I went through a phase where I went pre-set crazy. And then one day, the pleasure of altering my photos beyond recognition ceased to feel so good. It was the realization that my reliance on digital enhancement wasn't pushing me to improve my photography chops. My shots straight from the camera were actually getting worse.
There are purists who recommend that you shoot with film for 6 months before you even touch a digital camera. While I wish I could have learned photography through film, it is a little too late for that.
There is no question that the digital revolution has forever changed photography; it has provided a way for people to learn much more quickly but has also created an army of pseudo-professional photographers. Unfortunately, most of these photographers are too prideful to recognize how mediocre their work is. Having a website/blog doesn't qualify one as a good photographer. Neither does having shot a wedding. I've even met a few "photographers" who shot dozens of weddings, but as it turns out didn't even understand basic principles of lighting (nor did they shoot in manual mode). These individuals are essentially cheating themselves and their clients. Though I am not sure if it technically counts as cheating a client if the client is not refined enough to know they are being cheated. That's a discussion for another time.
There really is a difference between taking shortcuts and learning the right way, albeit at a much faster pace. While the shortcuts available seem tempting, I hope that I stick to my original plan and continue to patiently approach my training. I believe taking too many shortcuts is something that will haunt aspiring photographers in the long run.
During my first session with my mentor, I remember him telling the small group that meets on Tuesdays that we were not to even call ourselves photographers until we had completed a year of training. As my training continues, I am starting to see the wisdom in that statement and just how much room for growth there is in my work. Most days I can't help but fight the feeling that my stuff sucks beyond repair. And then, once in a while, I will see some improvement. Boy, does that feel good. Then I look at the work of other talented photographers, and I am reminded again of how much my photos relatively suck and am simultaneously inspired to continue on my journey.
If I fail, it won't be due to a lack of hard work. It will be due to a lack of talent.
And I can live with that.
And I can live with that.