Life lessons from learning photography

As I continue the process of listing my creative work on Etsy, I’m learning that knowing my craft well is not enough. In addition to continuing to improve my actual craft skills, I’m also having to learn how to write good descriptions, take good pictures, edit those pictures effectively, find optimal pricing, select effective keywords, optimize shipping options, determine how to best group items (when appropriate), and figure out effective marketing and advertising campaigns. It’s a bit overwhelming just starting out.

The place where I’m encountering the greatest challenge is in getting good pictures, and good pictures are really critical for selling things online. I’ve learned an incredible amount about picture-taking and photo editing in the last couple of months, but I’ve got a long way to go.  I’m still often shocked when I download the pictures onto my computer for editing to discover that they look much worse than they appeared when I was taking them.

Sometimes these are flaws that would be hard to detect in the moment because I still haven’t mastered the key to finding the best lighting for my photographs. The actual pictures often wind up having strange coloring that is hard to correct with editing from improper lighting.

But other times, the flaws I find in the picture are things that I should have noticed while I was taking it but I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Things like weird shadows, busy backgrounds, cat hair in the middle of the object being photographed, or the item itself not being displayed properly. The camera, as it zooms in on the item I’m featuring, takes an objective picture without all of the filters that I bring to the scene.

It reminds me a bit of life. The more of myself that I let show, the more likely it is that other people are going to see things in what I say or do that I am not aware of because they don’t have the same filters that I do. I very often feel misunderstood when I do (or say) something with one intent, and it winds up being perceived in a very different way.

Because these ways that other people see me are almost always more negative than the way I see myself, it makes it hard to open up. I’m already so self-critical that additional criticism from others in places where I thought I was doing ok can be really devastating. I want to become like a turtle that shrinks back into my shell for self-protection.

I had quite a number of situations this last week where people saw me in a much more negative light than I saw myself. Given the fact that I was already tired and worn out heading into the week, my turtle tendencies are in high gear. But I’m trying to remind myself of the connection to my photography skills.

It is only in seeing these flawed photographs and redoing them over and over again that I’m learning the skills I need to improve. I’m learning what to watch for as I set up the pictures. I’m learning to see my work with a more objective eye.

Likewise, as I get these ugly sides of myself reflected back to me from others, I need to use that as an opportunity to adjust my skills. Sometimes that may mean that there are certain things that I do need to hide or keep to myself. Sometimes I may need to accept that some people just won’t like me for who I am. In those cases, the turtle approach may serve me best.

Most of the time, it means that I have more work to do on self-improvement to become the person I want to be. Just like I don’t give up on the camera or on Etsy each time my pictures don’t turn out the way I want, so too do I need to keep putting myself out there even after I’ve been criticized or misunderstood.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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2 thoughts on “Life lessons from learning photography

  1. I think we turtles need gentle companions sometimes, too! Compatriots disposed to use their eyes to see not ugliness but in-progress-ness (as life quite simply is – all of it, all of us). Those are rare kinds of companion-compatriot eyes. Makes them all the more treasures, I guess. 🙂 Thanks for being a gentle-to-other-turtles voice, KJ.

    • Thank you, dear Callie, for the validation and the kindness. You have been that gentle-to-other-turtles voice for me several times this week when I really needed it (including this compassionate comment). Thank you for being that gentle companion to me and for modeling this kind of companion-compatriot way of seeing others. I am grateful!

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