I’ve been taking a photography class at my local arts center. It was a gift from my little brother for Christmas. Last year I got a digital SLR and have been hesitant to take it off the automatic settings. It’s not particularly convenient to be fussing with the aperture when you’re trying to capture a moment. After just a few weeks I feel much more confident in adjusting everything from the ISO or shutter speed to focus points in order to get a better shot. I also feel like a lot of what I’ve learned applies to writing.
You need a lot of practice.
I love great pictures. The only periodical I still subscribe to in print form is National Geographic. It’s great to be able to get a glimpse of distant, exotic lands without leaving your own home. When I bought my fancy camera, I thought great, I’ll be able to take fantastic photos now. It wasn’t quite so simple. I took over 300 photos of one person (Mister BS was patient and vain enough to volunteer to be my subject) trying to get a decent portrait last week. It took a lot of trial and error to find the right combination of light, setting, and timing. All the blurry and dark pictures with unflattering angles taught me something, though, so they weren’t in vain. The same is true for writing. Each draft gets better and with each experimental piece I learn something about my own style and voice.
Subjecting yourself to critique is a quick way to learn.
Photographs are as personal as writing (or any form of art). Anytime you snap a photo, you’re saying this moment is worthy of capturing, of remembering. You’re taking a point of view. Having my photos displayed on the giant monitor in front of class made me just as nervous as sending off a piece of writing for critique. I was jealous of the high school student whose pictures were so much better than mine, and the praise she received from our instructor. But I learned something from every one of her shots.
You can’t be afraid to experiment.
No matter how methodically you approach it, a lot of photography, like writing, is blind luck. All the fancy equipment in the world won’t help you capture that fleeting expression or bird in flight if you don’t snap the shutter at just the right time. Just like all the training and critique won’t automatically translate into that perfect line of imagery that captures the fleeting feeling you’re trying to convey. You can’t be afraid to try new things, to get outside of your comfort zone, whether that’s walking through the West Bottoms at sunset (Mister BS was afraid of the old dilapidated warehouses in the sketchy neighborhood that made for brilliant backdrops) , or telling your story in a non-linear fashion.
All you can do is keep shooting and keep typing. Because you’ll never take the perfect picture or write the perfect story if you don’t try. Working in manual mode is eternally frustrating. Sometimes there simply isn’t enough light or a fast enough shutter speed to do what you want. Sometimes there simply isn’t the right word. But you can’t let the perfection that is out of your reach keep you from trying.