I still remember the day it arrived so clearly. Ever since clicking that golden yellow “place my order” button, my stomach had been fluttering with eagerness to finally hold it in my hands: my very own DSLR camera. It was the first big, extravagant purchase my husband and I had made in our marriage. Something I had been wanting for years. The thing that felt like the first step in a new adventure.
I obsessively checked the tracking number all day, eagerly awaiting the rumble of the UPS truck coming down our road. I had uncharacteristically splurged and spent the additional $3.99 for one-day Amazon Prime shipping, but even 24 hours felt like an eternity to wait!
By mid-afternoon, that much awaited moment finally arrived, and I tried to be cool and casual as I met our friendly UPS driver at the door (even though I was feeling anything but!), signed on the line, and brought my package into the house. Finally, finally, it was in my hands! All the possibilities I had been imagining were now within reach!
As I unboxed my new baby and held it in my hands, my excitement quickly faded into feelings of intimidation. I felt overwhelmed by all the new features there were to learn. The dials. The buttons. The switches. Some sort of secret code I hadn’t yet learned to interpret: M and Av and Tv and P.
I remember playing around with the different settings, not knowing what any of them meant, flying blind as I took pictures of anything and everything around our house, the backyard, and the fields that surrounded our little rental house. The quality of the pictures I was able to take amazed me, but as I clicked around the dial trying to venture beyond “auto” mode, I became so overwhelmed that I started to question myself. It all started to feel like it was too much to learn, and I was convinced that I’d never be able to figure it all out, let alone be good enough or know enough to start a business.
Looking back on that day now, I can see how my perfectionism almost got the better of me. As I’ve started to learn to manage that beast in recent years, I’ve had to admit to myself that I’m the kind of perfectionist that wants to quit if I’m not good at something immediately. (Yeah, definitely not my finest quality…) I almost abandoned a long-time dream before I even had a chance to get started, just because I realized it was going to be more challenging than I expected. I only wish I had embraced the journey in that moment rather than letting those negative thoughts put a dark cloud over such an exciting day!
Have there been growing pains in the learning process? Absolutely. Periods of frustration where I just couldn’t figure something out? Definitely! But what I can see now is that even though it has taken time (and a lot of hard work!), I have made it over every hurdle that has come up along the way, one at a time. I have learned SO much in the last five years, and even though I’m so much more confident now and shooting in manual mode feels like second nature, I’m still learning new skills all the time and trying new things to grow as a photographer. Isn’t that what it’s all about, after all?
I see now that those first days of shooting blind taught me about taking risks. Sure, the pictures I took were not perfect in a technical sense, but I admire how I wasn’t afraid to try anything and everything, to experiment, to see what worked. I will admit that sometimes, I still cringe looking at some of those early photos — The focus isn’t sharp! It’s so over- (or under)-exposed! Yikes, that horizon line is way off! — but I know that is my perfectionism talking.
When I take a step back and give myself permission for them not to be perfect, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride, and I’m overcome with the nostalgia of the memories attached to the photos. When allow myself to look past the technical imperfections, I can see the passion and creativity and “photographer’s eye” that I’ve always had. I can remember the excitement that I felt holding that camera and and the new possibilities it opened.
I can remember why I started this journey to begin with, and why I love what I do so, so much.
Part I – What I Learned about Photography from My First Point and Shoot Camera
Part II – What I Learned about Storytelling through Photography on My First Trip Abroad
Part III – What My Photography Journey has Taught Me about Perfectionism and Taking Risks
Part IV – The (Last) Last Day of School