The truth is, I never had much interest in photography before college. My dad was a professional photographer, but it wasn’t until I saw the job posting for the Publicity Office at Adrian College that I ever asked him to show me how it was done.
We went through two rolls, from shooting to processing to printing in his basement darkroom. I sent in a few prints and got the job. So I headed off to freshman year armed with minimal experience and my dad’s aging Mamiya.
Soon I graduated from PR’s tiny closet in the history building to the full size darkroom of the college newspaper, where I’d push 400 speed film to 1600, bringing out that week’s basketball games and swim meets in glorious grainy detail. The halftone machine was probably bigger than my dorm room, with a loud vacuum pump to hold the wax-resist paper where my shots would be reproduced in thousands of tiny dots.
Several years later, I aim a point and shoot camera at my kids without a thought about aperture or shutter speed. Not only is there no film to process, but my pictures automatically appear on my hard drive through the magic of an Eye-Fi card. It’s a very different world.
This nostalgic reverie actually has a point to it.
That was the beginning for me of some guiding principles I’ve carried with me through my whole career. Something like this:
- Identify opportunities where not a lot of people have the requisite skill.
- Learn new skills quickly, and don’t worry about perfecting them before you get started.
- Keep moving forward, learn from your failures but don’t be afraid of them.
- When better methods and techniques come along, don’t cling to your old skill set just because you put time into developing it. Embrace the new.
When desktop publishing replaced light tables and X-Acto kinves, I was ready to go along for the ride. When the web started gaining popularity in 1995, I got a Macintosh Performa and a “Teach Yourself HTML in a Week” book.
It took me until Dreamweaver 3.0 to make the leap into WYSIWYG editors, but then i didn’t look back and jumped with both feet into Flash development.
Now, I’ll still hand-code some html once in a while. I’ll put together a swf when it’s the best way to accomplish something. But I’m not married to those techniques. If there’s a faster, easier way to do something, I’m ready to learn.
This is why I feel at home in internet marketing, online development, and social media. The landscape is always shifting. This is an industry that rewards flexibility, adaptability, and a passion for learning. The most successful people in this sphere are those who move quickly, learn quickly, and waste no tears on the skills and techniques they leave behind.