What Do You Wish You Had Started Sooner?

What Do You Wish You Had Started Sooner?

Whenever I discover something important or valuable to me, I inevitably wish I'd started it earlier. Areas of photography are no exception. So what do you wish you had started sooner?

Nearly a decade ago, I had a sudden surge of motivation and direction: I wanted to merge my love for writing with my love for photography. I didn't really care if people read it, I just wanted to do it, and most importantly, do it consistently. So, like most photographers, I started my own blog. I stuck to it for quite a few years before writing freelance and then for Fstoppers. I distinctly remember that after just a few weeks of writing, one of my articles did quite well (in the context of my views back then, at least!). Although I was pleased that I was now writing regularly about my passion, the pleasure was heavily laced with a blend of disappointment and regret than I hadn't started sooner, a reaction I've had every time shortly after finding something I feel strongly about.

"Hindsight is a powerful thing," you'll hear them say. It is, but to degrees. A deathbed realization that you weren't a great father is somewhat worse than wishing you'd started getting eight hours of sleep sooner. I also believe that the potency of your regret and the timeline are sliding scales, and, at least potentially, you can expedite your discovery of a new passion or skill you wish to cultivate. That's what this article and the comment section is all about. I want to discuss the things you wish you'd started sooner and reaped even more benefits than you have. Maybe you'll prompt a reader down a path slightly earlier, and it'll pay dividends for them down the line. With that in mind, here are three areas I wish I'd been swifter to begin.

An innocuous snap I took because I happened to have my camera with me, and the image has become special to me. My Grandad watching his old football (soccer) team play. He donned the same shirt and played on the same pitch 70 years prior to this picture.

Shooting Regularly

This sounds ridiculous for somebody who is not only a full-time photographer, but somebody who writes and reads about it daily, works on a very large photography website, and is passionate about the medium. However, it wasn't that long ago that I realized the more "success" I was having at working in this industry, the less I seemed to actually use my camera. I was caught out by only being a photographer on important and scheduled shoots, and it was eating away at my will to have a camera by my side at all times. I used to shoot anything and everything. Most were throwaways or dull, but I didn't care. Somehow, I'd slipped in to a regime where I simply couldn't be bothered to take my camera if it wasn't guaranteed I'd come back with good shots.

In all honesty, it took me too long to fix, and I'm still consciously fixing it.

Networking

I hate this word. I hate the image it conjures too: sweaty, middle-aged local folk, in a hotel's function room early one morning, ritualistically swapping business cards like Panini stickers. In fact, my straw man argument against networking was the reason I recoiled at any formal opportunity to do so. Thankfully, I eventually came to understand that the best networking doesn't have that word anywhere near it. I started going to events within my industries (that is, photography and things I photograph) and just chatting with other people interested in the same stuff as I am. Before I knew what I was doing, I was not long seeing the benefits in my business, but I was able to act as a middle man to help other people out too.

Writing

I write more now than I ever have. In fact, I'd go as far as to say I've just steadily increased the amount I write since I first started. In February, I wrote over 32,000 words on photography-related topics alone. I'm not dissatisfied with how much I write now, but I am irked by how long it took me to hit my stride. Very little has changed in my ability to herd words on a page. The only obvious difference is my discipline, motivation, and appreciation for consistency (which is a sort of meta regret that underpins all the others.)

Over to You

What do you wish you had started sooner? It truly can be anything. A photographer once told me that he wish he'd started going for a walk every morning before work, years before he did as the benefits were numerous. Perhaps, however, it's a photographic technique you regret not honing. Share yours in the comments below and potentially impact some fellow human on a different part of the planet for the better.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

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17 Comments

Michael Jin's picture

Photography. My father owned a photo lab since I was 8 years old and it was only age 24 that I even picked up an SLR and 30 (5 years after my father closed his lab) that I actually bothered to learn about the exposure triangle.

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Stefan Gonzalevski's picture

Using and understanding flash. Mostly outdoor and off the camera strobes.
Learning and experimenting are made much more easy now with digital (I started during analog times...)

Gerald Bertram's picture

No other single thing improved my photography more than learning how to properly use off camera flash. Even my move from my consumer APSC camera to my "pro" full frame camera didn't have as much of an impact as using flash did. Even a cheap speedlight will make a huge difference.

Owain Shaw's picture

I really wish I had started printing my work at a decent size earlier. I've recently started catching up on years worth of work which only existed on hard drives, printing a certain amount per month until I get up to date - and because of how long it took me to get started, I still have a few months to go until I reach that point.

My work isn't the kind of photography where there are singular, stand-out images to print big and display, it's more small bodies of work or one continuous body, and I always struggled with deciding what to print for this reason. My 'solution' to this was to select all the images I would like to print (for whatever reason) and put them into groups of 25 without worrying too much about themes or anything else that might see me shy away from the task. I then print 25 or 50 depending on how much I can spend in a given month, and that brings me closer to catching back up with myself.

I'm really happy to have some of work that I can hold and show people in their hands. It also really does make you see the work differently.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Someone recently printed one of my images large and in exceptional quality to have in their home. As soon as I saw it, I realised I don't print enough!

Gerald Bertram's picture

I just finally started printing more of my work. It's really amazing how different a shot can look from looking at it on your screen vs holding a print in your hand.

"So what do you wish you had started sooner?"

I wish I had started selling my images sooner. I wish that I had started shooting for publication and marketing my images to hunting and natural history publications back in the late 1980s, and failing that, I wish I had started selling through online stock agencies in the very early 2000s. Doing either of these things would have completely changed my life, as I would have had a way to earn significant income from my photography and would not have the need to do other work, which is unfulfilling and unenjoyable.

The ships have sailed, and it is now very difficult to make a significant income selling one'e wildlife imagery either via direct sales or agency sales.

Ansel Spear's picture

Moisturizing.

Agree and add sunscreen to that

Paulo Macedo's picture

Getting my commercial pilot's license. By now i'd be flying Airbus A350's and whatnot.

David Pavlich's picture

I agree, but my regret is not getting my private ticket. Now I'm too old and can't afford what it costs to get the certificate. And I now think what would have been had I signed up for commercial pilot's training right out of high school instead of going to college. Maybe a retired 747 pilot? :-)

Paulo Macedo's picture

True that! Even I, at the age of 32, think it's too late to get my certificate. Not to mention that in Europe the pilot course might cost you some whooping 120.000€ (160.000USD).
Here in Portugal if you pass the Air Force exams and become a pilot there, after 10 years of complementary service to the Air Force they will relieve you so you can go and work on airliners. TAP Air Portugal has in it's fleet mostly air force pilots.
What did I do? I've spent my young years playing Flight Simulator and dreaming instead of putting all the effort on being in shape and enlist on the Air Force. I had the perfect eye sight (still have), 1.82m tall which is what they need and was a rugby player, so I was somewhat in shape. Still I let the oportunity go.
Not with other projects though, photography being the main one now.

David Pavlich's picture

My wife's cousin flew C130s in the Canadian Air Force. He is now the chief test pilot for Airbus in the states. He was transferred from Toulouse, France where he was a test pilot and did a lot of the testing on the A380. Talk about a GREAT job!!

When my Dad left the Army Air Corps after WWII, he was a flight engineer on a B17G, he got his ticket and flew commercially for a short time, but got married and wasn't making enough money, so he left flying behind.

We all have regrets. I wish I had signed up for the military. At the time, the US had the draft lottery and I had a high number so wasn't called. I should have gone into the Air Force. I wouldn't have been able to fly because of my eyesight...pretty bad. But I could have worked on the planes. Oh well....

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Kevin McLin's picture

What I wish I had started doing sooner? Telemark skiing. I should have started at 17 when my knees were strong and my legs had spring, not at the age of 45 when neither of those things pertained. Oh well.

Thanks for the article. I am currently trying to take some of this wisdom and put it to use, so this piece was a nice kick in the backside. The part about taking more pictures more regularly especially hits home, and the part about writing regularly. And networking. Maybe I'll see if I can work in a daily walk, too.