Always Growing...

The Journey: A Process of Weighing Successes and Failures

February 7, 2015: Photo Shoot at the Birdsell Mansion in South Bend, Indiana

There's something special that happened to me on this day, for the past two years. In 2014, I accepted a full time position as a Photographer's Assistant at the studio where I currently work as a Photographer. In 2015, I embarked on a photo shoot that got the ball rolling on the development of my personal portfolio. Today, I am looking back at those two events and measuring everything I have learned since. These past two years feel like forever, but when stepping back I realize that it's only a short and important part of my journey.

I'll be honest and say that it has been hard to get much personal work done as of late. I am second guessing myself. I am struggling to define my interests in terms of my shooting style: natural light/studio light, fashion/portraiture, color/b&w. And yes, while I realize that I can do all of these things and still make beautiful imagery, I find more and more that the key to success is to define yourself as a photographer through a coherent vision. 

And to do that, I am constantly looking for inspiration. I follow countless photographers on Instagram, read photo blogs, such as Fstoppers, and subscribe to a few fashion magazines. Therefore, I am constantly comparing myself to others work. And with that comes a lack of direction from worrying too much about what other people are doing. I want to make work like them and I lose sight of my vision. I need to constantly remind myself that I am a unique individual who has her own take on the world. 

A recent assisting adventure in Florida

A recent assisting adventure in Florida

Recently I have been working on natural feeling portraits of some young people I know. I shot three sessions and loved the images from each of them. But the fourth one, I admit, did not go so well. Now there are a lot of factors that went into me declaring the shoot as a "failure..."

Both me, the model, and her mother who attended the shoot admit that there was just something off that day, for all of us. The shoot was about a month ago and I have just selected a few edits to share on my blog, as well as my Instagram.

Although I may not showcase these images in the future, looking back at them helps me learn a lot about what I need to do to move forward with the next shoot...

1. Model / Photographer Interaction: So essential in shooting people. I learn so much about this from watching the photographers around me when they work with a model.

I am naturally shy, so this is the biggest thing that I feel I need to overcome as a photographer of people. I may have gathered a collection of more interesting poses and facial expressions if I had just worked a little harder with my model.

2. Natural Light: I photographed these images in my apartment, where I have two sets of bay windows. I set up a backdrop and started the shoot. Using only natural light in an interior setting is something pretty new to me. The amount of light was constantly changing through the windows, which at first upset me. It would be overcast, and then suddenly streaks of harsh light would file through the window. But without that harsh light, I couldn't have achieved the highlights that you see in the first two images. 

3. Trusting yourself and your process: I started shooting these images tethered. I could see the images come up on screen and make some exposure adjustments in CaptureOne. But the problem was, that so could my model. She keep looking at the screen between shots, and it potentially made her overthink things or get self conscious. I eventually shot to a memory card, which helped me and her focus more on what we were doing. I should have trusted my skill and not remain attached to a computer monitor. I got caught up in the RAW image not looking perfect, and didn't think through the process of what I can do in Photoshop to add to an image.

I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have had over two years and all I have gained and put towards my skill. At work, I continue to assist and work as a photographer on small projects, but I also have been shooting on-figure fashion for one of our clients!

The Birdsell shoot, to me, was stressful and full of technical difficulties. But I look back at it with a smile. I can picture myself in that moment and still feel the stress I was feeling then. I know that even though parts of the shoot didn't go as planned, it was worth it because it was the start of something big in my life.

Life is a journey. And life, as well as art, is nothing without pain, fear, joy, and love. I am on my own journey. I can't compare mine to others because they may be further along in theirs than I am. Every artist sees the weak points, the "failures," of their work before they see anything else. I know within the next year I will have some successes in my life. I just know that. Even if it may be a process to get there. And in another year I can look back at this "failed" shoot and know it has made me better.