Ahh, the photography world. Such a love and hate relationship we have.
I love how useful it is to have a vast network of photographers on the internet. You can find tutorials, online workshops, new techniques, honest reviews on equipment, help and advice, you name it.
You can also just as easily find unsolicited advice, bad information, elitists who assume everyone who doesn’t conduct their photography business the way that they do is cheapening the industry, and the dreaded copycats – among other things.
Some videos were posted on a blog I follow today – satire videos in which a photographer sarcastically delivers advice to new photographers. Some of it is pretty funny, I’ll admit. But the funny factor wore off pretty soon as I watched the series of videos, and read the comments that followed. I understand that the videos were made in jest, and meant to be humorous, but to me they just encompassed the attitude problem that shrouds the photography industry when it comes to photographers who are trying to establish themselves.
The professional photography business is an environment that is rapidly changing. There is all sorts of pressure to charge more, buy better cameras, buy faster lenses, get more clients, stand out from the crowd, more more more. Then you have the experienced photographers that have been shooting professionally for 20 years, bemoaning the new technology and methods and accusing all newer photographers of diluting the talent pool. Gosh, just reading back on those two statements makes me wonder why anyone would ever want to attempt to be successful at this!
I have been criticized personally, as well as in a general sense (for example, reading an article that criticizes a method that I actually use), for:
- Including finished images high-res on a disc in my photography packages.
- Putting a logo or watermark on the images I put online.
- NOT putting a logo or watermark on the images I put online.
- Not using a full-frame camera.
- Using “a really nice camera” (because we all know that it’s your cookware that makes the good food, right?)
- Owning lenses that aren’t “L series”.
- Owning lenses that ARE “L series”.
- Not shooting with film.
- Not using a tripod.
- Not using lights.
As you can see from a few of those examples – sometimes you just can’t win no matter what you do. People will still find a way to put you down.
BUT – the purpose of this post was not to linger on the negative. Yes, people will criticize you and your work. No, you won’t always be invited into the industry with open arms. Yes, people afraid of change will tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. This side of the professional photography world is what kept me balking away from it for several years. As soon as my business started to take off, I’d get overwhelmed and push it away.
Not anymore! The greatest decision I’ve made both personally and professionally – and this is something I still struggle with on a daily basis, as all worthwhile things are worth fighting for – is deciding that I CHOOSE whose opinions I want to touch me personally and whose opinions I just don’t need to care about.
When you’re learning – and let’s face it, a photographer never stops learning even if you’ve been using cameras your entire life – it’s important to be able to read a criticism (either of yourself or of something you like/use/believe in), take it in, and if you don’t agree – let it go.
This year, 2011, has been my most successful year for photography. It’s the first year that I decided to really suck it up and put myself out there. I shot as much as I could, acquired far more clients than I ever thought I would, learned new techniques, met amazing new people, became much more familiar with my camera, and grew a whole lot more passion for photography. There have been the inevitable growing pains, such as learning to deal with the criticisms I mentioned above. But they’ve only made me realize that absorbing criticism and advice and then making an informed decision based on what you feel is right, is the only way to succeed and retain what it is about you that makes you stand out.
You can’t TRY to stand out. It just doesn’t work. The only way to stand out is to shoot in a way that excites you, with results that excite you, and sharing it in a way that brings you satisfaction. Not happy with your results? Change it up! Try new things! Who cares if some fuddy-duddy claims it’s the wrong thing to do. For every person who says it’s wrong, there are an equal amount of (if not more) people who will admire you and your work for doing what you love, the way you love to do it.
I also struggle with the feeling of what I do being not quite enough. Again, this is something that I struggle with both professionally and personally. If someone had told me at the very beginning of 2011 what I would actually accomplish in the year to come, I would have been over the moon. Glowing with happiness. So proud of what I was going to do. But now, at the end of the year, I’m left thinking, but what ELSE could I have done? Could I have been even MORE successful if I’d done this instead …? I suppose that this feeling of always needing to do better is what fuels my progress in my life – but it’s not a very healthy way to feel. That’s why I encourage everyone to write down goals very specifically. Have short-term, realistic goals – like “I shot 30 portrait sessions last year, so I want to shoot 50 portrait sessions next year”. That way, at the end of the year when you meet (if not exceed) your goals, you realize just how much you actually accomplished – and you can focus on that accomplishment.This system helps me from getting that nasty “not good enough” feeling.
I also recommend having a separate list of your lofty long-term goals, like “I plan to be doing professional photography full-time in five years”. Lofty goals and positive thinking never hurt anyone!
This post was kind of long-winded – sorry! It serves multiple purposes – it’s partially a rant, partially a therapeutic exercise for me (it’s a lot easier for me to apply these things to my own life if I actually write it out), and if it happens to help you, the reader, in some capacity, then that’s even better!
Cheers to an amazing year. I can’t wait to meet the challenges of 2012, and to keep photographing all of the amazing people (and their animals) that have been coming my way. I’m so excited to have photographed all of you! This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a very, very long time, but have always been just a little too scared, until now. It really means a lot to have so many people surround me with love and encouragement and give me a chance to shine!