Reflecting on photography growth, giving advice


Rachel Haggerty/NW WAILING OUT—NMU alumni Brady Skewis performs with local band Joel & the Good Boys at local DIY music venue, The Motel on Feb. 1. The Motel has hosted various house shows for up and coming bands in the area.

Rachel Haggerty

I’ve been attending NMU for five years with a concentration in photography. As graduation approaches, I reflected on my growth as a photographer. 

Most importantly, I learned to have confidence in my work. It’s easy to compare yourself to others when there are so many students in the photography program, especially starting out with little to no knowledge and no style of editing. I thought that I needed a distinct style to have people be interested in my work. The thought discouraged me so much that I didn’t attempt to figure out Lightroom for years. It takes time out of your day to sit down and put yourself through the trial and error of all Adobe Creative Cloud applications. Every aspect of the application has to be messed with to see what it can do. Then you start trying different combinations of things until you like the final product. 

I am someone who rarely says no to a new shooting opportunity, whether it be helping a friend out with marketing shots or shooting new subjects for fun. My good friend and NMU alumni, Jordan Mattarella, recently asked me to shoot for her vintage clothing project. I had never even thought about doing portrait photography. The thought of shooting models was terrifying to me. Yet the experience will stick with me and give me confidence in the future. 

In October of 2018, I started shooting house shows, which are small concerts in the basements of student housing. I look back to my old photos and wonder what the hell I was doing. Everything takes time and experience. Nobody will be good at something their first time. The initial thought of shooting in a public area in front of a bunch of peers scared me. I thought they would expect something at least decent out of me, although I had no idea how they would turn out until I got home and opened them on my computer. 

The best way to get started is to just get started. The only way to learn is through trial and error. For years, I let my social anxiety rule my career and that’s why I didn’t grow as an artist. 

A word of advice for art students who compare themselves to everyone and restrict themselves creatively: just go do it. Say yes to opportunities that get presented to you. The only way you’ll get better is through experience. Don’t let the fear of not succeeding stop you from initially trying something.