Photography Lessons

I took a photojournalism class last semester.

I don’t own a camera and certainly haven’t dabbled with $4,000 equipment before. I figured a class like this would be fun; an easy way to appease my academic advisers and earn three more credits towards graduation.

I had no idea that my class in photography and journalism would encourage me to live my life.

My professor was a superstar. He began each two-hour class period – which strangely, I quite enjoyed – with anecdotes about his days “on the field”. Crazy things, things that a text book could never teach you. Things like “always carry a life preserver in the trunk of your car” or “and that was my running gag with the president”.

On the first day of class, he summarized our objectives as follows: control your background, fill your frame, wait for moments. These were three rules that he promised, by the end of the semester, we would learn to apply when building the composition of our photographs. Over the course of the next fifteen weeks, I failed at each of those components at least once. Either the background was sloppy or I didn’t crop into the photo enough or I shot a mediocre moment that would have improved if I had waited just…two…more…seconds.

On the last day of class, the professor told us he was going to summarize the course, and this is what he meant:

1. Control Your Background

He told us that everything we do – whether it be what we post on social media or how we interact with strangers – will leave a trail of fingerprints behind us. When we are preparing to enter the workforce, one run-in with the law or one photograph floating carelessly around the internet could return to destroy the dreams we’ve worked so hard to build. He wanted us to take control of what others know about us.

2. Fill Your Frame

“Live your life. It’s okay to take risks. Comfort is not a good enough reason to do something.” We are young and endless possibilities lay before us. Yes, choosing to start a business is riskier than a guaranteed job, but if we the passion, we should follow it. Yes, travelling to another country may be costly and upset the traditional timeline (college > job > rise ladder in job). Yes, moving to Texas without knowing anyone may be uncomfortable, but sometimes we should go. Jump. Live a life full of new experiences.

*Disclaimer: I personally don’t think that going to tons of events and having six thousand friends and going to a new country every week means that my frame is being filled. There’s something much deeper to this concept…I don’t know how to put it into words, so I’ll leave it for you to figure out.

3. Wait for Moments

We move too fast to enjoy the seconds of life. We’re so focused on the big plan: what classes will we take next semester? what will we do when we finish grad school? what is our five-year-plan? But we are missing everyday moments. We are missing the sunshine between storms or the few minutes each day when the entire family is gathered in one room. We are missing the quiet things, the moments that don’t announce themselves in advertisements or invitations.

I wanted to share these words with you, friends, and I hope they are of use to you. I don’t have a fancy way to wrap up this post, so I guess I’ll just leave you with this:

Live Fully.


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