How I got into photography

Tulips, Tulip festival 2012
Tulips, Tulip festival 2012

A lot of people ask me how I got into photography. I have been getting this question as of late. I was asked by people who were curious when I was photographing bands, by friends, by people at work and just curious people on the internet.

I don’t consider my photography to be amazing. I like to think I am good at it, but it comes out of practice. A lot of times I will look back at photos I took a while ago, or sometimes only a few months ago, and decide they look bad. Things might be out of focus, the picture too dark, the composition awful. I wonder why I bothered to share them.

In my mind, I will always compare my photos with other ones I have taken. I might look at it and at the time I think it’s great, but later I will look back on everything as a whole and realise that some were a lot better than others. It’s not about finding flaws; it’s about progress, and getting better, and being the best you can be.

I got my first camera when I was ten years old. It was a disposable one my parents bought for me so that I could take photos when I went to camp with students from my school. The camera cost $13, which was considered expensive back then. Before I took each photo, I wondered, “Do I really want a photo of this?”

I liked to take photos of trees and buildings, and I hated having people in my photos. I just wanted to take a picture of the scenery and surroundings without having someone’s head or someone walking in it. A lot of my friends didn’t want to be in photos either, and some had not even brought a camera. I asked a few people to take a photo or two of me. So I do remember a full-body shot where I was standing by a lake, and another close shot of my face where I was standing on a pier, with the lake in the background.

Needless to say, the photos I actually took were very boring. After getting the film developed and the photos printed, my parents said they couldn’t see much in the photos and asked why there weren’t any people. After that I thought it was pretty funny.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I went to more events associated with school (not camps though), and in high school I was using a disposable camera about once a year to take photos. This time, I actually took photos of people, and I tried to get other people to take photos of me, or me with my friends. My parents bought a high-end digital camera in 2006, and I started to use that to photograph family events. They wouldn’t let me take it anywhere in case I damaged it.

Just before I went to the snow fields with people in my year group in 2007, my parents bought a less expensive pocket digital camera for my brother and I to share. I took that to the snow, and I took it to school on several occasions. It certainly wasn’t the Year of the Selfie or anything like that, but I liked that I could take a photo of myself with it, without having to ask someone else, and I could delete my photos if I didn’t like them.

From there, I discovered that I really liked to take photos of everything. The fact that I could remove photos if any of them came out badly was something that allowed me to photograph with freedom. I didn’t have to worry about wasting film or losing shots. I just generally liked to document what was happening in my day and interesting things I came across. Ultimately, though, I loved to photograph flowers. We have always had a lively rose garden in our yard.

One of my photos of a rose, 2010
One of my photos of a rose, 2010

I wanted to share these pictures, and that is when I decided to start a photoblog in early 2009. Over the years, I moved from using that pocket camera to using the better family one, which my parents now let me use more often.

I got my first camera phone, and really enjoyed the ease of taking photos on it. I still didn’t use it as much as I used my camera. Wanting to get more into photography, I studied black and white film photography at university in 2010. I bought an SLR film camera, which allowed me to better understand the technical side of photography and appreciate film again, particularly because I got to develop my photographs myself. The cost of the photo paper and film was expensive, but I enjoyed the experience. This time, I tried to compose shots carefully before taking a photo, so it was like 2001 all over again, except I knew a bit more about how to take a photo.

I have to say though, I think I could have challenged myself more technically that year. I didn’t really experiment with various camera settings, or try to. I just took photos of stuff. We were told we would be lucky if we got more than two good shots on a roll of film.

I did well in my photography class because it was a lot more about being creative than getting things looking entirely good. I continued to do photography, until I decided it was time for me to buy a DSLR (you know, one of those bigger, more professional cameras). I struggled through one of my subjects which was based on studio photography because I had not learned about any of the equipment like the other students had. I did not know how to use a DSLR and the ones available for hire at university were already taken. I was, frankly, too afraid to ask anyone for help.

The camera I bought was a Canon 1000D, and I enjoyed taking photos of whatever I could. I loved the camera a lot, but it’s fair to say I didn’t know much about it technically. I also didn’t really care to learn by reading. I ignored the manuals. I didn’t really read into which cameras were best, either. It was a rash decision.

I had been to a few music concerts, able to bring a pocket camera. I did not know much about music venues then, and didn’t know how to gauge whether or not one would allow a large camera in. I took one to a small venue because it was a place with an eating area and I was sure they would not mind. I was familiar with some of the larger theatres, though, and one day I decided to be daring as hell and just sneak my large camera into one. I was successful, and even though I was just squished at the front with my camera, I was still able to take a few pictures.

Jordi from San Cisco – one of my earlier and less successful photos
Jordi from San Cisco – one of my earlier and less successful photos

I am not sure of the exact moment I decided that I wanted to keep taking photos like this. I still posted on my photoblog and took photos of flowers, even starting a project titled A Thousand Roses (I never finished it). But not long after that concert, I found myself enjoying going to a little place called The Standard, where there was no barrier in front of the stage, and where a lot of my favourite bands would often play. It was at one of the gigs there that I met Andrew from Hey Geronimo and some other people who played there, and they were thrilled that I was taking photos.

Of course, I was not very good then, and am still getting quite used to it, but I think that receiving that kind of recognition and seeing the result of my efforts was motivating. I have loved music for a very long time, and I do like just watching and enjoying the music sometimes, but knowing that I can capture that in some way, apart from behind my eyelids before I fall asleep at night, is something that makes me want to keep going.

It was hard just sticking my nose into every gig I could find, then posting my photos on the internet, but I was getting at least a little bit noticed. That is when I decided to try and apply and write for various music blogs. It has given me a bit of confidence in what I do. I feel a lot better about my photography, and I have since upgraded my equipment, at the same time knowing full well that a good photographer is not someone with the flashiest stuff. In fact, I have only bought two lenses and a new camera body since I bought my first DSLR.

A photo I took of Solange earlier this year (
A photo I took of Solange earlier this year (

I really enjoy concert photography, and while it is not the only thing that I can photograph, I love that I can regularly challenge myself with it. I can do that simply by going to concerts of different genres, in different venues, and that means different facial expressions and body movements from musicians, as well as different lighting. I’ve gone from taking some dim tilted shot of a stage where you can barely see the musicians, to photographing someone as prominent as Solange, and even dragging my camera into a Weezer concert.

There are many things I love to photograph, and passion is one of them.

Comments on this post

Ahh Georgina, I must say you’ve definitely improved since the time I’ve known you. :)

Your sentiments about how you compare yourself to your previous photos resonates with me, except I also now compare my photos with others & I feel like I’m just not that good & won’t get any better. But that’s not true at all because there are times when I feel that I see progression & then there are times when I clearly regress. I think you know what I’m talking about. Surely there are times when you’re at a concert & you take inferior pictures than you expected.

Concert photography isn’t easy & you’re really putting yourself out there by investing in it. Really requires a fast ass lens!

Also, wow I had no idea that you didn’t bother to do any research before buying a DSLR! You’re such a rational person that it kind of baffled me, but at least you’ve got the hang of it now. I definitely did my research when I upgraded my Nikon D40 to the D5100. Went on several sites reading about whether the D90 or D5100 was better. I’m glad I did because I would’ve purchased some large monstrosity that is technically that much better than a D5100! But, I also recently bought a beautiful manual, one I think you’d appreciate & the series comes in Canon too, that has been so helpful. Feel like such a tard for not knowing some things the manual mentioned…like holy cow dung batman, I just discovered that my camera has a built-in double/triple exposure function. DAFUQ. Thought you could only do that on film or photoshop, totes wrong haha.

Don’t you just love when you mess around with your camera & you find out some new option you never knew existed before? I think that’s something that keeps you coming back to photography is the constant learning experience. :)

I definitely have my bad days, and sometimes I know I’m gonna get some pretty crappy photos of a concert, but knowing there is always room for improvement is a good thing. :) That’s why I like shooting in many different environments so I can figure out how to change my camera settings to take the best pictures.

Buying a camera in a rush was a dumb and silly thing to do! I guess class was pressuring me so I bought whatever camera I saw that was cheap and that was a Canon. I don’t regret it though, because I have certainly learned since then. Cameras have a ton of features that I am positive I have not explored yet. Sometimes I even keep forgetting my camera can actually video record things. Derp.

I wish I could take images like you, you’re pretty awesome you know? ♥

First of all, I gotta say that I wasn’t THAT into photography before, however, after visiting your photoblog, I was inspired. At first the passion inside me has always been writing but never really photographing, studying what is composition, what is negative space or the rule of third, how to do bokeh (I’m still very thankful for the advice and tips you gave for capturing bokeh shots), etc. Before, I thought I was all for graphics design until I was inspired to “hey, let’s try this new thing called photography for fun” and part of that inspiration was influenced by your shots so I gotta say, I’m thankful for you and all your shots/works ✌️

When I first bought my dslr, my mind was only reaching up to the level of “photography is interesting. I’d like to learn it, to study it” and then that was it. I took pictures over pictures and thought they were decent but like you, now that I looked at my first few shots back then, I find myself cringing at how I captured things. And then I lost my camera in a train station at HK and that was when I realized that it’s not gonna be “just another hobby”, realizing that perhaps, I really DO mean it this time, wanting to make a real money out of this.

It all started thanks to me stalking your photoblog, to be honest haha as creepy as that sounds /snort

And then everything went a little further. I began spending hours browsing on the net about categories of photography, tips and tricks and how to learn shooting in manual and all that jazz. It has reached to the point where I sort of begged and sacrificed not buying stuff I want so I can have my mother buy for me 35mm camera, a toy cam and some film rolls haha :P

I swear all the things you wrote up there, they’re almost everything what I wanna say if I ever write such post. Your words are really what’s in my mind lol.. I used to dislike taking pictures of people too…I used to say I want to JUST photograph the nature, sky, animals and stuff I’m interested in…but then again things change and I like stalking strangers and quietly take pictures of them LOL (again it sounds wrong). I still don’t like taking pictures of people who pose for me though since I don’t think it’s natural enough? uh… /ehh Like when there’s a family gathering or something and people nag me to take pictures of them posing…I’m not comfortable with that since I like to explore my surrounding and find a “less important” subject to focus on…if that makes sense.

My parents used to think that they’re buying me a dslr just because it’s what I need for photography class, because it’s part of the syllabus. what they didn’t know was that it turned out into something bigger for me, something extremely important that I’d sacrifice some stuff I really want to buy if it means saving for a new lens… everyone around me in campus seems to have a dslr because it’s a requirement, not because they’re serious or anything and sometimes it makes me sad. :( Some of them mistreat their dslr too, calling it stupid and whatever when in fact, it’s not the camera’s fault if they have blurry photos whatsoever.

I remember going to the camera store wanting to buy a EOS 600D but then I was introduced by the sony alpha series and even though at that time I wasn’t at all “camera geek”, I understood technical specs (thanks to being a PC geek, I guess) and I end up choosing the sony alpha….not that I regret it though. some people frown at my choice, saying that “sony isn’t the it stuff in a dslr market- why didn’t you pick a canon or nikon?” it kind of um… annoyed me at one point how much some people – clueless people – believe in only brand names. But I remember how some people encourage me, saying that a good photograph comes from the person behind the lens, not the camera and that you can achieve great images even with a cell phone camera if you’re doing it right. I guess I’m sticking to that principle.

I really admire you in…well, I should say, almost everything? Even though my interest lies deepest in food photography, I am amazed by your concert photographs. It’s not an easy task, what’s with all the fast paced singers and such, having to deal with shutter speed (probably)…. so yeah, I’m in awe by what you can do. 😏 Again we’re back to the first ground where I was influenced and inspired by your photoblog. It was where everything escalated, where I discovered what I want my profession to be despite not getting any support from anyone. /bash It sucks and it’s hard but well, what can I do, eh… sometimes I even got myself scolded for wanting to pursue photography. ah…sigh :( I know how people think it’s easy like “get a job so you can buy yourself things you want” but it doesn’t work that way here in Indonesia? Like..we don’t get summer jobs whatsoever so yeah.

I’ve been thinking about a prime carl zeiss lens but I have not the courage to say / discuss it to my parents.. /snort It’s hella expensive so I’m thinking that maybe I’m in no position of, you know, asking too much 😳 a part of me think I’ve been asking for too much and I should probably stop being so demanding. how confusing /ho

The other day I wanted a full frame DSLR to replace my first lost one but decided not to because I’m not a pro yet and I don’t want to be too demanding… I’m not sure if that was the right decision or not, if staying with a semi-pro instead of a full frame was the right decision (because my parents dislike / do not accept change very well. they’d be like, “wtf you already have 1 camera stop asking all the time okay!”) XD XD

Buying lens can be very tempting since they all look gorgeous XD but yea like you, up til now, I have only two lens that is a prime and a standard kit but I was thinking of replacing the standard with a 135mm prime instead since I barely use it anymore anyway…. what do you suggest though? I’m really confuse. I don’t want to make the wrong decision O_O

I don’t consider myself good. Heck, I have to plunge myself into the pool of jealousy and tears when I see other people’s photographs….feeling like maybe they have better future/chances than I ever would in this field/industry you all comes back to the insecurity eating me up. /ehh I guess I’m standing in between fear and confidence at the same time. who knows.. I wanna be serious in this but I’m also scared of moving forward, if that makes sense.

Oops, I’m extremely sorry for taking up the comment box like this. I just, surprisingly, spilled emotions on you! Yikes O_O

ANYWAY, my point is, you’re the influence and the inspiration that started this passion in me before it took its own twist into a greater level so I wanna say thank you, even though you may not realize it haha