I have been a professional photographer for about four years now. Before that, I was what the photography community calls a "momtog". The transition from momtog to professional photographer did not happen the moment I started charging my clients but instead, through a process, as I grew from a hobbyist to a professional.
I have learned several lessons through that transition that I believe apply to both photography and to life. So here is a little Life and Photography 101.
1. Figure out who you are and be that person. Stop trying to be someone else.
The photography profession is full of copycats who scan other people's work and try to reproduce it as their own. The problem with this is your clients don't know which version of you they are getting when they hire you. I had photographer friend denied from being a consultant with Clickin Moms because they said her work was not consistent enough. That really got me thinking about who I AM as a photographer and if what I consistently represent to my clients is a true picture of myself as an artist.
My advice, figure out who you are and be that person/photographer. People will know what they are getting and they will chose you because they like your work. If they don't, then it was a bad partnership to begin with. This is clearly true in life as well. See the life analogy here?
2. Be nice to other people. Just because they share your interest, doesn’t mean they are your competition or enemy. Showing common courtesy will take your farther than the cold shoulder.
For the record, Trent and I have come across the same behaviors in ministry. The lesson is the same. We can each do more if we work together than if we act all squirrelly out of insecurity.
3. You will go further in life (and photography) if you view your role as an opportunity to bless someone instead of an opportunity to gain something from them.
I am in several professional photography groups and I notice there are two kinds of photographers. There are those who genuinely enjoy their job and enjoy giving their clients a product that reflects their own time and artistic expression and then there are those who view photography as a way to make as much money as possible off of someone else. The latter group is constantly complaining about the 30 minute shoot that went 40 minutes, the kid who wouldn't cooperate, or the bride who was too demanding.
We can all get caught up in our sense of entitlement if we aren't careful. I have found that operating out of entitlement might leave you with more money in your pocket, but in the end, you are less satisfied. True satisfaction comes in blessing others and photography is a great way to do that but you have to let the other junk go. Another good life lesson- Lose the entitlement and be a blessing instead.
4. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
I can't tell you how many clients have commented on how much they appreciate that I get them their images in 1-2 weeks. This should be the norm friends. I shot a 6 month old once and the mother still had not received her newborn images from their other photographer. That's ridiculous people. How you run your business is reflective of your personal character. It goes back to the first lesson your mama taught you- treat others the way you want to be treated. Period.
5. Do what you love and it will show. You will have passion for it. You will do it with excellence.
6. Don’t price yourself out of the people you would prefer to capture.
7. Forgive yourself. You are a work in progress.
The haunting began after my first year as a professional photographer. I wasn't haunted by ghosts, but rather images of my past. Images I had taken with my camera and had thought were good. I would walk into someone's home and see my pictures on their wall and immediately notice something I would now do differently. After several times, I actually considered quitting photography or refunding people their money. Isn't life the same way? Do you ever feel like you need to go back 10-20 years and apologize to people for your behavior then?
I am learning to be thankful for those little revelations of past mistakes because they bring to light how far God has brought me since then. Make those moments a time to rejoice in your improvement instead of running from your failures. We all have them, so forgive yourself.