Seeing through a new lens
During my junior year of college, I signed up for a photography course. The course was required for my journalism concentration, and I was not looking forward to it. Writing papers came easy. Studying for exams wasnít too bad. But mastering the art of photography? You might as well have asked me to chew off my own hand.
There were no tests in the course, only projects that we presented to all our classmates. I watched as my classmates presented beautiful photos and cringed when it was my turn. The professor made it clear that I was the least talented student in the class, repeatedly putting down my work without any suggestions of how to improve it.
The day the semester ended and I turned in my camera, I breathed a sigh of relief. Photography wasnít for me, I decided. I would have to find a job where I could write and somebody else would take the photos. Somehow, I found that job right here in Carroll County. For the first few years, I took one or two photos for the paper.
Then my role expanded with our special publications and we needed someone to take regular photos in Eureka Springs for our social media accounts. It was time to step up. It was time to learn by doing ó or, more honestly, by failing. My wonderful friend David Bell took photos for the paper for years, and his advice has always been the same: Take a bunch of photos and a few will turn out pretty good.
So thatís what I did. I started walking through downtown Eureka Springs and taking photos of anything and everything in sight. The first few tries werenít so great. I especially had trouble getting candid photos of people. It seemed like theyíd turn to face the camera with every click. So many photos ended up in my trash folder those first few months.
Like any skill, I started to get better with practice. I even braved a few news-related photo assignments, often with mixed results. My boss was supportive and would always offer constructive criticism, whether it had to do with taking photos or editing them. I learned that photography is just as much editing as it is pointing and shooting. If you know how to edit the right way, the photos rarely appear edited at all.
As I shared the photos on Instagram, the response encouraged me to share even more. It is thrilling to share photos on social media and see how people respond. You get a great feeling for the photos people want to see, and then you can share more content just like that. Iíd say thatís another aspect of photography I never expected to learn. Some photos are hits and some miss the mark. You only learn which is which by sharing your work with the public.
These past few months, I have upped my photography game. I bought a nice camera that I lug around like a baby in a stroller ó carefully and tenderly. The photos Iíve taken with that camera are so good I can hardly believe it sometimes. Iíll upload the photos to my computer and sit there in shock at the quality. In the immortal words of Steve Urkel, did I do that?
Certainly, Iíve still got a ways to go. There is so much to learn, a fact that once prevented me from trying. My photos arenít perfect, but they arenít the worst and they are getting better with every try. While Iíll never be photographer extraordinaire David Bell, I can be Samantha Jones ó a sometimes photographer who always tries her best.
And Iím pretty happy with that.