“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” – Henri Cartier Bresson.
True, very true.
If you started with a digital camera, make that your first 30,000. Perhaps even 50,000.
But don’t let that stop you from keeping at it. In fact, above all and beyond everything else, insist on keeping at it.
Remember though, that unless you get to be a pro (and there is a long, long way to go before you get there), less is more – less editing and less equipment.
The more you edit, the less integrity your initial photographs will have. They might look prettier (to you, and to some others), but they will have no real worth.
Learn to make the best of the equipment you have before moving on to the next thing. In the hands of a master, a point and shoot will make better pictures than the most sophisticated gear in the hands of an amateur who thinks he/she is the best. Like school, art has stages. You graduate from one class to the other, only when you have learnt the lessons of the previous one. Buy your next gear only when you have achieved something of worth with your existing gear, when you have learnt what the gear can teach you about the craft. Learn the basics, then master them. Only then will you be able to make anything of the next step.
Two, don’t let any of this keep you from sharing your photographs with others. Exploit the media and opportunity of the 21st Century – Flickr, Facebook, whatever works for you. (I’m not so sure about Instagram). Share all you like, it is important to have fun.
But, be careful about feedback. Be very careful. Chances are, a lot of people will like and admire your pictures, and that will make you feel great. Be grateful, but be careful. Be careful about whose feedback you take to heart.
Don’t let anyone make you feel you are the best – for you most certainly are not – and don’t let anyone tear you down either. They don’t know what you are capable of. Chances are, you don’t know either. And if you think you are pretty darn good already, then you will never find out.
Learn to distinguish between a dilettante and a master – it’s the only way you will ever find out when you have become one.
And the only way to find out is to keep at it. Be honest – with yourself and your craft. Be humble. Be persistent. Have fun on the way, as much as you can, in fact.
And that is the only way to be a photographer – a real one.
I’m not there myself. But this is what I have learnt on my journey so far – countless photos, four cameras, fifteen years. I have yet to graduate to a swanky pro camera. I am not there yet.
You don’t have to take my word for it, but I’d say you should try.
And one more thing – almost everything above also applies to writing.