I’m an Artist! How Photography Made Me Confident

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I’m crazy…about taking pictures. Every single day I find something beautiful, unique or interesting that urges me to whip my camera out. But I don’t always capture the exact image as I’m seeing it with my naked eye. Most of the time I’m too excited and in too much of a hurry to properly adjust the settings on my camera before clicking away…bees, butterflies and birds aren’t the most still or patient of posers — gotta snap ’em while you can!

There are times after a day of stalking ladybugs, squirrels and dragonflies when I think back on my shots and remember a particular one that was surely going to render a naturally spectacular photo. After removing the memory card from the Nikon and sliding it into my laptop, I begin to excitedly scan through thumbnails searching for that perfect shot. A-ha! I’ve found it! Holding my breath, I open a preview and behold…meh…not so much. The light was too harsh/dark or the colors were washed out/too bright or the depth of field was too shallow/deep….definitely not at all the way I remembered seeing it when I snapped it. I discovered there’s a scientific reason for this, and I’ll leave it to this very smart article to explain it.

Since I couldn’t invent a camera lens able to replicate an image exactly as my eye observed it, I had to find another way to reproduce those shots with all the glory they deserved. There are  some features of my Nikon D3300 that I’ve still not used as much (I prefer using manual modes over the automatics), but I know enough to get a good shot. What I don’t know, I’m learning to make up for in the post-process…enter, my favorite program…my super awesome bestest friend Abobe Photoshop! 💗

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” ― Ansel Adams

To be honest, a lot of the pictures I feature have been lovingly retouched in some way. When the subject is a person, I generally just give it a little cropping with minor exposure and saturation adjustments. But when the subject is Flora or Fauna, I take my time and give it a whole lot more attention.

Before I edit any of my nature photos, I sit for a moment and look at it in the raw, thinking “How does this make me feel?”…. happy? relaxed? energetic? moody? motivated? Once I touch on the feeling and visualize the palette it inspires, I paint colored light with a soft brush into areas of the picture. If it needs any finer tuning beyond that, I use the Camera Raw Filter to adjust contrast, clarity, highlights and shadows as well as the hue, saturation and luminance levels. It can be a painstaking process, but it gives me a chance to spend a little more time with my pictures…some of them a lot more time.

It’s how I transformed this faded butterfly…

into this vibrant beauty…
BuckeyeButterflyWP

And this super bright road… 

into this mysterious passageway…AutumnRoadTreeWP

But there’s so much  more to use this awesome program for! One of the new editing techniques I’ve been working on is what most people call “Photoshopping,” i.e. removing/adding unwanted objects, tweaking things to make them look “better” (or flat-out hilarious, in the case of James Fridman).

For instance, driving through the neighborhood one day, I snapped a quick shot of this sweet cow face…

…but I didn’t like how the barbed wire cut through it, so…I took it out!

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(If you didn’t know it was there before, would you know it was missing now?)

 

Then there’s this shot of an adorable couple reuniting after being apart for months, but the busy background took focus away from this tender moment…

Poof! I think we’re alone now!

As my confidence keeps increasing, it’s become easier for me to say without hesitation, “I’m a photographer.” Granted, not a professional photographer, since that usually implies some type of compensation for the work, but I think I’m more than just a hobbyist. Photography means so much more to me than just something to pass the time with…plus I do intend to reach that professional level one day! Lately, though, as I’ve explored the features of Photoshop and sharpened my editing skills, I’ve started to say something different about myself… “I’m an artist.”

Growing up, I believed there was only one kind of artist – a person who drew or painted a picture on a blank canvas. (I know better now!) I always felt like I had an artist’s soul but was too afraid to really pursue drawing or painting…lack of natural talent + fear of public ridicule = giving up before I even tried. The same was true for writing…I always loved to write (still do), but my lack of confidence kept all my words hidden in notebooks (and all my notebooks hidden in trash cans). I’ve never believed anyone would like what I had to say, and as I poured my heart and soul into my photography, that pitiful feeling crept back in.

Receiving few likes on social media, failing to win a single competition, having no clients and zero inquiries…I let it all get to me, and I started to sink.  What pulled me back up and into the light was a simple quote…appearing on Pinterest at the very moment I needed it…

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” ― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Dr. Seuss and I go way, way back…my Dad used those books to teach me how to read when I was five. I learned a lot of my first important life lessons from those wonderfully wacky tales. Seeing this divinely timed quote, I remembered myself as that small child whose eyes would fill with wonder, and I went to the mirror. What I saw was myself as a creator and my photos as art. I do this work for myself…it is my passion and purpose in this life. I create it in the way that pleases me the most.

I suppose some people might argue that my photography isn’t “true art,” and I am fine with that. I recognize the necessity of balance in this universe, so I know that for each hater I have out there I also have a lover. But really, what I think of my photos and of myself is all that counts in my book….a colorful and inspiring little book called I AM an Artist. 👩‍🎨

“If some of this art is not for you, that’s fine. Art appreciation is a subjective matter, and we each bring our own experience, knowledge and taste to the party.” — Michael Audain