When it comes to photography, especially the wedding industry, it’s a lot like keeping up with the Joneses. You know what? Forget the Joneses. It’s not about them, it’s about you.
Often, my thoughts are a swirling, hypnotic mess of calamity. They occupy me, distracting me without a moment’s notice. They hammer away at my tired mind, making it impossible to sleep even when I am exhausted. They drain me when there doesn’t seem like there’s much left to drain. They also serve as a gateway for getting from where I am to where I want to be. But where I am and where I want to be can often become a bit convoluted when I inundate myself with too much outside influence, and not the good, inspirational kind.
I am talking about the kind of influence that makes you step back, doubt yourself, your worth, and the quality of your work. Thoughts that are focused more on receiving the adoration of your peers and not so much an introspective look at your individual growth and exploration as an artist.
I am a relative newcomer to this strange, yet incredible world of photography. Even with only getting started in 2012, I’ve already encountered enough self-doubt to make me really consider what it is I am doing and why I’m here with this camera in my hand. Usually that doubt is provoked by the most superficial of things – social media impact and my placement in the popular-kid-hierarchy. Stupid, right? I know that now and that’s why I am sharing this with you today.
I lost my way early on and became more concerned with impressing my peers rather than learning how to better my craft. I failed to challenge myself as an artist and played it safe by delivering exactly what my Facebook and Instagram feeds desired most – Clean, beautiful photos of pretty people in pretty locations, or one or the other. The focus was always the same, is this “beautiful” and will it impress people?
That’s when I stepped back and gave it some more thought. I asked myself what beauty really is and it hit me. Yes, beauty is that mountaintop overlooking a vast concentration of pine trees in Washington, or that sun-kissed bombshell on a bleached beach in California, however; beauty is also the dilapidated halls of that abandoned building down the street in Joplin, Missouri. It is the imperfect person, who is filthy, unwashed, and without a home. It is everything around us all of the time. Simply put, beauty is life itself.
It’s so easy to get distracted by the things that don’t matter, tricking ourselves into losing sight of what a privilege it is to have a knack for creating. We stop working for ourselves and the clients who believe in our vision, and start working for our peers. No good. When you concern yourself with, “I can’t wait to see how much social media attention this gets,” you’ve already lost. Game over, pack it up, go home, sell your gear, quit. Ok, don’t quit. I’ve been there before and I didn’t. My point lies in acknowledging what is most important about doing what we do. Some of the most successful photographers I know have a menial, at best, social media presence. It’s just not that important. Those are also the ones who share work from the heart, not for heart-eyed Emojis.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love getting attention for what I create just as much as the next person. It does feel good even though it’s only surface level engagement. However, I want that attention to revolve around the story my work tells, not how pretty my subjects are, my locations are, etc. I was wrong for so long about what matters in “this industry”. What matters is being true to yourself, which I had a hard time with. I could only show certain things on this website, my Instagram or Facebook because I wanted to be accepted in certain circles. What happened is that my integrity as someone who creates suffered. But, worse, my growth in my art suffered.
I’ve taken a new approach and I feel better for it. My creativity is exploding and I am shooting more content that I really never thought I would. I stepped out of the social media-defined comfort zone I boxed myself into and have taken to both shooting and sharing what I want when I want. In fact, I probably share too much and annoy people, but I don’t care.
I feel that as artists or creators, we have a great responsibility to be sincere with what we do. That we must challenge ourselves, so we can better challenge others. That we must stop worrying so much about how our work is perceived by our peers and create from the heart. In the end, those LIKEs and FAVs are only going to provide you with a fleeting sense of worth.
In closing, remember that we create for ourselves and our clients, not our peers. And, if you’re a photographer, you shoot for yourself, you shoot for your clients, the jobs you want, and not for other photographers (you know, unless they’re employing you to do so). We are here to help and encourage each other to grow, not make everything a self-imposed contest.
Below are some frames I never would have shared on this site a month ago. Why will I now? Because it’s about me having a love for the work I create and wanting to share it with the world whether anyone’s paying attention or not regardless of the subjects, locations, and/or audience.
Go on, share everything you’ve always wanted to.