I’m coming up on my 4-year anniversary of when I started my photography business, and looking back – I’ve learned A TON.
Not only about gear, business strategy, or how to take a good photo – but mainly about MYSELF as a person.
If someone were to have told me everything that’s involved in being a photographer when I first started, I would have said they were crazy. Little did I know!
While I’ve learned a lot lately regarding technical knowledge & business savvy (specific posts on those in the coming weeks) – today I’d like to share with you a little about what I’ve learned about myself throughout the process of being a photographer.
1. Self-confidence – I’ll admit it – when I first started doing portraits, I was scared sh!tless. I didn’t know what-the-hell I was doing with my camera, and I was afraid of doing something wrong. I didn’t know the way things were supposed to be done, and I was terrified my clients would call me out for trying anything ‘outside the norm’. As I went along, I slowly realized that people will value your work for being ‘outside the norm’ – and having your own distinct style is something that can potentially be sought-after in regards to comparing other photographers. The more you believe in yourself, the better the results. And the more you take control of the situation and lead your clients, the more they’ll trust you.
2. Being a leader – Going with the points above, I’ve slowly realized that creating experiences in life is entirely dependent on YOU. YOU can be responsible for someone having a good time during an event based off your interaction with them, YOU can make/break creating awesome images based off carrying-out your vision, and YOU can be responsible for helping others achieve success at the same time. Carving my own path has taken me a lot of time, effort, and long lessons learned. Now that I’ve experienced a lot of different scenarios – I have the option to be selfish and think in terms of scarcity, or I can give back and help others learn what I did – without having to go through the tough experiences themselves.
3. The kind of lifestlye/job I want – might sound kind of obvious, but after awhile, you take a step back and think about your day-to-day and realize, “WOW – I can’t believe I used to work in an office 40 hours a week.” That kind of lifestyle is unimaginable to me these days. I’ve learned that I love the variety in my schedule, the freedom to take vacations & travel, and the lack of routine in every-day life. The kind of contrast this kind of work provides in comparison with the corporate world is unreal.
4. Who I am – sounds pretty deep, but it’s true. For whatever purpose, we all derive a certain fulfillment from the work we create. Depending on your ultimate goal with your photography – you have the option to tell a story with your images, depicting your perspective on life. What you put out there is your choice – and it lets the world know where you’re coming from. As a gradual process from just learning the basics to defining our style – we as photographers truly ‘bloom’ into our true selves – putting our personal energy out into the world. I know, I know, got a little “hippy” on you there for a second – but hey – if product photography is what you’re all about – that says something about you. If you take photos of newborns, strippers, funerals, or flowers – they all say something about your personality & what you choose to contribute to the world.
In addition to that – (I’m about to go even deeper) we are all responsible for our own level of success in life. The way we approach our work, how dedicated, how bad we truly want success is indicative of how we view ourselves as a person. Do you want the best for yourself? Do you think you deserve it? Would you be comfortable with a huge level of success? They might seem like obvious questions, but to be honest – I secretly think a lot of people don’t think they deserve it. (It’s a crazy thing to think about – but when it comes down to it – THIS IS YOUR LIFE.)
5. What I don’t want – let’s face it, we’ve all had stressful experiences in regards to work. Whether it be the terms of a project, communicating with a certain client, or filling your schedule with so many shoots that you have no “me” time. Over time though, I’ve come to realize that those clients – those projects – or that kind of schedule isn’t necessary to life a healthy lifestyle. I’ve actually ended up learning a lot about what I do want by finding out what I don’t want in the process. It’s sad to say, but seeing how depressed others are living a certain lifestyle is a great deterrent towards ending up doing that very-same-thing to yourself.
6. What love is - I feel like Forrest Gump talking to Jenny when I write this item, but it really is true. Shooting so many weddings, interacting with so many couples – you begin to recognize the characteristics of a solid relationship without even knowing it. You can just tell. I can’t say how glad I am to witness this, because moving forward in life – I’ll be conscious (hopefully) of these elements in my own relationships. Seeing this kind of bond is something so powerful, so divine, it really is a privilege to document it.
*Side note – have you ever been waiting for a ride at the airport, and people-watched to see what kind of greetings/goodbyes are exchanged at passenger pick-up? It’s a pretty crazy thing to think about, but similarly – wedding photography provides a fast-track look at relationships & interactions. You can tell the type that squeeze hugs so hard you’d guess that it’s been years since they’ve seen each other – even though it may have just been a week or two.
7. I hold half the value - Another crazy one. It tripped me up the first time I had a client offer me coffee when I arrived at a photo shoot. ”What the hell? Why is the person that’s paying me (aka boss) offering to get me coffee? Isn’t it the other way around? Shouldn’t I be the one getting them things?” And even though it took awhile to get used to, it became evident that my clients valued my work, my time, and my unique ability to bring them product that really helps them. They want you to come back, they want you to like working with them, and they don’t want to lose you to someone else. It’s not like an employer/employee relationship where you might feel like an indentured servant. To be appreciated like that by a client is an awesome feeling – and you can bet that I definitely hold those kind of clients in higher regard when thinking about retaining/letting-go-of certain contacts. Now I should say, of course – that I definitely appreciate their consideration of me providing them with my services…without my clients, I’d be broke!
8. Your destiny is in your hands - How much you want to make, what kind of clients you want, where you want to live, who you want to date – it’s ENTIRELY UP TO YOU. Nothing in the WORLD is holding you back (not even drastic change), and you have a very powerful tool to take you where you want to go. (Your camera)
If you have any other insights or ideas you’ve learned about life or yourself through your photography, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
(PS – in the coming weeks, I’ll also be posting about 1. What I’ve learned about business through photography and also 2. What I’ve learned about technique during January [this entire month I've devoted towards improving quality, lots of practice shoots] Keep coming back as I’ll be posting 3-4 times per week, and I’ve got a lot more content to share!)
The photo above was taken during my 2 month trip to Europe last winter. I traveled alone for quite a bit of that trip, and learned a lot about myself in the process too. [Looking over the west coast of Spain, on the beach during sunset in Cadiz]
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