"I used to be better at this."
I've been taking pictures for 15 years. Some of my earliest photos were admittedly terrible. Worse yet, the post-processing was WAY overdone. There's a saying that comes to mind about the law of the instrument. It's something like "when you have a hammer it's tempting to treat everything like a nail." Well I beat the hell out of my early photos with Photoshop.
Over time, I began to take it easy on the post processing. I focused (no pun intended) on the scenes and subjects vs. Photoshop. I was still new to photography and it showed. But when I look back at some of these photos today I'm impressed with myself for a moment before my self-indulgent awe quickly gives way to frustration. Why am I unable to take photos like that again? What have I lost? How do I get that back?
This has created a perpetual cycle for me. It begins after a hiatus from my camera (brought on by the aforementioned frustration). I begin looking back through my old work for inspiration. Inevitably I run across a photo that makes me think "hmmm, not too shabby, but if only I had edited a little differently."
I then begin to revert to original images and retouch them based on my current understanding and skill set. I'll run through a hand full of photos like this. Finally, I reach a point where I wish I had new photos to work on. So I return to the camera.
It goes on from there.
It seems this time of year (early January) there's no shortage of pithy statements and fortune cookie advice for anyone and everyone regardless of their area of interest or their stated goal. Normally I write this off as just another attempt by marketers and people who live off of mouse clicks to capitalize on a time of year when people are making vows of self improvement. It's the same phenomenon that causes Weight Watchers and the like to blow through 80% of their annual advertising budgets by March.
Rather than buy in to the wisdom of "365 projects" and the like, I'm simply going to say this: I wish to break the cycle. I will continue taking pictures and not allow myself to get frustrated. I will learn more about the conventional "rules" of the craft so that I can break them. It's not like I'm burning through expensive film. I'm all digital these days. So what's the harm? I have a day job, so it's not like I'll walk through life with my finger on the shutter release, but I will make more of an effort to experiment. My photography website has a section that I've named "the test kitchen" and it holds the fewest photos of all the sections of my portfolio. No more. Some experiments are failures, and that's fine. Then again, I suppose it's possible that in several years, I'll dig back through old photos and think "hmmm, not too shabby."
To see more of my portrait work as well as photos of places and things, check out my website www.elldubphoto.com