A photographer’s journey is just like a life growing process and journey. We all start from the bottom, learning how to crawl, followed by walking and running. My photography journey has been part of me since about 25-30 years ago when I played with my first camera, a Pentax ME Super SLR camera that belongs to my Dad. While it wasn’t the smoothest and everything photography all the way from then, somehow or another, it had always been a part of me (although it left for a while and came back to me). Reflecting and looking back, I had learned and improved and I am still learning and hopefully improving!
While I was reading Outdoor Photographer Magazine (one of my favourite photography magazines) recently, the July 2013 edition. I read an article by George D. Lepp, under Tech Tips “10 Steps to Photographic Fulfillment“. His words, wisdom and sharing struck me really deep in the heart and got me thinking hard and reflecting about my photography again. From George’s 10 Steps to Photographic Fulfillment, I decided to use his 10 Steps for my own sharing and reflection on my photography journey.
Step 1 – Photograph With A Purpose
There were times earlier in my photography days that I pretty much shoot anything that interests me and I got bored after some time, to the extent that I said there were nothing more interesting to shoot. This was also a turning point for me when I started to start looking more in-depth into my surroundings, my purpose and what I actually plan or/and want to photograph. Along with life changing incidents and growing older in age, I started to look at things differently and also looking back in time. One key area was the loss of things/culture/landmarks from my childhood and growing up years, that propelled me into Photographing With A Purpose – to document, photograph and share Old Places in Singapore. Photographing and documenting Old Places had been an on-going personal project for past few years and it allowed me to know many more new photographer friends with the same frequency. While my personal project is still on-going, for future photography adventures, I will make a point that I Photograph With A Purpose.
Step 2 – Do Your Research
Doing research is an integral part of photography, from learning new photography techniques to understanding animals behaviour (for wildlife photography) or where/when to travel for landscape sceneries shoot. There’s lots of planning and it only helps in your photography adventure and experiences. This would also allows you to enjoy your photography better and it can be a more fun time for you.
Step 3 – Invest Wisely In Equipment
There are always new toys and accessories in the market that is always enticing and attracting you to buy. It can be very tempting but we have to seriously ask ourselves, what kind of photography am I shooting and do I really need this new toy or accessories? Once we decided on a particular field of photography, we shouldn’t rush into buying all the new toys and accessories immediately. Personally, I encourage you all to explore and master your new toy (e.g. lens) and its capabilities and limitations before adding on the accessories to achieve the specialisation that you wanted in your photography. Sharing my own personal experiences, I started sports photography with my Canon EOS30D and EF 70-200mm f/4 L lens and I used this combination for about 3-4 years, shooting Rugby 7s and Singapore GP, before upgrading to a Canon EOS 1D Mark III and most recently adding the EF 300mm f/2.8 L lens. All this was done over a period of 5 years.
Step 4 – Embrace Education
Education, is and should be lifelong and ongoing, never-ending, regardless of whether it is about your work/professional career or hobby such as photography. For myself, photography was a lot about self-learning and exploration, coupled with some guide books, internet resources and one of the most important education that I ever received and I am still receiving was learning from photography seniors/masters/mentors. I am blessed by some bits and pieces of mentoring by different photographers and I am very grateful to them for passing down/sharing their photography tips, techniques, experiences and wisdom with me during my photography journey. While I am still learning the wonders of education in Photography, I am embracing sharing and mentoring through my own photography education and experiences, by teaching photography, I will be able to improve my level of photography knowledge and education.
Step 5 – Pursue Your Project
This is all about making and taking the First big step, in whatever you do. When you decided on your Photography Purpose, it’s now about execution and doing it! There will be ups and downs, it’s all part of your photography journey and do not give up! Just Do It and Keep It Going!
Step 6 – Adjust and Adapt
While we are make plans to complete an assignment/project/goal, things are never smooth and there will be ups and downs along the way. Therefore, while we all make good plans, we must always be ready for changes and unforseen things happening. We need to be able and ready to adjust and adapt according to the situations, it can be adding/doing extra things into your existing project or taking away some of the things you are doing. Just like taking photographs, we always have to be ready to adjust and adapt to weather, lighting and situational conditions.
Step 7 – Follow Through At The Computer
Post processing initially was never part of my photography workflow. I confessed I was lazy, I don’t have the expertise, knowledge and software. I was stubborn and ignorant. After years, I slowly learned more about the scientific aspects behind those camera sensors and how different camera brands design/program them. There is a need for post processing and I began to adopt a simple post processing workflow into my photography recently using Aperture. In my photography adventure, I will ensure that the photographs that I take do not need too much post-processing by getting it close to “correct” based on the situation.
Step 8 – Invite Criticism
One of the human race worst flaw in my personal opinion is not able to take criticism in life. In life, criticisms (that are constructive) help us to improve in the things that we do, in work/career and our hobbies too. While criticisms can be painful at times (and your ego severely deflated), if the criticisms are unbiased, informed, constructive, meaningful and helpful, in the direction of helping you improve your photography techniques, composition etc … All photographers can take back something constructive from it and move on to improve their photography skills and techniques.
Step 9 – Use Your Work
Share your works, with friends, photography enthusiasts, your local community and people around the world. Your works can be for sale or it can be part of a greater contribution to a social movement cause. Your photography works can make an impact and difference to the society around you and the world as well. I shared my photography works in various capacities and my photography experiences at alumni organisations and school. I have a Facebook Page for my Photography adventures and has a summary of my photography adventures to date. Some of my personal photography projects are Old Places and The Green Corridor.
Step 10 – Share Your Knowledge
I believe in this personal philosophy Pay-It-Forward, this brings me back to ground level and start giving back to where I learned and started from. That is why I am active in my alumni mater activities and events, going back to my roots and giving it back something meaningful to them (as much as possible) , they are my Dragon Scout Group family and University of Queensland Alumni Association of Singapore. I also personally believe that sharing and passing on my photography knowledge as a mentor would help me in attaining higher levels of photography as I continued shooting and learning new things in photography. Start sharing your photography and Pay-It-Forward, to the wider local and international community out there!
After reading this article on Outdoor Photographer, it just impacted me a lot and reflect deeply. There are still many things for me to learn in photography and I am enjoying photography a lot more than the time when I said to myself “I have nothing interesting to shoot”. Today, I am not only photographing with a purpose, I am also embracing education to learn new photography skills and knowledge.
Moving ahead, I am planning to photograph more different areas and document more photographic stories to tell life stories and I like you to walk this photography journey with me!
“Your First 10,000 Photographs Are Your Worst” – Henri Cartier-Bresson