How Much Photographic Experience Do You Have?

Today’s Musings by Joe Farace

Most professional photographer’s websites and blogs include something like this phrase: “Having more than 25 years experience…” Heck, I’m even guilty of this. The Bio page on my car photography website says “Over the past 30 years I’ve published 34 books, more than 3000 magazine stories and an uncountable number of blog posts.” For some reason I didn’t use this same wording for the Bio page on this site. All of which got me to thinking: At what point in our life do we start measuring our photographic experience?

Do we start with the very first photograph that we made? When I was eight years old my parents gave me my first camera; it was a hand-me-down Kodak Box Brownie. I remember the first photograph I made with it. It was of a flag flying from a pole in Baltimore’s Collington Square park, next to a bandstand where the city’s Municipal Band gave free concerts when I was a kid. The pole and bandstand are long gone but you can see a modern interpretation of my photo here.

Maybe we should start measuring our photographic experience from when we made our first photograph “on purpose” compared to just making images documenting our lives. In that case it happened during the summer between elementary and high school when I went to Washington DC (photo above) with my friend Danny and shot 620 black and white film with a Brownie Hawkeye that another friend had made an adapter for it allowing me to use a yellow filter.

Was it the first time somebody paid me for my photography? This was the measurement that I used in the “30 Year” comment on my writing career. My first paid photograph assignment happened 10 years before publishing that first magazine article and I‘m not sure whether it was something I shot for an ad agency or a wedding, they all happened around the same time. I’ll let you do the math because when I start doing it, I feel really old.

Back when Shutterbug sponsored workshops one of my co-seminar leaders once told our students that some people say they have “20 year’s experience” but they really only have one year’s experience twenty times because they keep taking the same photograph over and over. And so, my friends, the next time you go out to make some photographs, try something new. A while ago, I wrote a post entitled, “Some Advice for New Photographers.” If you have time, give it a read and use it to build your own, new experiences.