I was fourteen when I began developing an interest in photography. I started off with a point-and-shoot camera, and played with the settings as I experimented with every shot. I loved going outside and taking pictures of every thing in our garden. It permitted me to remain present in the moment, and it quickly became an interesting way to meditate on life.
I knew right away that I wanted to develop this hobby into something serious, but I had no idea how I was going to proceed with it. When we came back from Rajasthan, my camera got stolen, which meant that I had just lost a thousand memories in the hands of stranger. I felt devastated by this loss, because I saw this trip as a catalyst to my growth. I whimpered in sadness, hoping that somehow my camera would magically appear in my bag.
My parents saw how this had affected me, and quickly bought me a new camera in the light of making me feel better. With time, I improved and upgraded my cameras as I ameliorated my creative abilities. I kept experimenting with what I could do, and how I could develop my style (even wondered if I had one).
One of the issues that I would come across was that I would meet professionals who would not believe that I had taken the pictures I took because of my age. This left me pretty disappointed in people and I knew that I would have to develop without the guidance of a "professional." I relied on my intuition to guide me in the right direction. Every time I would feel a twitch or a need to learn something new, I would quickly research how to do it, and within no time, I mastered the skill.
Yes, I did take a "formal" photography class during my first year of college, but guess what? I literally almost failed at the technical part and I would get really irritated by how I was being limited in the creative aspect of editing and photo-taking. Yes, there are some rules that you do need to follow, but I learned that what someone might see as the solution, it might not be the one for you. There are no rules in creativity, and the quicker you accept this, the more creative you become. I hope that makes sense.
I thought that I would not succeed in my photography class, because I couldn't think technically and I felt really bored by what I was being taught. I remember sitting in class and thinking, "Ugh, this isn't real. This isn't fun. This is so limited." Were my pictures great? Nope, they weren't. I had no idea how to use a dslr and I feared getting off the auto function.
I would like to say that all the five years of photo manipulation came into handy for my final project. My actual pictures were dull, and it wasn't until I edited them the way I visioned them, they turned out so much better than expected.
My project was a success and I ended up changing my professor's outlook on creative photography. I had an idea and I wasn't afraid to plunge into it even though I felt uncomfortable with the notion of doing something different. But, that's the risk creatives always have to take.
However, this didn't mean that I had understood photography. I felt curious yet intimidated by it, and at one point, I even gave up. I only felt like I could play with my dslr only when I went on trips, and it wasn't until Mika came into my life, I began trying to figure out how to use a 50mm lens. When I began getting a grip on it, I felt in tune with my dslr, and I knew that this tool would help me express myself.
I didn't have any formal education in photography. I only had sheer curiosity, some motivation, and a drive to learn. I used my camera every day until we were in sync and I could automatically figure out what settings I needed for a photograph. Before taking a photograph, I already had a vision on how the image would look. Of course, there were days when my images were a miss, but I saw this as a learning trial. At the end, photography is supposed to be fun, and it's your opportunity to show beauty and your vision to the world.
It's funny when people think that being a photographer is easy and it's a matter of pressing the shutter release. However, the journey of a photographer is really long and daunting, because it requires a lot of patience and self-discipline. You're not going to become a professional overnight, and you will have to put in a lot more hours than you think. It took me ten years to be where I am today, and I am still learning something new everyday. Believe in yourself and fall in love with the process. Give yourself space to grow and be kind to yourself when your expectations are not up to par with what you want. Most importantly, love your art and develop a passion for it; this will be your greatest driving force.