Life lessons from photography – #1

I was nominated for the 5-photo-5-story challenge by the talented Indah, a while back. But since I staged a disappearance from the blogosphere soon after, I never got around to doing it. Until yesterday, when the wonderful Yvette also nominated me for the 5-story challenge.

So I’ve finally decided to get my act together, and here’s how I’m doing it – 5 days, 5 photos, 5 stories, and 5 (personal) life lessons.


The photo

Winter wonderland

This is clicked Niseko, Japan. One of the earliest I took with my DSLR, without being in the auto mode. I had recently learnt about EV compensation. I realize that there isn’t anything interesting about the composition, but to be able to get my snow looking white, rather than greyish was quite thrilling.


The Story

I don’t quite remember when or how I got interested in photography. At first it was mostly to capture memories of our holidays and travels around the world. I used a simple point and shoot, and spent a lot of time bugging Hubby to pose for me, or click me in return.

Then during a sabbatical from my hectic finance job in 2010, I took the plunge and bought a DSLR camera and took some classes. Besides the technical aspects, it was for the first time I was exposed to rules of composition… and suddenly I realized, how little I knew, and how much my photos sucked. I went out with my new Nikon and clicked pictures, and it was just so difficult to remember all the technical aspects – do I have the right ISO, what aperture should I pick, is this angle interesting enough? I ended up with incorrect exposures, blurred subjects and bland compositions… basically failures.

And I got frustrated and decided, I just didn’t have the talent for it.

Very soon, I was back on the auto mode, using my DSLR as a P&S.

And then, as I re-joined my job and got busy with unrelenting 70-hour weeks, doing something I knew I was good at, it was simple to forget about my new “hobby”.

I guess in a way, it hurt my ego so much to be “no good”, that it was easier to just not do it. Being in the middle of the bell curve was scary enough, but to be at the bottom end, was beyond the realm of imagination.

I picked up photography again in 2013, after I quit my job. I invested in a longer (and infinitely more useful) photography course. I spent time online just looking at photos that appealed to me. I joined a photography club to practice the craft with, and learn from, other enthusiasts. I began taking pictures on my phone, even if I wasn’t carrying my camera with me. I started a travel blog, which pushed me to pay more attention to my photos. I followed other blogs whose photos inspired me. I spent a lot of time playing around in Lightroom and working on my post-processing skills.

Earlier this year, a friend asked me to do a photo shoot for her newborn. I was nervous, because I’d never done anything like that before (I mostly click landscapes, food or street scenes), and I really wanted to do a good job, so that she could have beautiful memories of her son’s first month.

I prepared quite a bit, but the results were, in my opinion, “less than satisfactory”. I ended up with less than 5 photos which were “decent”.

Recently, the same friend asked me to do another photo shoot for her family. I was flattered that she would trust me with that. So maybe she was quite happy with the pictures I took, even if I wasn’t.

This time round, I got a lot more “usable photos” and was happier with the results. (Well, no one’s paying me yet, but I can see that they were better compared to my previous attempt).

And when I look back at all my photo archives, I can see the improvement there too.

There is a LOOOOONNNNG way to go yet… I am far from being good.

But strides have been made.

Slowly, but surely.

I think I’m finally graduating elementary school.

And have learnt several valuable life-lessons along the way.


Lesson # 1

This will be a cliché and just obvious to most of you, but it took me a while to fully internalize – to do anything new, you just have to start at the beginning. You’ll likely suck at first. You have to okay with that. It’s not the reason you should give up.

You’ll need to take it step by step.  You’ll need to put in the hard yards. You won’t get good overnight. You’ll fail, probably more often than you succeed. You need to keep learning (and isn’t there a certain joy in learning something new?). You may never get “THAT” good. But you’ll get better. A lot better, from where you started. And that in itself, will be rewarding.



P.S. My nomination today is to Thatiana of Never Clip My Wings, whose unique photographic eye and stunning compositions are a constant source of inspiration for me.