The other day I was talking with a wedding photographer who has many years of experience. During the conversation, I mentioned that although I (generally) like my images, I'm not satisfied with my photography. Her response was to the point:
"Get used to it."
Yeah, I get it. It comes with the territory, and I'm fine with that. I figure that if I ever felt satisfied with my work, then I would be done with photography; there would be no more challenge for me. Realistically, though, there is infinite challenge if I choose to open my eyes to it.
Since I started with my old Minolta X-370, the quality of my photographs has consistently improved. People started to comment on them politely, then they started to really mean their compliments. I upgraded equipment, shot lots more, and got more positive feedback. I liked my photographs, and thought others would too, so with much encouragement I started my professional practice.
I'm serious about it, so I study, read, and practice. And the more I do, the less satisfied I am. My shots aren't as sharp as I want them to be. Or the lighting is bad, with an unfortunate shadow appearing where I failed to notice it in my viewfinder. Whatever the reason, the more I learn the less satisfied I am in my work. But isn't that actually just a sign that I am indeed learning? I am learning what constitutes a good photograph, with good composition and good lighting and good exposure. I am also learning more about what I like in terms of a photographic style, and perhaps starting to define my own.
So now, after many years of ever-improving photography, my skills have seemingly regressed. I feel like I'm only just beginning to understand what I'm doing with my camera, and what's possible. Everything is in question, and I struggle with every image. I study the work of others, wondering if I can ever achieve that level of competence. Intellectually, though, I know that these insecurities are actually just the telltales that I'm growing and learning and seeing more.
I'm not satisfied, and I'm glad.