Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life and Photography 101. Life Lessons Learned Through The Lens of Photography



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. 
This is one of my soapbox lessons. I can always tell a true professional photographer from an insecure hopeful by the way they treat other photographers on shoots. Photographers who are confident in their skills are kind to one another.  They don't do inconsiderate things like step into each other's shots.  I have made several great photographer friends through a few moments of kindness and consideration on a shoot.  If you want to be a professional, act like one.

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.   
Don't go into photography, or anything else for that matter, just to make money. Find what you are passionate about and make that work for you. If you are thinking about photography just because your friend does it and makes money at it, you won't succeed. You have to love it in order for something special to be reflected in your images and for them to tell a story. There are a lot of short term photographers out there who don't know what photography entails and they don't last.  If you figure out what you love and how to get paid to do it, you will succeed.


6. Don’t price yourself out of the people you would prefer to capture.
This one is personal.  People tell me ALL THE TIME that I don't charge enough.  I know that and it is intentional.  I really like my clients and I know that if I raise my prices to the rate of other photographers, with my experience and gear, that I will price myself out of the types of clients I enjoy the most.  Let me put it this way: Just because you can hang out with the Country Club crowd doesn't mean that you should.  

In my experience, clients who can afford the higher fee are generally more concerned about creating a perception than capturing a moment in time.  Authenticity is important to me.   I am not into photography to help promote someone's family image on Facebook but instead to help them capture their family reality.   What can I say but that I tend to find those clients in my current fee schedule so I will keep it there.  Same is true in life and it goes back to the Country Club statement.  Relationships are more fulfilling if they are about authentic connections instead of fabricated perceptions.


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.



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