I Don't Want to Be Insta-Famous

In the past year, I have been pursuing photography and developing a love and passion for this craft. If you would have asked me two years ago, "Do you want to be a photographer?", I would have said, "Like, as a career?" and would have probably laughed out-loud. 

I had no photography experience. No motivation. No camera. And an Instagram account with a bad username, 125 posts of food, awkward and stupid memes, blurry photos, and less than 200 followers. I saw no potential. 

In November of last year, I bought a camera. I don't know why. Something motivated me to buy a camera and see what all the fuss was about. At that time, I had started following photographers around the country and world that seemed to be doing really cool things, people like Joe Greer (@ioegreer), Cory Crawford (@coryacrawford), Griffin Lamb (@griffinlamb) and others. They all seemed to know each other, hang out with one another, go hiking and exploring and take photos of each other. I wanted that. I wanted to meet these guys. See the places they saw. Be "one of the cool photographers in the PNW".

I started taking pictures. They were awful. Honestly, most of them have been deleted. I had never taken classes, never used a camera before, and had no clue what I was doing. I took a lot of pictures. I took a lot of really terrible pictures. Like, thousands. And if you're someone starting out, my advice, take thousands of bad photos. 

But over the course of the winter and spring, I started learning what all the buttons and dials did. They do a lot. Aperture, ISO, Shutter-speed. They all seemed unlearnable. Over my head. I didn't feel smart enough. I was never the smart kid. After taking even more blurry, grainy, and really over-exposed photos, something clicked. I started to see photos that looked better. Identify the bad ones. Pick out the good-ish ones. I began to take photos that I felt confident and proud of. So I started sharing them. One day, one of my photos hit 25 likes. I was pretty ecstatic. One of my photos was featured by @pnwonderland...even though I was living in Michigan. 

Looking back, I have no idea why they featured me. I had like 300 followers at the time and still didn't know what I was doing. But there was something about being featured that lit a fire under me. It gave me a feeling of recognition. Someone out there liked my photo enough to share it with thousands of people. I'm going to be honest...it went to my head. I wanted more. More likes. More followers. More recognition. Thus, the Insta-monster was born. 

I set a goal for myself. I wanted to have 1,000 followers by the end of 2015. Simple. 

I had no idea how that was going to happen. But, I really wanted it to. I reached out to a few photographers with large followings asking how they got "famous". Some responded, some didn't. The response I kept hearing was, "connect. build community. engage." 

I was like..."isn't there a magic button that will make me famous?" I didn't really know how to connect. I lived in a little town in the middle of Michigan. All the cool photographers lived out west. I started looking for local people who were serious about taking high quality photos and were interested in meeting up and shooting together. I attended Instameets, city walks, and other events that brought the local photography community together. I started learning how to take portraits, cityscapes, and landscape photos. I tried long exposures and night photography. Indoor photos. Lifestyle. Everything. I started loving the art of photography and the creativity that it brought out in me. 

My first real "Photo Adventure" was in May, right before I moved to Louisville. My buddy and I spent the day at Silver Lake State Park. It was this day, and the photos that I took, that sparked a real passion for adventure, the unknown, and creating images that portrayed emotion and told stories. After that day, I stopped just taking photos. I started thinking about creating images...theres a huge difference. If you look at any somewhat popular Instagram account, you'll see a trend of amazing images. There aren't as many photos of coffee, or things in their houses, or other random objects. There are many exemptions to this, but there is a trend of visually inspiring images and locations of majesty, that attract the majority of Instagram users. 

I want to create images: 

Fast forward to 2016. I hit my goal of 1,000 followers back in September. It was my "Insta-Famous" moment. It's not that great. Really. It was cool for a day, but nothing changed. 

After a year of photography, it has become more than Instagram. Instagram is a way to share what a photographer is doing and the images they create, but I want to be a photographer first, and "Instagrammer" second...or third. 

I want this to be my job. Plain and simple. I love the art of creating, and photography is the way I create. I want to see the world. Experience new places. Meet cool people. I want Instagram to be a part of that, but I have developed more than just an ability to take pictures over the course of this last year. I discovered that life isn't about fame. My motivation was to be "famous". That's not my motivation now. I fell in love with this craft; I never saw that coming. 

Instagram has introduced me to so many cool people. Sometimes people ask me, "so how did you meet so-and-so?" and most of the time, the answer is "Instagram". I love the community it creates. It is a tool, and a great one at that. 

So here I am. I don't want to be Insta-Famous. It's not a life I want. I want to be a photographer. If people enjoy my photos, follow along, and interact with me, awesome! I am appreciative. It's an honor that people enjoy the images I create. Truly. 

But Insta-Fame is no longer my motivation. 

Thank you for reading. Please ask questions. I love talking with you guys. 

And no, this is not my "I'm Quitting Instagram" letter. Still going strong, just clarifying some things that have been on my mind. 

Thankful for each and every one of you. 

Ben