I have a long history with imagery.

Visual imagery has always played a big role in my life. I grew up with a love and appreciation of photography. From the snapshots my father took to document our family memories to the cover art on my record collection. 

My last memory of my mom before she passed away is of us going through our box of photographs. We laughed ourselves to tears as we were taken back in time. 

I got my own first pocket camera when I was about 12 years old. I was happy to click away and capture memories my perspective and to have a different way of seeing than my dad. 

As a teen coming of age in the 1980’s, music videos changed how we listened to music. To this day, I visualize music when I am listening to it, regardless of the genre.

SueBahen_cm_blog_what_cm_means_to_me-11 concert with blue and green lights singer on stage

In high school, I really wanted to learn photography. The language and technical aspects of the craft were so foreign to me and yet I wanted to understand them.

I was going to enroll in a photography class. I wanted to learn all about exposure and developing film in the darkroom. However, my academic requirements wouldn’t allow me to add this elective to my schedule. I did spend time in the darkroom with a couple of my friends who were taking the class. I think I can still smell the developing chemicals.

Fast forward a number of years to when my husband surprised me with a Canon film SLR camera. I was so excited to step up from the point-and-shoot cameras that I grew up with. I believed that a bigger, better camera would elevate my photographs. Silly, me…

I made a few feeble attempts over the years to learn. I signed up for community center classes. The books written by the experts left me dazed and confused.

Without any real resources to learn, I just defaulted back to my point and shoot camera. I resigned myself to capturing snapshots of my two little boys and the world around us.

Sue Bahen CM blog what clickin moms means to me carved and painted on tree with ivy growing

A renewed commitment to learning

Eventually. I found myself owning a DSLR. But the learning curve there was still the same as my old film SLR. It wasn’t until 2013 that my photographic dreams were answered by the big wide world of the internet.

My goal was to take the kind of pictures that I envisioned in my mind’s eye. I typed “improve your photography.” That got me started.

Then the search for “how to learn manual mode” led me to a blog run by a Clickin Moms member. She sang the praises of Clickin Moms, so I thought I’d see what the fuss was all about.

Encouraged by her rave review, I took a leap of faith and signed up with a Lifetime membership. Once I got myself situated and figured out where to find things, my life quite literally changed.

An online photography forum changed my life. This is not an exaggeration, people. It’s the honest truth.

I knew straight away that this was the going to be the difference-maker for me. The talented photographers I encountered there intimidated me. But at the same time, I was empowered by their willingness to share their knowledge with the community.

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The value of constructive critique

Before finding Clickin Moms, I had come across other forums. They were mostly male dominated (sorry guys!) and they were just plain harsh.

The critiques were critical and rarely constructive. I left those experiences feeling beaten down, believing that my photos had no redeeming qualities.

This was one of the most helpful things about Clickin Moms to shape me as a photographer. The members, Click Pros, and Clickin Moms Mentors all left me kind but constructive feedback on my images. They told me both my strengths and weaknesses. This allowed me to correct the mistakes, feel proud of my progress, and stay motivated to keep improving.

Receive constructive critique on YOUR images from industry professionals on the Clickin Moms forum. See how here!

Not only did reading the critiques about my own work help me to develop my skills, but so did reading the expert critiques of other photos and providing peer critique for my fellow forum members. Studying the work of other photographers, regardless of whether they are brand new to photography or masters in the art, is one of the most valuable learning tools there is.

It’s easy to look subjectively at a photograph and say that you like or you don’t like it. However, I believe it is way more valuable to ask the question “Why?” It’s important to be objective and to dissect the elements in an image and say, “This works/doesn’t work because of A, B, and C.” Offering actionable points on how the photograph can be improved upon has been key to helping me assess how to improve my own photos.

Learning to look at photographs objectively has been a game changer for me. That’s not to say that I don’t still have times when I dislike my work or wish I could improve. We all have times like these! But Clickin Moms has given me the tools to look at those so-called weaknesses and devise plans to move toward making stronger images.

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Keeping me accountable

As I continued to learn, I found myself wanting some accountability to stay motivated to shoot. This is when I found a Project 52 group on Clickin Moms.

I had heard plenty of times that daily shooting was the best way to get better. Other photographers recommended big endeavors like the 365 Project, but wasn’t sure that I could commit to daily shooting.

Having a weekly goal of interpreting a theme or technical prompt would be perfect. It would help me practice my skills and to develop my creativity without having to stress about a daily photo.

Need accountability or motivation in your photography? The Clickin Moms community has contests, events, and group projects happening all the time! Check them out here.

Posting my work to the group and interacting with other members gave me confidence. Not only did the P52 help me grow as a photographer, it helped me establish a real, supportive community bonded by a shared interest.

I gained confidence and really started to feel like I was capable of sharing my work. As my photography improved and I began to think like a photographer, I began to step forward and share that with the Clickin Moms community. Setting goals to share my work on the forum keep me shooting and editing and always striving to be better.

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Finding inspiration in unexpected sources

When I joined Clickin Moms, I thought I might be limited by my life stage. I didn’t have cute little babies whose every move I needed to capture. Instead, I had teenage children. I personally wasn’t really interested in documenting our daily life in an artful manner.

I learned that even if I wasn’t shooting the same thing that the majority of my fellow Clickin Moms was shooting, there was still plenty to learn!

The fact is, understanding how to manipulate exposure, what depth of field means, and what elements make a composition impactful are somewhat universal. When we understand these things, we have to tools to apply them to different genres.

Whatever genres you love, you can find specific resources for them as a Clickin Moms member!

So despite wanting to photograph nature, landscapes, and the mundane details around me, I was reading tutorials about shooting backlit maternity photographs. I devoured critiques on using back button focus for freezing the action of fast-moving kids. I studied how to manipulate the quality and quantity of light.

To this day, I don’t limit myself to taking-in only the genres I shoot. I continue to look outside my wheelhouse (one look at my Instagram feed will back me up on this!) and Clickin Moms is a constant source of inspiration and variety.

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Finding MY voice

Through applying all that I had learned on the forum and shooting like crazy, I began to see patterns emerging in my work. I used lines, light, and perspective like words to convey my story.

Finding my visual voice through the help of peers, teachers, and mentors made me feel like my life-long dream of being a photographer was coming true. It’s one thing to be able to make a well exposed frame and to get your subject in focus. However, it’s an entirely different experience to be able to make images that can elicit an emotional response.

Once I was able to move past the technical aspects of photography and shoot from my soul, I found my creative purpose.

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Finding my tribe

One of the most unexpected ways in which Clickin Moms helped to shape me as a photographer was to introduce me to the most incredible, kind, talented and encouraging people I have ever met. I have developed real friendships through this worldwide online community.

When we talk about the Clickin Moms community, it’s important to not underestimate the role community plays in our artistic and person development. Having people in your life that you can trust to be honest with you and to help you work through creative slumps is invaluable. I love my tribe!

It’s been the greatest pleasure being able to surround myself with creative people. I never used to consider myself a creative type. But learning and growing in such a nurturing environment has made me a better photographer and a better person in the process.

Being a Clickin Moms member has changed my life. My only goal when joining the forum was to learn how to use my camera to its fullest potential. I wanted to be able to make better photographs.

It’s been a lifetime of being captivated by beautiful photography. And after years of being in awe of what well-known photographers could do, I have gained the confidence to count myself among them.

I am a photographer.

I am still and will always be a student of photography. The learning process never ends and I’m so happy that I have the Clickin Moms community to keep teaching, inspiring me and pushing me to continue growing in this craft.

I can’t wait to see where your Clickin Moms membership takes you.