Sometimes I joke around with my sister-in-law (a pretty talented graphic designer) and tell her I’m looking at a new project. I’ll totally be Photoshopping someone’s face onto a kittens body like a pro, I say.
Sometimes I’m not sure if she laughs because it’s silly, or because she’s plotting murder. Learning small tricks in Photoshop is a hobby for me. I started to pay attention when I realized that I could turn my weird ideas into reality, but I won’t be applying for her job anytime soon ( — or ever.)
When I started to write this post, I was anxious because I didn’t want to come off as angry or stuck-up. There are plenty of things I can’t do and will never do (build or carry things, heal people, math…). I am both grateful for that and appreciative of people who choose other careers. With that said, what I have to say here is from my own experience.
Here’s the thing, I’m sure most people who have creative jobs have heard someone say any variation of those horrific words: “I bet I could do that.” Sure, I could say that we were born with incredible skills that cannot be replicated, but that’s probably not true. What I know is that you’re probably underestimating what your creative friends do, and what they have to put up with. You could be in our shoes, but you’re not. You don’t put up with criticism or your parents telling you to get a real job… (End rant).
But it’s more than that.
Seeing the big picture
When I started out, I really wanted to do what she did. My sister made it look so easy at times, so I embarked on an adventure that started with downloading Photoshop and then finding some tutorials online. Turns out, you need a little bit of practice before your work is effortless.
Even then, I was just messing around. To put it simply, my sister recently told me this: “Photoshop is a tool, not a profession.”
Though the right tools are great, they don’t make you a pro. I encourage anyone to learn a new skill, but I ask you to recognize that there is a bigger picture. A great event photographer isn’t just your friend who can use a digital camera, it is someone who can anticipate something, react to it and see the end product while they are working. Experiencing the process makes the tools and tricks more important.
Creativity as a career
When it comes to writing for a living, there’s usually more to it than just putting words down on paper in the right order. Somehow people don’t see this simple thing. Depending on the type of job, there can be a lot of planning or research involved. Writing an article for a newspaper and for a company are two different beasts. Writing up an ad is different from doing an interview for a story, but some people would lump it all under the same skill. Sure, there are similar tools — my brain, words, the Internet — but the function, the amount of research involved and the product are totally different.
Part of becoming good at what you do is recognizing what it takes to get the best finished product. The Einstein quote above comes to mind. Every time I look back at where I started with my job (or my Photoshopping), I know that I’m getting better. Every time I talk to my sister I realize that she’s busy not just editing faces on photos, but making sure that the “faces” make sense for a product or as part of a campaign. I like to approach all of my work with the intention of improving, but as Einstein said, when I learn something new, I see that there is so much more.
So, next time you feel your brain sending those unmentionable words to your lips: Pause. Ask me about what I do. What the hardest part of my week is. The experiences that taught me to love what I do. How many hours it takes before I release a project into the wild. And remember to listen, even if it doesn’t sound like a “real job.” The short version: trust me.
Hey, you might be inspired to Google some “how-to’s”.