I haven’t been much for photo editing even back when it seemed like that would be a skill I’d have to use in a future work environment that’s getting increasingly demanding of dexterous knowledge and flexibility as the age of digital soars well above traditional media. The arts especially have come under a new light as a new generation of creators is trying to get those to whom educational material was unavailable, a chance to start anew and perhaps gain pace in a world where the youngest seem to outpace the oldest at every single turn. New cultural norms are getting established on the regular, and content creation as unintuitive as it might’ve seemed even five years ago, is now a required learning even for those who don’t plan to make of it a lucrative endeavor.
My disdain for creative tools has always been that they are incredibly hard to get into and would require a massive amount of prior knowledge and a proper acquaintance with the different tools a company such as Adobe makes even to wrap your head its design philosophy and the logical processes that’d make a function available under one column when it could’ve been just as easily under another. I don’t claim to have completely overcome my problem with media creation illiteracy, but I’ve come so far since my days of stitching together minutes of copyrighted footage in Cyberlink PowerDirector for shits and giggles.
One of the facilitating factors for such a change has been the emergence of craft-focused channels who don’t zoom in as much on the deed of their creators as they do on the process to take place behind the scenes to make it happen. One of such has been Iz Harris who I wrote about in the past, and she introduced me to an entire section of YouTube I didn’t think I craved until I actually came into contact with.
Enter Lucy Martin. Photographer, videographer and overall seasoned content creator on YouTube who specializes in photography, and more specifically, the practical applications of such skills to bolster your own portfolio for a potential gig, or just simply making you a much better photographer with very easy-to-learn skills on Adobe Lightroom, and knowing the ins and outs of what’s behind the camera dials to get a shot very close to the desired end results. What you get is an interesting mix of personality-infused instructional advice, but also a bit of Lucy’s personal panache for very meticulous care around photography, something I can’t say I’ve been as admiring of when watching other photographers despite it being a very common sentiment in that community.
I was introduced to Lucy Martin through Lizzie Pierce — another good example of a talented photographer making their mark on the YouTube space — and what struck me about the difference between what she does and what a less spontaneous and carefully planned-out Lizzie would do, is just the amount of sheer technical knowledge Lucy brings to the table with each new video.
This might sound completely benign to the lot of you, but back when I first installed a trial of Photoshop CC on my computer to see how it functions, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of options on display and just couldn’t parse what the hell any of it meant. What Lucy Martin helped instill in me isn’t specifically instructional on Photoshop since she tends to focus on Lightroom, but it was rather the will to explore, fail, experiment, and learn from your missteps and build over them as the barriers grow taller when the prize could be easily missable. Lucy Martin especially put an interesting spin on the whole spiel by making it as easily accessible and least intimidating as it could possibly be, and the fact that I can do much of anything at all on Photoshop and Lightroom without losing focus to all the buttons and drop-down menus is as strong a testament as any to her ability to motivate, educate, and tacitly inspire.
Another facet of this which might look completely mundane and honestly not that big a deal were one not perceptive enough to the presiding biases in our modern society, is that Lucy Martin is a uh… woman!
Yes, any other time in the future were misogyny isn’t as commonplace and women are equitably treated in the workplace as their male-presenting counterparts would mean that I wouldn’t have to talk about this as much, but I think it very important that Lucy Martin’s gender takes a special mention. I try to be very careful when covering female creators in not centering too much of their identity on something they do not wish to see reflected in their own brand in the first place, but I think in a space where women’s actions are looked at with microscopic lens and are decidedly more scrutinized than their more-privileged peers are, it’s very easy to dismiss the triumph of a female photographer on YouTube when it seems as though the platform seemingly pushes a view of meritocracy that is at first glance innocent, but is not so true in the grand scheme of things; especially considering that Lucy Martin, like Lizzie Pierce, like Iz Harris, and like many other talented female photographers on the platform, all have some very easily perceivable measure of disproportionate lower engagement than their male counterparts.
This is hard to untangle since pegging value on viewership has always been to be a fool’s errand — at least to me — but it’s not so much the case that Lucy Martin getting viewed less than her equally-as-talented predisposed-to-facial-hair colleagues that is so fundamentally flawed; it’s rather the fact that YouTube’s algorithm has obscured her from me for so long even when I’ve followed channels to have taken morbid interest in the art of photography and it somehow didn’t deem her “view-milking-prone” enough to suggest in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle of the audience being subconsciously biased against female creators, the algorithm working to the populace’s interest by imitating their biases, and a hands-off approach by Google that makes sure these creators slip under the radar even when their videos are qualitatively just as good as some others who’re to churn out more and keep up just by sheer increased exposure.
However, tempting as it is to further slope down the awful shit rabbit hole, the focal point here isn’t that Lucy Martin succeeded despite wrenches being thrown into her well-oiled creative machine, it’s rather that she manages to dispel so many of my traditional concerns just by being unapologetically good at what she does.
While this channel isn’t as brimming with content as one might expect from the grandiose claims I’ve been making so far, what’s on display is very much a case of “quality over quantity”. Among her many videos, one introed to using manual mode on your camera is very simple and straight to the point with ample description of aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and much of what influences the way the camera absorbs light, captures the image, and perceives depth after the initial process. What’s to follow is a mixture of on-camera, and post-production tips — for example highlighting importance of maintaining a proper file structure for your Lightroom source files using external storage; the ever-so-dreadful and memory-taxing topic of keyboard shortcuts and what ones should be most useful especially for the Lightroom workflow; the practical applications of photography in unorthodox environments such as snow; a suite of tutorials on how to make the best out of your Instagram presence (provided I get over my own insecurities to follow through); as well as a whole series of videos on the nitty gritty of Lightroom in which Lucy weeded around the most complex possibly-botched shots and made them utterly mesmerizing with mere post-production magic. The whole theme of “getting you up to speed” on Lightroom carries on, and it continues to be one of the main drivers of interest from me as someone whose extent of interacting with a good camera goes back to film, or even the mildly unsuccessful parades on the corpse of an unrevivable auto-focus shot on my smartphone.
That’s the trap I think most are ignoring when examining the existence of creators on the YouTube platform. For Lucy Martin’s presence to flourish, it has to be the pure mathematical case that she spends less money on YouTube than she is making directly or indirectly through it, and that can be a hard balance to strike. I can’t fully reserve my fears when seeing creators overexert on what they can do only to eventually end up on some Guardian write-up on creative burnout, but I at least have some measure of confidence that what Lucy’s doing isn’t completely wrecking her emotional state, and that could be the difference between me watching the videos and feeling my stomach turning inside out, or just bringing a few snacks and drinks as I follow along joyously when Lucy breaks it all down on my computer screen.
What you feel about photographic embellishments however is a topic of subjective proportions many have done an incredible job dishing on so far, but what I perhaps have come to appreciate from Lucy Martin and many of her female colleagues is that she doesn’t slide into a conventional desire for “faketies” or unnecessary adjustments that have been made mainstream by an industry that’s trying its damndest to make women feel as awfully about their bodies as is legally tenable. Lucy Martin just inadvertently ends up pushing back against that by being an icon for up and coming female creators and those on the periphery (like me) who’re aspiring to change the entire perception around female-bred creativity and getting it to a point where it can’t realistically regress.
Looking at the pure numbers, it seems awfully clear to me that Lucy Martin isn’t a fluke, and while she isn’t making views by the millions, she’s able to seed a true sense of creative thirst within the few thousand souls she’s able to reach as a new video hits her dedicated fans’ subscription feed.
There’s a true innocence, and sometimes unperceived struggle when we weigh the contributions of one single individual based on the impact we can quantify through analytics, and the numbers we’re able to gleam through YouTube’s limited stats on public display, but what I can confidently say is that there has been no photography channel that has been as impactful, or as nearly enriching to my own creative vices as Lucy Martin’s was.
No, I’m not the next photographer lined up to shoot a supermodel for the cover of Vogue, but what little I was able to gather from her instructional work helped me a lot in embracing my cognitive limitations when it comes to learning very simple processes. It gave me the confidence to venture, drill, and take a swipe on what I thought would kill me upon first encounter. I’m now even if in small measure, a much better content creator for it, and even if my craft entails upon the most basic forms of writing on a blogging site that’s constantly on the decline, it’s great to know people like Lucy Martin exist and have made my progress possible at all.