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I'm A Discouraged Photographer!


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#1 LaLo1103

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 10:10 AM

Hi Guys!

I wanted to just share a little frustrating situation I find myself in and gather some suggestions on what to do.

Two years ago I joined our town's camera club with two friends. I liked the club that first year and thought the lectures were pretty good. I really didn't want to compete with my photos, but it was mandatory if you joined the club. That first year, I probably only competed three or four times, but I lost every time. I mean, I didn't even get an honorable mention or anything. My two friends however, were both winning and moving up in difficulty categories. It was frustrating because we were all shooting the same subjects (we went on our photo trips together) and I was usually helping them with their cameras since they usually only used auto mode.

I was a bit "disenchanted" but I agreed to join the club the second year. That year, the lectures were the same as the first and a lot of club time was spent with the professional photographers arguing and trying to out-do each other. I entered one competition and my photos were completely ripped to shreds, so I decided I was done with the club. My two friends agreed that the club was not so good this year, but since they were still winning competitions, they wanted to stick with it.

So then my friends decided to start their own little club and gave out assignments so we could still share photos and critique each other. It was okay at first, but then they started ranking the photos from best to worst and I got tired of being the worst of the bunch. One of my friends finally asked why I wasn't participating anymore and I said I really felt photography was not my thing. All of the competing and critiquing had sucked the fun out of it for me. Whenever I would try to take a photo, I'd be so busy worrying about my settings and how "off" my composition was that I just wound up frustrated and hating the entire experience.

So now that I have shared all of that, I guess my question is, Has anyone else had the fun sucked out of something they used to enjoy? How do you get the enjoyment back? Am I just being a sore looser? My friends are giving me a hard time about not participating in their club now. I don't want them to feel like I'm blowing them off, but photography is seriously not a fun activity anymore.

Tell me what you think - give it to me straight, I can handle it!!!
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#2 BarbaraC1977

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 10:39 AM

I think a club for encouraging a hobby that permits members to shred one another is not a club I want to be part of. NOT appropriate.

I love that Scrap Girls is a positive community. When members leave love on layouts, they focus on what they LIKE. Our layouts are rarely perfect, but we are encouraged to keep going here.

I would try to find a different camera club, where the focus is on lifting members to higher levels in a positive way.

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#3 JenniferZ

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 11:13 AM

Hi Laura,
That doesn't sound like much fun at all. I can see how you would find photography frustrating after that experience!!

First of all, not everyone is great at the things that interest them. And that's OK! I am not the best singer, but I like to sing and so I do it (not on AGT, but in church and with friends and family...) I'm not the best pencil/paint artist, but I still enjoy it and while I don't do it as much as I should (to get better), I still have fun when I do it. SO -- don't stop doing something you enjoy, just because you (or other people) don't think you're the best. :)

Secondly, art is totally subjective! Have you ever been to a museum and seen a zillion people swooning over a painting you think is hideous? (I have!) Then, I have totally loved a work that didn't move anyone else the same way. Art is art. And some people will love it and some won't. This is OK!

In the club competitions, were the photographs submitted without names attached, or did the judges know who took the photos? (I am guessing that they knew who took what...) And I don't like the idea of "ranking" photos from best to worst in your friends' spin-off group. (And here again, I am sure it is known who submitted which photos...) To get better, you definitely want to be able to look at your work with a critical eye and be able to see what is working and what could be better. BUT, as I said above, it is subjective. Yes, there's composition, lighting, rule of thirds, depth of field, framing, saturation, etc., but if the photo is pleasing to you, then it's a good photo! And directly comparing one shot to another isn't helpful in the absence of constructive criticism. (Emphasis on "constructive.")

In college, my photography professor graded us on the following scale (1-4, 1 being below average, 2 being average, 3 being above average and 4 being excellent): PHOTOGRAPH (proper execution of assignment), CREATIVE (imagination and thought used in the assignment), TECHNICAL (how well is the image printed - focus, tones, exposure), PRESENTATION (borders even, free of dirt, professional in appearance) and SPOTTING (complete and unnoticeable spotting). He would grade us on these criteria and then he would add comments like "interesting idea," "good tones," "printed a little grainy," etc. Granted, this was for a class that required us to develop our images, of course, but something similar could be applied to digital photography. (And I don't even know if film classes exist anymore!)

When I first started taking pictures, I started in B&W. (Back in the day with FILM! LOL) I think with B&W you are forced to focus more on composition, texture and light than with color film. IMHO, this really helps you to develop your eye so that when you see something in color, you can render it into B&W in your mind and determine its artistic impact. (So does shooting with film, because you don't want to waste a shot, but that's another story! :) ) If you haven't shot in B&W, I would start doing it. Also, I read about a dozen books on photography (Starting with Photography for Dummies and The Complete ***'s Guide to Photography) and also looked through lots of photography books at the library to see what photos resonated with me and then I would look for those compositions in real life. For example, I LOVE old, dilapidated buildings. I love the play of textures. I especially love taking photos of rough wood next to broken windows. (I have pulled off the road to take photos of old barns!) This subject matter was really inspired by the Depression-era photography of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.

There are lots of good resources in print form and online. I like Digital Photography School, which is a free website that contains gobs of information on all aspects of photography and includes discussion forums and galleries for critique and general sharing.

Anyway, long story short -- if you enjoy it, keep doing it!

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#4 MariJ

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 11:16 AM

I so agree with Barbara and do NOT think you are being a sore loser by any account at ALL. I understand totally what you are saying and even find sometimes when I am doing layouts for a SG challenge I'm in charge of (& not just my own enjoyment) I am way-too-critical and suck the fun out of it for myself. I also take watercolor classes and my teacher is the most encouraging person I've met. While she will not criticize, she will gently guide you to a better technique, etc --- and therefore her students always feel good about themselves and willing to keep trying. And, she has amazingly successful (& happy) students! And that's what it's all about, right?
If you were learning photography in a colllege class, say for your profession maybe criticism is warranted, but I am of the belief that it does not have to be of the discouraging kind, for what help is that? And yes, ScrapGirls is the perfect example of positive, helpful comments.

As for getting your enjoyment back, I'd say just start taking photos - for yourself! Shoot your beautiful children, an interesting rock, maybe a lovely afternoon sky. (oh gosh this sounds like a challenge!). Don't even show anyone, just enjoy yourself and experiment. At first you might still feel wary and "burned" but just keep going. If you feel like creating a layout with an interesting shot, post it here. You know we'll always cheer you on! :)

There's enough competitiion in our lives. I wouldn't let it into something you've loved and enjoyed. Maybe tell your friends you're too busy designing at ScrapGirls or that you're taking a break from photograhy to spend more time with your family. Or, maybe be honest and say you'd just like to take photos for yourself for a bit as it's become stressful right now dealing with the deadlines and commitments of a "club".

Good luck and stand strong, you expressed many touching and wonderful points and expressed yourself beautifully - go back and reread what you wrote.

(PS - I was busy writing while Jennifer did, so came back to say I LOVE what she wrote! So true, so true... )

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#5 Sara Arell

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 12:09 PM

I so agree with Barbara and do NOT think you are being a sore loser by any account at ALL. I understand totally what you are saying and even find sometimes when I am doing layouts for a SG challenge I'm in charge of (& not just my own enjoyment) I am way-too-critical and suck the fun out of it for myself. I also take watercolor classes and my teacher is the most encouraging person I've met. While she will not criticize, she will gently guide you to a better technique, etc --- and therefore her students always feel good about themselves and willing to keep trying. And, she has amazingly successful (& happy) students! And that's what it's all about, right?
If you were learning photography in a colllege class, say for your profession maybe criticism is warranted, but I am of the belief that it does not have to be of the discouraging kind, for what help is that? And yes, ScrapGirls is the perfect example of positive, helpful comments.

As for getting your enjoyment back, I'd say just start taking photos - for yourself! Shoot your beautiful children, an interesting rock, maybe a lovely afternoon sky. (oh gosh this sounds like a challenge!). Don't even show anyone, just enjoy yourself and experiment. At first you might still feel wary and "burned" but just keep going. If you feel like creating a layout with an interesting shot, post it here. You know we'll always cheer you on! :)/>

There's enough competitiion in our lives. I wouldn't let it into something you've loved and enjoyed. Maybe tell your friends you're too busy designing at ScrapGirls or that you're taking a break from photograhy to spend more time with your family. Or, maybe be honest and say you'd just like to take photos for yourself for a bit as it's become stressful right now dealing with the deadlines and commitments of a "club".

Good luck and stand strong, you expressed many touching and wonderful points and expressed yourself beautifully - go back and reread what you wrote.

(PS - I was busy writing while Jennifer did, so came back to say I LOVE what she wrote! So true, so true... )



I so agree with what everyone has said here! And Marilyn took a lot of words right out of my mouth (or fingers, as it is!) - I liked what she said, "Good Luck and stand strong, you expressed many touching and wonderful points and expressed yourself beautifully - go back and reread what you wrote:! Well said! I totally agree!
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#6 Cheri T

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 12:52 PM

I am with you, and don't think you're being silly or petty or anything. A very similar situation happened to me with scrapbooking itself a number of years ago. A very large group I was with split off due to some disagreements...a friend made a smaller local group and we were very happy with our monthly get togethers for years until that group also blew up, this time spectacularly in a show worthy of reality TV or junior high. I formed a new group and we've been very happy ever since. BUT, that first 8 months or so after that last split - I did not scrap a SINGLE page. Scrapbooking has been my life (yes, really, lol) since I discovered it in 1999, and that has been the only time in all these years that I've gone that long without scrapbooking. I did, however, spend quite a bit of time that summer organizing my new digital supplies I had collected that year, and when I finally got back into scrapbooking, I went mostly digital. I think that split was one of the major factors in my digital scrapbooking b/c it was just different enough from what the larger group had been doing that I felt like I wasn't reminded of the junior-high-ish fighting when I sat down to digi scrap.

Anyway, my point is our hobbies are supposed to be FUN! If they aren't, then it ceases to be a hobby and becomes yet another thing we feel "behind" in, or inadequate in, or beat ourselves up for not doing more/doing better/being perfect at. So my advice, if you want it (if not feel free to ignore, lol) is to take a break from "serious" photography (of course keep up with snapshots of your adorable children!!) for awhile and then get back into it on your own or with a new group of friends. Let the "sucky" memories go and just try to have fun with it again at some point and leave the competition out...sounds like the other friends were the only reason you ever did the competition stuff to begin with, so I sense your priorities never did and never will lie with the competition side of things.
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#7 CRS

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 01:14 PM

Why does everything have to be a competition? I wouldn't want any part of a club that doesn't support each other and lift each other up. I don't have any advice, but I hope you find the joy again!

#8 MariJ

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 02:22 PM

Why does everything have to be a competition? I wouldn't want any part of a club that doesn't support each other and lift each other up. I don't have any advice, but I hope you find the joy again!


Carla, you said it perfectly. WHY?

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#9 diannecp

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 02:41 PM

My thoughts: life is way too short to muddle through things you don't enjoy doing (well, besides the obligatory laundry, etc.). Sounds like the joy is being sucked out of what should be a fun hobby. No, you don't sound like a sore loser at all!
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#10 princessrunningfingers

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 02:50 PM

I gather from your post that photography is a hobby for you. Hobbies are supposed to be fun, and if the club is taking the fun out of it for you, then I say don't belong to the club. If you can find one that is fun, then give it a try and see how you feel about it. I'm taking a class here where I live, and we will be sharing our first photos this afternoon. If that turned into an "I'm better than you" contest, I would quit the class immediately. Good luck, and don't give up on photography, just find a way you can enjoy it.

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#11 LaLo1103

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 02:58 PM

Thanks everyone - I appreciate your observations!

I guess I needed to hear it from some outside observers. I was very worried that I was going to sound like a sore looser, and that's really not how I feel! I feel like I can't even show anyone a photo now because I'm waiting to hear everything that's wrong with it. The bottom line is that I don't like feeling that way - I used to love wasting time playing with my camera and now its just something I dread! So I appreciate the reassurance that I'm not being difficult and that the whole "club" thing had become something that just doesn't make me happy. At All!

I think I am going to take Mari's advice that I'm going to take a photography break and give more time and energy to the things I do enjoy. I love my scrapbooking/designing time and I always feel like there's not enough time for it. Maybe what I really just needed was someone to give me permission to "let it go" for a while!

Jennifer - I loved your suggestion about doing everything in black and white. If I start up again, I plan to take that suggestion. I think it would not only help me to think about photos in a new way, but would also give me a fresh, new approach to photography.

Cheri - Thank you for reassuring me that I'm not the only one that has wound up in this situation. Why is it that something meant to relieve stress and be fun can turn into the complete opposite? I appreciate hearing that there is hope and that falling back in love with a hobby is possible.

And as all of you said, ScrapGirls is wonderful because we do try to keep encouraging each other! We've all done some less then stellar layouts, but no one would become a scrapping diva if we didn't receive encouragement to just keep going!
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#12 bjc

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 05:19 PM

laura , i really must say everyone said it well and glad that you got some good advice... also i am sorry that the "club" wasnt really a good place to be... i have never done a camera club and i have to say i have heard some things also that arent always the best about these clubs...i also want to add that i love love love looking at my family photos...and some go way back...but would they win any contests... bet not..some are even blurry or hard to see but the thing is i do have these photos and they spark memories or let me look into the past or remind me of things and places we went etc etc... photos dont have to be perfect... or be judged...they are for many things and if you still like taking photos relax and enjoy it for they are YOUR photos and no one elses... another thing i did recently was take a class on phone photography and only use my iphone for a month...i got some great photos and learned about some great apps... and it is so much easier than lugging a camera and thinking about settings... i would be glad to meet up with you again and do photos with you... on phone or camera... the best photo is always the one you have ( it is there for you and your family )

also did you see that "official photos of the new prince" well i havent followed all the chatting but they were taken by kate middletons dad and they are not "technically" perfect and i see there is some chatter about that but who cares, the grandpa took them and that to me is what matters!

email or pm to get together and do photos if you want
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#13 SandiC.

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 07:01 PM

How awful for you.

I love photography, but I'm not great at it. Sure, technically I've learned a lot and I take nice photos. But I never enter competitions, except the staycation one here, and rarely even share my photos. I've gotten into contemplative photography. The results are not the focus (sorry about the pun) but the process. Connecting with what you see. Looking at things in a new way.

Kim Manley Ort is sort of my mentor with contemplative photography, but there are lots of really great resources. I really recommend it as a way to soothe the hurt and frustration with being with a competitive club and friends. Comparisons, in any field, are very harmful. There's no need to label anything as good or bad. It just is. Look at some of your photos, not from a critique point of view, but from a memory of emotions point of view. What do you remember about the day you took that photo? What were you feeling at the time? Sometimes, just backing down from expectations makes the pleasure of the process stronger.

One thing that helped me with my own frustrations of not being able to move into really good photography, was to back off from the technical side, went back to shooting with a P&S on auto or my iPhone. In a sense, to me, it seems to get back to the basic art of photography.

Just remember, what you see is what YOU see. I hope you can bounce back from your experience and realize you are a photographer.
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#14 KFiasco

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 07:32 PM

Laura,

Something I have been thinking about for a long time now is free college courses. Have you thought about taking a photography course? I think it would be fun and I'm sure there is something up your alley.

Here is a link to check out.

http://education-por..._Tutorials.html

Karen
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#15 Belle

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 08:01 AM

Here's what I do. Shoot about 100 on Auto, keep the best and edit the rest with SG's actions. Fun and the photos look very nice. But that's just me because I'm too lazy to learn to use the camera. Posted Image

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#16 DixieLee

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 10:17 AM

Bless your heart- I read all the posts above and everyone just wanted to encourage you--I hope all the friends here eased your pain of rejection! Now go out and have fun! God has given you a lot of talent! (I am also too lazy to figure out my camera for now)

#17 Smiles

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 07:59 PM

The camera clubs my dad belonged to for years had very nice members, but the judging could be flat nasty. They would get judges in from other clubs, and that got really political. Their criteria seemed so petty. My dad was a fabulous photographer, and he would get just dashed from some of the critiques. I vowed I would never get involved with something like that. Nobody needs that kind of stress.

One thing I learned from him was to take lots and lots of shots of the same basic scene. It's a whole lot easier to toss the not so good ones now they're digital.

I think if you give it rest for a bit, and only use the camera to capture wonderful memories for a while (ask yourself - would you scrap this?), you'll be happier with your relationship with photography.
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#18 Reminiscing

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 10:00 PM

I've attended three local photography clubs, and continue to be pretty active in one of them, and all have been very friendly and encouraging, even during critique sessions. In fact, there have been times I wished to get MORE critique because it's so helpful to growth. Of course it has to be constructive (not what your groups sound like).

When you're ready to look for a new group perhaps try Meetup.com, which is where I found two of my local photography clubs.

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#19 SodScrap

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 09:38 AM

Why does everything have to be a competition? I wouldn't want any part of a club that doesn't support each other and lift each other up. I don't have any advice, but I hope you find the joy again!

So very well said Carla. Laura I am so sorry you are feeling this way. I'm glad you brought this up, so many great ideas and suggestions. Keep us posted on your journey!

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