You’ve read here lately about how I have been taking photography classes and been frustrated with how some (many) of my photos have turned out. Surely I am doing something wrong, I think. What am I doing wrong?
In my last class, the teacher sat down with each of us to answer specific questions about our photos. I pulled up one of the bad photos I had taken recently at an indoor track and field event to show him. He gave me some hints on how to adjust the photo’s colors and exposure etc. by using Adobe computer programs. These programs allow us to make magic on the screen -- taking away wrinkles, lightening this, darkening that, removing dust spots -- but even this was not enough to save this picture.
We also talked about the “noise” or deep grain that was so evident in this and my other indoor photos. Unbeknownst to me, I learned that I was making all the right adjustments on the camera to “make a good photo,” but was hampered by the situation (poor indoor lighting, distance from the subject, trying to stop action etc.) Then the teacher told me that my particular camera tends to create a lot of noise in photos.
Ha, I thought, ha, ha! It wasn’t just that I didn’t know what I was doing, the result being these unusable photos. I was doing all I could to deal with the circumstances I had been given, he said.
I felt vindicated, a little, but that’s when I started thinking about how I just assumed it was my fault that the pictures had not turned out well. Too often I think that if I can’t get the results I want or if something isn’t working, it’s somehow my fault, and that I am doing something wrong. I realized then that this is an all too common reaction for Baby Boomers, and can likely be traced back to our childhoods.
As Baby Boomers, we grew up at a time when parents were hard-wired to believe that if things went wrong at school or on the playground, it had to be the fault of their children. Brought home a bad report card? It couldn’t be that the teacher was not doing her job. It had to be that we were slacking off. Had trouble learning something, like long division? We just weren’t paying enough attention.
(I remember my parents coming home from teacher conferences when I was in grade school only to tell me that my teachers said I was doing OK, “but she could try harder.” I never did figure out what that meant, but again, it felt like I was at fault somehow.)
My least favorite line when dealing with objects that aren’t working or service that came up short is that “No one else has complained.” Yeah, right. I'm the first person EVER to complain that the new gizmo I bought for my computer doesn’t work. But then I move onto the self-questioning and begin to second-guess myself, wondering, “Just how inept am I that I can’t get this gizmo to work? Pretty inept because he told me that it works for everyone else. It must be my fault!”
I will let you -- and me again -- in on some good advice to ward off this tendency towards negativity our generation seems to share. It came from a tech person who was helping me install a fax machine in my office years ago: “Sometimes things just don’t work.”
And it’s not our fault.
By Teresa K. Flatley