Thursday, February 17, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Lately I've been thinking a lot about taking pictures. And why it's sometimes hard to get out there and take them.

I used to be a singer. Like, for real, a singer who gave recitals. Not just in my shower. I also took a good number of piano lessons, but never really caught on to it like I did with singing. By the time I had been taking piano lessons for five years, most five-year-olds could still have played better than me.

One of the things that I struggled with every week was finding time to practice. I don't know if you have ever tried singing or playing an instrument, but there's a part of it that is audible. And there always seemed to be other people around to hear me practice. So when you're learning a new song and you hit the wrong key or sing the wrong note...there were people who could hear that. And they couldn't unhear it, just like you can't unhear fingernails on a chalkboard (sorry), which is unfortunate for them. And even if they weren't there to hear it, I still was. I didn't like listening to myself sound like Rachel Berry with laryngitis, not even for a second.

Taking pictures, though, is not quite so performance oriented. Nobody has to see the bad pictures, unless I decide to show them. And with everything being digital today, I could even hit the delete button and never have to see the bad ones again. Practicing should be easy then, no?


It really comes down to my own fears of imperfection and disappointment in myself. It makes me feel like a bad photographer when I make those mistakes, and the flame inside of me that burns on the wick of my dreams flickers just a little.

The real tragedy isn't taking the bad picture. The tragedy would be for me to not take the picture at all. At least if it's bad, I can look at my settings or the approach I was taking and see what wasn't working. So that I can reframe or readjust and get an image that is worthy. Worthy of my mom seeing it here, because I think that, right now, she's the number one fan of my blog (and she always thinks everything I do is awesome, and I tell her she's biased).

Some famous photographer person said that there is no such thing as a perfect picture. I think there's also no such thing as a perfect first picture. It's time to stop expecting it. Art is nothing if not an exploration, so it's time to embrace the adventure. There would be nothing to explore if the destination was reached right away.
I still cringe a little inside because my pictures aren't yet as good as my idols. I haven't gotten "the shot," or anything like that. I don't even know that anyone else finds my "good" pictures anything special. But nobody can hear me sing along to musicals in my car either, and trust me, those have been some of my best performances. Simply because I practice every day.

P.S. David DuChemin actually wrote about this same frustration, probably better than I ever could, over on his blog. Which means, hallelujah, it's not just me! I'm not the only one who is afraid of taking bad pictures - even famous photographers are too.

Just for fun, here's a picture of me singing. Over a period of something like 20 years of singing, I have exactly ONE picture. (I started singing in children's choir at church when I was three - that counts as the start of my professional career right?) So here it is, for your enjoyment.

Photo uncredited because I have no idea who took it. I got it off the Elon University Website back in 2009.

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