image by Nicole Catroppo
Starting out in photography, I had much the same attitude as a toddler when it came to my learning-- "I CAN DO IT ALL BY MYSELF!" -- and so I actively resisted reading tutorials or watching instructional videos, preferring instead to figure things out the hard way, on my own. When it came to my fellow photographers, I kept them at a safe distance. For the most part I viewed them with envy (if they were better than me) or disdain (if I thought I was better.) Either way, I saw them as competition, and as such they were not to be trusted.
Then about a year ago, something changed. A Facebook friend added me to a photographer's group. They were mostly women, most of them moms like me, and they had built a kind of community I had never imagined was possible. In the group, they were sharing their work, giving and receiving critique and talking shop. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Here was a group of photographers who confided in each other, shared their insecurities and their failures as well as their triumphs. They supported each other, they shared their knowledge and expertise with each other. They formed real friendships! With other PHOTOGRAPHERS!
And over time, so did I. It was with the support, encouragement, and insight of these new friends that I built Silky Presets. I still talk to a lot of them every day, and I never let a day go by without at least quickly reading over the posts in the group to see new work from these people I admire, or to see if there's a question I can help with. As I've gotten to know more and more photographers, I've realized that the ones I used to envy the most generally have all the same fears and insecurities that I do, and that most are more than happy to share what they know with anyone, if they'd just ask. I've gained some very valuable mentors, and somehow along the line I've become a mentor to others as well.
All this sharing, caring, learning, and teaching has had a profound impact on my work as a photographer. In looking critically (and lovingly!) at the work of others, I've learned how to look critically (and lovingly!) at my own. If I don't know how to do something, instead of muddling through it and hoping for the best, I find someone who knows, and I ASK.
Ours is a competitive, sometimes even cutthroat industry, and it's easy to fall into that stubborn toddler mindset-- "I CAN DO IT ALL BY MYSELF!"
But that couldn't be farther from the truth. We need each other. So I challenge you: if you're like I was, and you don't have many real friends that are photographers, go make some! They're out there, waiting to connect with you. They can and WILL make you a better artist!
What do you have to lose? :)