March 24th, 2018

Keep Practicing

Somewhat recently, I saw a cosplayer post about how people frequently say they wish they were as talented as her, and her response was… she’s been doing this for 14 years! It’s not like she was magically good from the start. It’s something she’s been working hard at for over a decade.

This is something I’ve noticed as well. Sometimes people say they wish they took photos as well as I do, but I’m not sure if they realize that I take thousands of photos every year. Photography is something I continually work on. Sure, you can say that some people have a better eye for photography than others, but it still comes down to practicing over and over.

When it comes to cosplay, I’ve been doing it for years, but I’m still not where I’d like to be. However, I fully realize that this is on me. While some cosplayers make 10 costumes a year, I make at most three a year (sometimes just one). While some cosplayers constantly challenge themselves with harder techniques, there’s still many complicated things I haven’t even attempted. My slow progress is the result of me not working on it more often, and I know this.

So when I hear things like, “I would cosplay, but I’d be terrible at it”, it’s kind of frustrating to me. We’re all terrible in the beginning! For those who are frustrated with their progress, I will say that it gets easier the more you work on. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true.

When it comes to photography…

In the beginning: I struggled with manual settings, and it took me multiple tries to get where I’d want it to be.

Now: I can get the settings right on my first or second try. It’s to the point where I immediately have an ISO, aperture, and shutter speed in mind before I take a photo. So if you are intimidated by switching to manual settings on your camera, it really will get easier the more you do it. (But you need to keep doing it!)

Same location, improved photo technique

In the beginning: I was bad at directing people in a photoshoot. There’d be many awkward silences where I wasn’t sure what to say.

Now: I know how to take the lead in a photoshoot. Half of the people I shoot with are new to having a photoshoot done, and they tell me how I make them feel at ease and how happy they are that I could give direction. After my first photoshoot, I almost wanted to give up, but I’m glad I kept going at it.

In the beginning: I was hesitant to get into flash photography. All of the gear was confusing to me, and I didn’t understand how to adjust my camera settings to match.

Now: I still don’t have a lot of experience with different flash gear, but I’ve gotten used to adjusting my camera settings to a speedlite flash. I’ve come to really like incorporating flash into my photography.

Same location and flash type, improved flash technique

When it comes to cosplay…

In the beginning: I was terrible at reading patterns, especially when there’s sewing terminology I didn’t know. I would eventually give up and make up stuff along the way.

Now: I can read a pattern before starting on it and understand what’s going on. I’m also better at knowing which parts of the pattern I want to alter to get the look I want.

These sheets of paper are no longer intimidating to me.

In the beginning: My finishes were sloppy. The first time I lined something, it wasn’t correct, and I left a lot of seams open, which just frays easily. If you ever looked at the inside of my old costumes, you’d be horrified.

Now: I know how to properly line my outfits, and I make sure all of my seams are finished so that they don’t fray. My cosplays now look properly finished, both inside and out.

In the beginning: I avoided costumes with props or armor pieces. I made some accessories, but I mainly stuck to things I could make with craft foam or clay.

Now: This is something I still need to work on, but I’ve expanded my knowledge of different materials. I’m still not great at thermoplastic, but now I’m excited to use things like Worbla or Thibra. I actually want to do things with more complicated props and armor.

The epaulettes and sword use Worbla.

In the beginning: I wasn’t good at choosing fabric and defaulted to 100% cotton a lot of times. It didn’t always fit the outfit I used it on.

Now: I have more experience with different fabrics, even ones I used to have difficulty with, like spandex. I’ve also gotten used to dyeing my own fabric, so that I can get the color I want with the correct fabric type.

The next time you think, man, I wish I was better at ___, well… work on it! People who are good at what they do don’t get there immediately. They’re there because they worked hard on it. If you don’t put in the effort, then naturally, you won’t see the results. Be sure to keep at it!

13 Responses to “Keep Practicing”

  • Kayla says:

    I love this! Especially that you’ve shown photographic evidence of the improvements you’ve made. I’m so glad you stuck to it and can now use your experience to inspire others to work hard for what they want to achieve.

  • Claudine says:

    This is really inspiring, Cat! Especially in my case where I’ve been brought up to think that talent dictates everything – if you don’t have the talent, don’t expect to be any good at what you’re doing.

    During my first year in grad school, I was so terrible at statistics and I didn’t know the advanced economic models they were discussing (I wasn’t from an economics/statistics background). Anything that my classmates could do effortlessly, I could only do with twice the effort. But still, I learned, and I’m proud to say that I worked hard for it!

    It’s awesome that you’ve provided photographic evidence of your progress. This goes to show that hard work and repetition are truly the keys to mastery! I kind of want to do this to track my music learning progress but I don’t know, I’m still pretty embarrassed about my music lol!

  • Becca says:

    It’s amazing how much you have improved over the years! I’ve loved that you’ve put direct comparisons, and while your first photographs are still good, your more recent ones really show your improvement! Practice really is key, and I think when all we see is the finished product, it’s so easy to not realize the amount of hard work that it’s taken to get there!

    (All that being said, your cosplay skills still blow my mind – I’m definitely not creative in that kind of way so I am always impressed by the things you come up with!!)

  • Vicky says:

    This is so awesome! I love seeing before-and-after shots of people’s works over the years. c: It’s so easy to get discouraged, especially when you see all this super beautiful work on Instagram and Facebook. But it’s also super easy to forget that everyone starts out as a beginner and all you can really do is research and practice. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Practice makes perfect indeed. Keep doing what you do best!

    Sheena |

  • Shanae says:

    Quite literally reinforcing “prctice makes perfect”. I like that you posted photo evidence, showing exactly how much continuing on a project can really improve your abilities.

    It’s easy to get discouraged when you see someone perfecting a task you’re mediocre at. It tends to slip our minds that those people are good at something by investing hours of practice into improving their abilities. It’s quite likely that they were just as mediocre at first.

    This is a post I think a lot of people need to read. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Pauline says:

    I enjoyed reading this post – it really motivated me to keep on going with various things I’m experimenting with at the moment. Photography is something I had a go at (at a recent Hackathon event) and I can’t tell you the anxiety I felt trying to understand the settings of the camera. I definitely need to understand it a lot more but like you said “(But you need to keep doing it!)”

    Thanks so much Cat!

  • Nancy says:

    Your photography skills are top notch! I’ll still stay it because you’ve earned it with all of your constant practicing, investment, and care! I totally get you about being frustrated when people say that kind of stuff. They need to try and see! Nothing is going to be perfect the first time. Love how you keep improving your skills. I still thought your 2013 work was legit – but you’ve gained a lot of knowledge and skills over the years so go you!!!

    Ooooh love your cleaner sews! Thanks for the inspiration, Cat!

  • Kassy says:

    10000% YES. You really have to take the time to learn, develop and grow. If you care about something and are willing to devote the time to improving you can do it (well, most of the time). It’s interesting to compare this to Graphic Design. It’s not always about sticking to the ‘rules’, but you need to know what they are, so if you are going to break them, you are doing it in the right context. You want to create something you are proud of, that you know you have spent a lot of time to ‘mastering’.

    I am continually working on my skills as a designer and have recently started studying photography. One of the first things I have been learning is composition and how to arrange the scene. There are many things I didn’t know and all help to improve my ability. 😀

  • Ongaku says:

    Lighting and Flash still gets me all the time with taking pictures. Right now I’m sure all what I have learned is getting super rusty too since I haven’t been to any cons or had the energy.
    Same goes with cosplay. I really would like to join some sewing classes to get a grasp of sewing because I’m just scared of it, even with the bit I have done already. I know if I can learn more of the terminology and stuff I will feel better about doing it. Maybe I can now that I no longer have to take call for work. Woot!

  • Georgie says:

    I really enjoyed this post 🙂 What you said is 100% true, and I like the fact that you shared some of your own learnings over the years and how it took you a lot of time to improve on things – and even then, you still have things you would like to improve on.

    I can relate to the photography one – it’s really thrilling when you look at older photos you’ve taken and realise how much you’ve improved. I think I’ve particularly improved in my editing as well, at least with concerts. 😆 Practice really does help you get better. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes and not stress about it, that’s how we learn.

    Generally speaking, bad lining on clothes, or messy seams, make me think it’s poorer quality. 😆 I’m referring to machine-made garments though, everything is a different story when it’s hand-made and it obviously requires more learning and more work!

    This can be applied to a lot of things, too – I have an interest in fitness, and people get really upset when they don’t see huge results in six months, or even a year. Some people show before/after photos with large gaps – like your before/after photos have several years between them – but I think people don’t realise exactly how long THREE YEARS or FIVE YEARS actually is. I think people get the impression that it didn’t take that long for someone to achieve certain results, “it’s only 3 years 😐”… live those three years and it’s a bloody long time 😂

  • Tara says:

    it makes sense that practice makes perfect. Or at least it gets you closer to perfection! Some skills like photography and sewing are not skills one can expect to perfect overnight. These are skills that will take days, months, or years to improve. I know I see that with many things I do!

    It was neat to see your progress over the years. I can definitely see the improvements you’ve made through these photos! Even with the photography one, I can see the improvement, and you’ve also noticed how to better give directions and stuff!

    Thanks for writing about this! ^^

  • Hiro says:

    Yesssss I love this ;__; I’ve been wanting to get back into photography, and been itching to get more into writing, wishing I was “up there” already, but I have to remind myself, it takes time! I’ve been getting so antsy at work because I felt like I wasn’t moving up quickly enough, but when I look at where people were for years (people who are doing amazing things now), they spent years in the grind, learning the ropes and getting really good at what they do so they can make that career leap.

    But I feel like with this cyber age of now now now, it’s getting “harder” and harder or people to sit down, plug it in, and chug along for a while until they become proficient.

    Your photographs look amazinggggg!! And your sewing, too. I always love seeing your props!!

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