Turning The Corner
It was my senior year in high school and I had just turned 18. I had been playing drums since age 11 – only 7 years – but to an adolescent, 7 years can feel like two decades. Just a week after my birthday I met some guys who had started a band called Third Day and fortunately for me, they needed a drummer. I obliged to try out and the rest is history!
I spent the next 24 years of my life making music and traveling the world. Third Day had quite a career and we experienced so much in that time. I never imagined music would be my livelihood or that it would last so long. But here’s part of the reason why I never imagined it… I sucked at it! Well, at least at first.
I’ll give myself some slack for the first 7 years of playing drums because really, it was just a hobby. I mean, I had a drum set in our damp, unfinished basement. I put stickers on the bass drum head. I duct taped my broken drum sticks back together. I hit a crash cymbal every four beats. Lots of crash cymbals. Never enough crash cymbals! My friends would come over and we would attempt to make music together. It was the stuff of garage bands and it was fun but certainly not career-worthy. And I wasn’t one of those high school kids who said,”I’m gonna make it in music someday!” No, I was more of the mind of, “What the heck am I gonna do when I grow up?”
I may never have grown up, but what started as an unpolished hobby became second nature, and I blossomed into my own style and technique. I said I’d give myself a free pass for the first 7 years of drumming, but I’ll just tell you that the next 7 years was trial by fire. I mean, after all, Third Day was in ever-increasing demand. It’s one thing to play music at your own leisure and quite another when you’re obligated. When the “get to” becomes the “have to,” you learn to grow quickly. It was definitely an uphill climb but I distinctly remember the season when it felt like I was finally getting it. I was mastering a skill and becoming really good at what I did. You might call it, “owning it.”
My point in painting this backstory is that now, after nearly 6 years in photography, I believe I’m finally becoming halfway decent at it! In fact, I’m equal parts amazed and embarrassed to look at my earliest attempts at capturing great shots. I mean, who doesn’t love a shot of the clear blue, mid day sky over the rocky mountains with nothing interesting happening? Can we say Lightroom clarity slider to the rescue? I’ll never forget the day I discovered that slider. It was my best go-to trick!
One thing I’ve learned is that just because your family and friends say you’re great – and they certainly mean well – it doesn’t mean you are. In fact, I have learned to be more and more critical of my own work. It’s essential to growth in anything. You celebrate the wins but learn from the mistakes. I definitely had to learn that behind the drum set, and it’s no different with a camera in hand.
Yes, I finally feel like I’m getting pretty good at photography. I say finally because most of my favorite images up until recently were the result of spraying and praying, then sifting through the rubble and finding one gem here or there. Can you relate? Whereas now, I’m feeling more in control of the process from start to finish. My confidence has grown considerably, partly because my ‘get to’ is now my ‘I’m being paid to!’
Perhaps the same is true for you. However, if you’re kind of new to this whole photo thing, then I encourage you to keep at it, have fun shooting, editing and sharing. But also get gut level honest with yourself about your work and let others speak into it as well. Don’t be afraid to fail! Welcome failure as a guest of success because they go hand in hand. They are both equally part of what will get you to the next level.
David Carr is based in Atlanta, GA. Though primarily a portrait photographer, he always has and always will love photographing landscapes, architecture, animals and really anything that makes a great image. You can see more of his work at DavidCarr.com, and keep up with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.