Self Discovery

March 03, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I have been mulling over my thoughts for quite some time now, and I am finally ready to attempt to put those thoughts into words. This might be winded, but stay with me, I promise it will be worth the read...

I LOVE being a photographer.

My dad bought me my first SLR camera for a college course in 2000...a Pentax film camera I treasured. Not long after, I started photographing for friends because I "had a nice camera" LOL! Fast forward 17 years and here I am today.

The past couple of years, I've found myself experiencing burn out. Part of that burn out was, inevitably due to being extremely busy, staying booked solid and trying to juggle being a mom and wife on top of the business. I realize now that the physical burn out was simply camouflaging my deeper emotional burn out. I would find myself frustrated at the success of other photographers. Appalled at some of the images I'd encounter in Facebook groups that colleagues would swoon over (even if it WAS out of focus...art? or oops?? and I won't even get into my feelings on the line that SOME boudoir photography crosses into being pornographic). Confused by debates over pricing...so-and-so is brand new, why should SHE be charging THAT much // well we ALL have to start SOMEWHERE // but that's devaluing our profession // charge what you're worth // but I can't get clients to book at that price // etc, etc,etc...

I had been content with my definition of success, staying busy working with clients that I love...but there was something missing. Why am I not being noticed? Why is my work not good enough?

I've done some humble soul searching and I finally feel like I'm at peace after these last couple of years. My "AHA!!" moment happened at a photography convention just a few short weeks ago. I had an awesome time with a few really wonderful colleague friends...we had lots of laughs, silly moments, ate good food, made some fun memories, and became closer as friends. We also had great discussions, and some things stood out to me.

I will share a couple of those experiences and then explain the LIGHTBULB that has changed my perspective...

1) One of my friends wanted to listen to a certain speaker at one of the vendors' booths at the expo. The speaker was someone she admired, quite successful and well-known, but very young. We listened to the presentation for a bit, when another friend decided to leave. I admittedly wasn't engaged with the speaker, so I left too. My friend (who is around my age, with similar experience as a photographer and business owner) fumed, "I am TIRED of being lectured by 20 -year-olds!!" 

 

2) After waiting in line for almost an hour, we got great seats to listen to a very well-known presenter. I was STOKED to hear her words of wisdom. I started recording the audio on my phone so I could listen to it later, because certainly this talk was going to be full of earth-shattering information. Then, I listened. And waited. And listened some more. Waited some more. Waited for IT, the big wave of information that was going to inspire me or change my business. And it never came. About halfway through the presentation, I turned my audio recorder off and just checked out mentally. I just did NOT connect with this speaker in the least bit...yet so many others DID, including some friends I was with. SO, as we walked back to our hotel, we got into a great discussion. One comment has stayed with me...my good friend said, "the photography world is EVOLVING."


3) Another speaker, whom I follow, adore, and am very inspired by...reiterated a fact that I had heard before. "Your clients don't know a GREAT image from a GOOD one." She shared an experience that she had while on a live television show. She had been asked to be on the show to teach viewers how to photograph their pets. She blatantly admitted to us (not the producer of the show) that she had NO experience, had NEVER photographed an animal before. She would be taking the photos and they would be instantaneously viewed on a large monitor by the entire audience. Nervous about her inexperience as a pet photographer, she was reassured by someone that told her- after taking the picture, just look at the monitor and say "THAT is a good picture!" So she did just that. She photographed a cat, and after pressing the shutter button, did not even LOOK at the monitor, just pointed to the picture she had just taken and exclaimed, "Now THAT is a good picture!!" The cat owner was moved to joyful tears, the audience applauded.

"I am TIRED of being lectured by 20 -year-olds!!" 

"the photography world is EVOLVING."

"Your clients don't know a GREAT image from a GOOD image."

 

The days and weeks since the convention have passed. I took away so much knowledge and inspiration from many classes and speakers. I am grateful to have attended. I will always have much to learn and I hope to constantly be growing as an artist and business owner...after all, that is part of the fun. 

AND...I finally pin-pointed the cause of my emotional burn out. I will never claim to know everything, but I had spent years working on my craft. I had learned my camera, understood light and how to manipulate my camera's settings to expose an image properly as well as, creatively and artistically. I had invested time and money researching and purchasing better camera bodies and lenses. I was thrilled that I had discovered MY STYLE and was able to shoot with technical precision (again, not perfection!) and with creativity and passion. Through experience, I had gotten very good at eliciting emotion from my clients, setting the stage to create beautiful images for my clients that would capture their real life stories.

But what was I missing? How could these "20-year-olds" be getting noticed with so little experience...and for SOME, (in my eyes..because let's face it, "art" is subjective) so little skill. SOCIAL MEDIA. Social media has changed photography. ANYONE can become a "professional" photographer. Anyone can post an image (and make it look relatively good), and with some serious hustling, get hundreds of "likes" and "followers" (and hopefully, clients in turn) which is something I HAD NEGLECTED. I had spent my time mastering my craft, but had neglected my BRAND. 

I am here to tell you that I LOVE BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER...and not a GOOD photographer, but a GREAT photographer. I HOPE that my clients DO notice that my images are GREAT, that they are technically sound and align with my style, NOT THAT THEY SIMPLY LOOK GOOD ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR HAVE HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS OF "LIKES!"

That being said, I am committed to building my brand. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with "these 20-year-olds" who have mastered social media and grown their businesses. If you are one of those 20-year-olds, KUDOS to you...but PLEASE if you haven't already, put in the time and work to master your craft as well. Continue not only growing your social media, but also your skills to become a GREAT photographer. And to those "seasoned" (do not read" OLD!) photographers like me, do not be discouraged. It is never too late to learn and master new things, even social media. As you stretch and grow, your business and your brand can and will grow to new heights. 

If you're still with me, THANK YOU. Maybe you're where I was in my profession, stagnant and unfulfilled. Maybe you are killing it on social media but haven't found your style or purpose. Maybe you are thinking of a starting your photography business. In any case, I hope that I was able to connect, uplift, or inspire even one of you.

AND, if not...I will leave you with {THIS}

~XOXO Amber


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