I got my first SLR when I was eighteen years old.
Back then, I guarded this little sucker with my life. I had no idea how to use it. A few days after we became acquainted (because cameras are kinda like people?), I accidentally twisted the lens off and I freaked out, screwed it back on, and cried because I thought I had broke the camera. Like I said: I had NO idea how to use my new SLR and part of me didn't want to figure things out (the camera was so, so big!). Sure, I knew that I could switch lenses, but I was still scared spitless when I figured out how to do it. I mean, what if something had fallen into the camera?!
I'm sure other people feel the same way the first time they twist off their kit lens but, y'know, it still makes for a funny story. This little silver baby was my pride and joy for five years and, shortly after I got married, Andrew bought me a refurbished Canon 40d. Y'know how, especially on blogs, you'll see people rave about how film photography is not just the best way but the only way to go in photography? Well! Until 2009, I was one of those people, religiously so. I was never going to switch to digital. Ever. Sure, I had little digital cameras that I beat to a pulp within ten months because I took so many photographs, but I wasn't going to use a DSLR. I mean, how pretentious did "DSLR" even sound? Why did digital SLRs get an extra letter? I was relentless when anyone asked me about the subject, but then I realized that I didn't want to keep buying film anymore.
And so I bought a camera. And then I bought another camera. And then, well, I bought a third DSLR. There are four SLR bodies in our home: The Film Camera. The Little Camera (40d). Andrew's Camera (7d). My Camera (5d Mark II). Now, I can see how that list could come off as a little glutinous (especially for the wife of a grad school student!), but the truth is, every professional photographer needs a backup and a really good backup at that. My 7d has a better on and off button than my 5d and, it could just be my copies and personal preferences, but the color on the 7d blows the color on the 5d out of the water. But! The 5d is full frame, which changes everything... even though I don't like the power switch. As for the 40d, it won't sell for much more than $450 and I love my 40d, much more than $450 worth. And so! We keep it, just like we keep the Film Camera we use once every five or six months. It's a back up to our backup and, like the Film Camera, is a reminder of how far I have come.
Anyway, I am rambling, but lately I have wanted to admit something. I few months ago, I received an email telling me that I basically had no knowledge of anything camera and photography related and that my artistic vision was weak, at best. Now, in all honestly, I believe the commenter was trying to help me become better, but they were trying to help me in the way they wanted to help me. Photography is subjective. Photographs is an art form. It's also my job. So, when I received the email, I was really hurt, then really mad. And then I got over it. Everyone has different tastes. Everyone has things they should work on. There are famous photographers that I, quite frankly, hate. I don't find their work inspiring or beautiful or really much of anything. There are also famous photographers who I basically see as pretentious hipsters whose originality is lost in everyone else's originality. There are famous photographers whose work make me cry (in a good way). There are unknown, inexperienced (read: bad) photographers who are bossy and think they know everything even though they don't yet know how to shoot in Manual. There are photographers who I follow on Twitter, on Facebook, and on blogs because, even though their work is different than mine, I wish I could live inside of their photographs. There are famous photographers whose work I don't love, but I watch their videos and read their posts because their business insights are absolutely brilliant. So, I'll say it again, photography is subjective. No photographer is going to please everyone, which is why it's good that there are a lot of photographers. There are a lot of people in the world, too.
In closing, I'm not going to lie. When I see that someone has decided that they're going to be a photographer without ever shooting anything or when I see someone say they will be opening their business as soon as they buy Photoshop or when I see someone say that they would be a good photographer if they owned a nice camera, I am the the first to roll my eyes. Please. If that's the route you're going to take, photography probably isn't going to be the best route for you to take, but mostly because photography is hard work. You can't just decide to be a photographer one morning and, two hours and $3000 later, be a photographer. Becoming a photographer is a process and I honestly did not feel comfortable calling myself a photographer until late last summer. I just didn't feel I was at that point yet unless I introduced the term "photographer" with a phrase like "laid-back" or "sort of" or "trying to be". Because that's what I was. I was trying to be. I am still trying to be. I will still be trying to be a photographer in seven years, which is one of the reasons I love this art form. I don't think I will ever arrive at success, in that my definition of success will always be changing. It's fun, though. It's a lot of work, but it is so worth it. I love the photographs I have of my family. I love the photographs I take for other people and I guess what I'm saying is that I wish that someone had told me seven years ago how hard photography was going to be, but how much more I was going to get out of it than what I was going to put in. So! If you're at that starting point and you're frustrated and you're tired and you don't understand why you can't take a photograph like so-and-so can, just know that it is worth every single hour you put in. It's worth all that sweat and comparison and money and criticism, too. It's worth it all.