I've been shooting almost everyday for the past few weeks, but I can see how you would be a bit skeptical of that since this blog has been awful quiet for a little while. It's just that, by the time I get home, the only things to photograph are my backyard or the dog, one of which is boring and the other refuses to be still. I'll let you figure out which is which. I didn't think you'd want to see a thousand different shots of my tomato plants while I work on manual exposure. Who would?

But I'm shooting my first real gig this Saturday - engagement photos for a friend from high school and her new fiance, and I am equal parts excited and nerve-wracked. I've been fiddling around with the camera, trying to find a little inspiration, but as it happens, bushes and backyards and dogs are not terribly inspiring.

So I bought some magazines. I hoped they would be loaded with pictures of happy couples frolicking through the meadows (isn't that what all couples do?), but I was sorely disappointed. I don't read many magazines as it is, so I wasn't quite sure what to look for. I ended up snagging a few that appeared to be filled with photographs without really leafing through because, you know, I didn't want to be one of those people who read an entire magazine without buying it.

I picked out one called Bullett, not having the faintest idea what it was about, and I ended up cringing at every other page from the bizarre nudity and naughty language. But the girl on the cover! She looked so innocent! So vintage! So creamy skinned and lovely! I wonder if she knows what was inside the rest of the pages?

I tried instead to take a closer look at the lighting, the angles, the shadows, what I liked and what I didn't. I thought about my style, how it's a bit more whimsical than what I was seeing in the magazines, how I want my photographs to be of real people and not a strung out model who looks distant in the eyes and plastic in the face.

I shot a photo of one of the girls on the back cover of Vanity Fair, and it was a bit creepy to see - her eyes had an unnatural glow to them, her skin was so airbrushed it looked like a mannequin, and her perfection struck me as so phony, I wondered if the excessive Photoshopping rinsed away any trace of real personality she has in real life. I don't want my photos to look like that, not at all.

I tend to compare my work to more established photographers, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. But I found I was trying too hard to imitate the photographs I enjoyed rather than developing my own style. I think it's perfectly alright, and encouraged, to snag the habits and little things about another photographer you want to incorporate into your own work, but it should still be you. There should still be a difference between your work and theirs.

I thought back to a course I took last semester in graduate school, Theory of Creativity. We bounced a lot of theories around over how much control we actually had over our creative processes or if it is more a muse, a whisper that comes and goes with the wind, fussy and fickle and impossible to grasp for very long. I think I am somewhere in between the two, I believe in letting my style grow organically, but with a bit of nipping and tucking along the way.

Everybody starts somewhere. This is where I am.

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