The first time I took pictures with a digital camera was in the summer of 2016

The first time I took pictures with a digital camera was in the summer of 2016. My mom had finally agreed to buy me a camera, on the condition that I take pictures for my sister’s graduation. Getting the Canon EOS 750D after months of begging for it made me eager to prove that my photography skills could be compared to George Okoro’s (a popular Nigerian photographer). I felt like a professional, pressing buttons and adjusting settings that no one else understood. At some point, I got so carried away that I started taking pictures from absolutely awkward angles, while bending in unnatural positions.
I thought I must have done a great job until I looked back at the pictures later that day, and realised that I had completely forgotten to readjust my aperture and shutter speed, so most of the outdoor pictures were completely white! The shots I had taken with proper lighting weren’t even frame-worthy because I had managed to include unnecessary people and fixtures in them. My sister barely got any good graduation pictures, and I seemed to lack the expertise I thought I had.
Knowing I had a lot of room for improvement made me feel incompetent. I wanted whatever I touched to instantly turn to gold. In my opinion, if at first you don’t succeed, try a different path. That day, I wanted to believe that the longing I felt to own a camera would instantly create the skills I needed to operate it. I thought it would be just like school: if I read and understood it, I could pass the test. When I completely failed at that first attempt, I wanted to keep my camera hidden forever. I didn’t realize that a digital camera wasn’t something I could instantly master, considering that my only experience with photography was a 5-day course I attended the previous summer on the triangle of exposure.
I was prompted to try again because for once, I wanted to face my intricately self-directed fears. Running away from things I wasn’t good at wasn’t the ideal solution because I was missing out on experiences that could shape my future. I gave myself another project to work on, with the decision to conquer my fear and have fun while doing it. I organised a mini outdoor photoshoot at a park with my friends. I even hired a professional makeup artist (my sister was very good) for the day.
At the end of the day, I discovered that some pictures were too dark, and some had an obnoxious amount of backlight. After editing them to look more exposed, they turned out better than the graduation pictures. Although they weren’t perfect, I had still made progress.
I insisted on photoshoots with my friends on several occasions, trying desperately to prove to myself and my family that I could commit to something. As time passed, I would find myself hunched over my laptop, editing pictures till my eyes were sore. Life passed by as a montage of pictures. I started taking my camera out even on days I wasn’t doing anything important because it brought me comfort.
I found that I was less reserved when I did what I love. I applied for the post of student photographer at my high school. We needed more engaging pictures for our yearbook, and it would be a valuable opportunity for me. My job as the student photographer was the highlight of my senior year. I found that even though I wasn’t the best photographer, I had stopped judging myself too harshly. I gave myself the opportunity to develop a skill that started new conversations and made me a person of interest. Photography took me out of my comfort zone and into the world. And now, even more than I am a photographer, I am a visual storyteller.

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I'm Mila

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