I never use it. You don’t need a lot of gear to a be a good photographer. It’s about working with what you have. And in my opinion, it’s better if you start that process without having a lot of fancy gear to get in the way of what truly matters, the subject, and how you want to approach creating the image. It can be intimidating for me not having all the fancy gear that my peers have, but it’s not practical or cost-efficient for me to do right now. I rent lenses depending on the type of shoot. I’ve still been able to book clients, take images I love, and contribute to several photography groups with just one lens.

I don’t let the number of clients I have determine my value.

Clients don’t equal talent. Did you have one client that you loved to shoot this year? Celebrate that! Continue to hone your skill and find the people who appreciate your vision. ’As long as you are working with people who love your work and are willing to pay your price, you can have a successful business with fewer clients.

I choose education carefully.

So, this is something I had to learn the hard way. There are so many options for education now. You can go the traditional route at a college or university or be self-taught like myself. But, if you want to take your art to the next level, you have to invest in education. I wasted a lot of money in the beginning buying presentations, online workshops, and e-books that all shared the same information. I didn’t know what to choose and it can be overwhelming to weed through the vast list of options… all claiming to help you master a certain skill.  Now that I’ve been around the block a few times, I go about education choices differently. I thoroughly research any instructor, what they are offering, and how it will help me. I set a budget for education and focus on learning a skill where I feel I have a weakness. Remember, no mentorship, new shooting concept, or preset can help you be a better photographer if you haven’t learned the basics and done some internal digging about the type of photos you want to make. Once you figure that out, your images will speak for themselves and you will have a better idea of what you want to learn.

I make time for reflection.

I like to look back old photos and appreciate how much I’ve grown. I hope you do that as well. Congratulate yourself and celebrate your accomplishments! The highlight of my personal growth as a photographer came as I started to reflect less on the images and really started to focus on the reason why I take photos. I’ve learned that I love photographing light and shadow, quiet moments, emotional connection, joy, and individuality. Now that I know that, I immediately see those things and don’t have to try as hard as I used to do to create an interesting photograph.

 I trust the journey.

I have a full-time job, a family and countless other personal obligations.  I am not working to be a nationally acclaimed portrait artist. I simply don’t have the time to devote my every waking moment to learning the craft, so, I don’t. I fit photography into my schedule and I make time for it because it’s important to me. This might mean I have three hours in a month to practice a new skill or that I might be a bit rusty after picking up my camera after a week of rest.

My journey being a photographer is whatever I make it and I’m happy to do it slowly and deliberately, just like my Dad taught me.

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