I was inspired by a series of articles on The Denver Egotist which they asked a bunch of people in advertising to write advice or wisdom in the form of a letter to themselves as they started their first day on the job in advertising. It’s quite inspiring, you can read the series here. This lead me to apply this concept to my first day; first day with an SLR camera. I had a Canon Rebel Ti 35mm film camera with the basic 28-90mm kit lens. I learned a lot about photography using film and it’s lessons that I still follow today. Beginnings are almost always humble and that’s a great thing! So here’s my letter to myself!
Dear younger Ryan
Congrats on the camera, it’s going to change your life. You’re going to devote large amounts of time to better learn photography. You’re going to get pretty good at it too and heck, you’ll even make some money! You’ll even be able to call yourself a professional photographer.
You’ll derive a large amount of pride from the word “professional” and you’ll cling on to whatever resembles you being a professional. It’s hurting your progression as a photographer and as a person, so knock it off. Photography is incredibly frustrating, and altogether purposeless at times, but keep at it! You’ll get opportunities to do photography at some incredible places, with awesome people and that, as you’ll find out, is good for the soul. Continue to learn from people who are better than you, this will help you greatly! Take risks and do not become complacent! If something doesn’t work, figure out why it’s not working and keep practicing. Oh, and start waking up earlier. Sunrises exist, and they’re beautiful!
Stop worrying about how many view, likes, comments, favorites, or mentions you get on social media. It’s NOT important. The perceptions of “success” on social media does not translate to success as a photographer, so stop chasing that unicorn. Social media can be a great tool and can even lead to great exposure, but that exposure should not be the expectation. Steward whatever influence you are GIVEN, big or small.
Finally, the relationships you will form through photography will be more rewarding than the actual photography itself and never forget that. Some of your best friends will become photographers, and some photographers will become your best friends. Your family will be supportive of your photography and thank them every chance you get, and while you’re at it take tons of pictures of your niece and nephew (yep, that’s coming) because they grow up really fast! You're going to get to see areas of the country and of the world that will capture your imagination, you're going to meet lifelong friends, and some people will even want your pictures adorning their walls. It's a wild ride.
You've been given a great tool for capturing memories, documenting travel, and building relationships. Build your skill and steward this gift because it's going to change your life in unexpected ways.
What would you write?