I took my first photography class when I was 11 years old. I was artistically ignorant, shy as a mouse, and didn’t know how to turn on a camera. It was horrible. Fortunately, my parents are strong advocates for facing fears and refused to let me quit the summer camp. I stuck it out for the rest of the week. Five days later, I was hooked.
After that first summer camp, I would carry a camera with me everywhere. I would be the one to gather the family for portrait photos, I would force my friends to fake candid laughter sitting on a dock with a sunset behind them, I would go on walks and stop every 10 seconds to take a picture of another pretty leaf. I was addicted to capturing life.
It was an escape – a way to literally and figuratively view the world from a different perspective. If I ever came home from a bad day at school, all I had to do to cheer myself up was go outside to our garden and take pictures.
Uploading hundreds of photos, playing around with Adobe Photoshop, scrolling through countless albums of flowers, and then forcing my mom to look at every single picture I had taken brought me SO MUCH JOY. I felt accomplished, artistic, unique, and motivated to do more.
By my senior year of high school, I was running a portrait photography business, I was working with multiple non-profit organizations on marketing collateral, and I was always taking pictures.
I was obsessed with social media and consistently capturing as much of life as my computer’s hard-drive could hold. I would fake poses and captions and locations just to seem like my life was as interesting as the bloggers I admired so much. I was literally living a filtered, digital life.
Today, my mindset towards photography has somewhat shifted. I’m still obsessed with social media, but not for the “likes.” Social media offers me an outlet to connect with fellow creatives in ways I never could have before.
I maintain my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Snapchat with the strongest aesthetic I can, utilizing photography apps such as VSCO, Prime, and Afterlight. I follow bloggers and hashtags, not to gain followers for myself but to constantly update my timelines with inspiration and creative content. I enjoy taking pictures with my friends because I like remembering life, not because I have to have a good picture to post.
The most important lesson I’ve learned, though, is to not get so busy capturing life that you forget to actually live it. I don’t see anything wrong with taking an interesting picture of your coffee, but then put down your camera and have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Forcing candid laughter is fun because it psychologically generates actual happiness, but don’t forget to appreciate genuine laughter when it happens.
If you take a picture of something, do it for the right reasons. Cherish memories, remember that trip to a trendy coffee shop, and then keep living. Life is too short to live it from behind a lens. You can find more of my photos here.