While this is certainly not a great photograph, it is important in my development as a photographer. Because it was an experiment.
I had paused in my mowing, and the scene looked interesting. So I got my iPhone out of my pocket and opened the camera app. I’ve left it set on square format lately, so I went with it for this shot. I moved around the scene for several seconds looking for good framing. When I thought I’d found it I touched the shutter button.
It’s not everything I thought it could be. I hoped the uncut portion of the grass would stand out more. I hoped for a greater foreshortening effect on the mower’s handlebar. I wish I had turned the phone slightly so the top edge of the uncut grass was parallel to the frame’s top edge. And in the original image the mower body would have been better placed on a rule-of-thirds intersection. I cropped slightly to achieve it.
I’ve made a lot of photographs over the last ten years or so. Early on each photo I made was tinged with the fear of a bad frame.
Now I know I was overthinking each shot. Because when I got my first phone with a passable camera I soon realized I could take photos anytime, anywhere, essentially for free. Suddenly I didn’t have to worry anymore about a bad frame. And so I began photographing anything that seemed remotely interesting.
This snow-covered Caddy was an early (2010!) experiment with my old Palm Pre’s camera. It’s not a truly great image, and it reveals some of that camera’s limitations. Yet I liked it. Still do. It encouraged me to keep experimenting.
By remaining devoted to such free experimentation I’ve been able to relax when the photography isn’t free, and when I really want it to count: when I drop film into one of my vintage cameras. There are two reasons.
First, through phone camera experimentation I’ve learned a lot of things that don’t work. So my success rate is higher.
And second, I’ve learned to relax. A bad image is no big deal, not really, even when I’m shooting something expensive like Impossible Project instant film and each photo costs me $3.
Every experiment moves me forward. I examine each photo as critically as I can. I try to emulate what I admire in others’ work. I try to take away something I’ll do differently next time.
How have you gotten better as a photographer?