As photographers, we’re always so critical of our own work and are constantly comparing ourselves to others. It’s easy to forget that the other photographer may have 20+ years experience on us, have thousands of dollars poured into gear and equipment, and lives in the freaking gorgeous mountains of Colorado. The only person we should compare ourselves to is us—past us.
My first photography class was my junior year of high school. I had probably picked up a camera once before and no clue what I was doing. Aperture, f-stop, ISO — what the heck is that? Being the super deep and introspective high school student that I was, I wanted to do something super edgy for my first assignment — stick smiley face stickers on my sister’s face but make her look sad and do it in black and white, a bold statement on the masks we wear and hiding behind a smile and yada yada yada. We sat in her bedroom, I put the stickers on her face, threw feathers in her hair, and used a Target lamp for lighting. I thought I was the coolest freakin’ kid.
Looking at these photos now, I can where I went wrong. But I was in high school and this was my first photography class, so duh there are mistakes! I still thought jelly bracelets were cool and wearing black eyeshadow all around my eyes like a raccoon was cute, so of course these photos aren’t a reflection of the photographer I am now. I took more classes, started using a camera that wasn’t a point and shoot from Walmart, and I got better. It takes time and effort and “werk” with an “e.”
Ashley likes to bring up old photo shoots so we can both laugh and cringe at how awkward we were and reminisce about how awesome middle and high school was for both of us. So we decided to try it again—this time in full color with shiny stickers, better makeup, and even better eyebrows. Needless to say, eight years makes a huge difference.
The point is: don’t worry about what other people are doing. Look at your work and how far you’ve come and how much further you can push yourself. Who cares that Joe Schmo has the best camera or lens on the market or that Natalie Nebraska has a million followers on Instagram? I know it’s hard and I know it sucks, but when you focus on you and how you can be someone else’s inspiration and be proud of the work you’re creating, holy crap it’s so much better.