How I got into photography
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.
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.
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.
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.