One of my favorite working photographers recently posted a list of “20 perfect things” on his blog, recognizing the simply perfect, small pleasures in his photographic life. His #19 really resonated with me:
#19. Photographing what you love without regard for what anyone else thinks. Sure, it’s nice to hear people rave about your images, but at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is that you love them and loved making them. Being a so-called amateur has this strongly in its favour. Don’t ever forget why you do this. — David duChemin
For the past several years, I have run my own wedding and portrait photography business. What started with an intention to shoot exactly what I wanted, how I wanted — which for me meant purely candid, artistic images of people in the moment, laughing, loving and being themselves — over time morphed into a conglomeration of other people’s advice, desires and expectations.
Here are just a few of the suggestions I’ve gotten over the years:
- People prefer tender images of their children looking into the camera. What you want to shoot doesn’t sell. — Photographer
- Photojournalism is for lazy photographers. You need to pose your clients. — Photographer (Note: If you’ve ever seen a photojournalist in action, you’ll know this is hilarious!)
- Photojournalism is dead. It’s all about fashion photography now. You need to continually update your style. — Photographer
- You need to diversify and provide all types of photography: head shots, commercial, portraits, wedding, etc. — Business owner
- You have to do in-person sales consultations with a projection system in order to make money. — Industry expert
- Never sell the digital negatives. — Industry expert
- Never post your prices on your website. — Industry expert
- I love your style but can you change [insert fundamental aspect of my style] just for me on my wedding day? — Prospective client
I think you get the picture, and there are dozens more where those came from. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pointing the finger here and I take full responsibility for my predicament. I got wrapped up in the well-meaning advice of people who were older or more experienced, and I discounted the advice of my own heart. But here’s the secret no one cops to: Even if the advice given was truly the “secret sauce” for that person, I am not him or her and I can’t replicate another person’s success by doing exactly what he/she did. So, what now?
I’m commencing a personal detox program:
- First, I’m going to take some time off. Although I’m taking gear on our trip, it’s going to live in its cozy, little bag until I feel inspired to pull it out.
- Then, I’m going to take some time to shoot what I want, when I want and how I want in order to rekindle my love for photography.
- After some time has passed, I will revisit whether to keep my love private or go public with it (i.e. to keep photography a hobby or to put my shingle back out).
If the latter wins, I will define very specifically how I work, and I will make that clear in all of my promotional materials. I can’t do everything well and, more importantly, I don’t want to. I resolve to be true to myself going forward, and to develop selective hearing loss to ensure that well-meaning advice and suggestions no longer make me second-guess my convictions. Probably easier said than done, right? Well, we all need goals. 😉 Stay tuned to see how I’m doing.
Is there anything in your life that you loved but have lost passion for? What happened? What are you doing to reconnect, if anything? Inquiring minds want to know.