Be you. Be authentic. Be honest. That is the right thing to do.
If I am going to be successful, I need to be confident. I have to know my camera and my settings. Posing should come naturally and lighting should not ever be something I lose before the session has ended. My clients should feel good about their choice to hire me as their photographer. I know these basic concepts. I also know how to throw away hours of my hard work, time and energy. Below is the formula for the best way to do this.
Cave in. Shrink away in a corner. Toss your camera onto your nightstand and forget about it. If photography was for you, you would have booked your whole first year with weddings, senior sessions, maternity and more. That negative review you saw on a Buyers Beware Facebook page about your own small business – it wouldn’t have happened if you knew what you are doing. You spent far too much of your hard-earned cash on your camera, your gear, your website, your marketing and your fancy fast computer. What made you think your website was nearly professional or that your prices were reasonable? How could you even imagine that your conversational and scheduling skills were up to par?
If you would have just given in from the gate. You should have let them do a fifth wardrobe change for their mini session. You should have paid for the image to be printed again in color when they specifically told you black and white the first time. You should not have had any emotion when your images were displayed on social media sites with your custom logo clearly not visible and no photo credit given. What made you think you were to object to the demands of your clients when they asked for discount after discount, quicker turnaround times and faraway lands to meet at? You should have just edited all of the images to their liking despite your paid training in Photoshop and Lightroom for free.
But you didn’t.
You shot from the heart. You didn’t cave into your fears of pleasing others. You vowed to attract clients who believed in you from now on. Believed in your work. You decided to start over. Restart your business. Enjoy what you love with a fresh clear vision. You didn’t bend with the wind.
The horse bucked and you fell off. Hard. To the dirt-covered ground. It began to rain. You couldn’t see and you felt alone. Sure, family and close friends were there to lift you from literally rock bottom but you were already too far in to realize what was about to happen next. Maybe this was the morphine to numb you from the pain one final time so the hurt could heal. You slammed face first into the proverbial wall. There was no going back now. It was either never get up or realize you were already in the start position like a track runner – close to the ground and ready to run.
I stood up. It hurt. I was scared and felt defeated. The wind was knocked out of me. I no longer wanted to start over. If I did that, I wouldn’t know where I came from. I have made so many mistakes. Honest ones. Forgetting to reply to a potential client. Giving products and services away for virtually peanuts until I was bitter. Overpromising and under-delivering. I wouldn’t trade moments of ignorance or naivety for all the gear in my bag though. I know my style isn’t for everyone. But I know that the people who do like it are all the client base I will ever need. Those brides, graduates, birthday boys, race car drivers, newly-engaged couples and others will come back for more. They will spread the word about my heart, my passion for making images good enough to be enlarged, framed and hung on a living room wall in their homes.
Authenticity is my style. And it’s difficult. It’s taxing on my mind at times and demands countless hours I could be spending with my husband, family and friends. Just as a pianist sits loyally at her instrument for hours practicing her trade, I shoot photos. All. The. Time. My camera is another appendage and I don’t leave home without it. Ever. I am always learning. Always practicing. Always advancing my skill set. I know that there are those who want nothing more than to bring others down. To have them suffer and wallow in misery as they are. To see you fail and cry and blindly look for the pieces of your broken heart in the middle of a storm. It makes their own failure easier to deal with. Don’t listen to or be around those people. Why did you pick up your camera in the first place? For me, it is a release from reality. I make images with my Olympus that others hold dear for so many generations. With the press of a shutter, I stand up for scared, lonely scruffy abused dogs who don’t have a voice but need a loving home. I capture moments – real moments of two people dangerously in love on a shell-covered sandy beach. My lens gently claims the single moment of a newborn’s first piercing cry, warm smile and strong finger grip.
I know now so many things that I didn’t know even yesterday. I know I need to be bold. I need to be brave. I need to be proud. Above all, I need to be confident. My goal is to capture and preserve moments so precious and fleeting that it would seem my destiny to pick up a camera each day. No more excuses.
My work will improve. I have seen it already. I look back at two years ago when I shot a birthday party for the first time. I can laugh at my lighting mistakes, my camera choice, my post production techniques. But it’s only because I know better now. I choose to own my mistakes and embrace my successes as I have learned they always come hand in hand. I truly believe this. It just always takes a little bit longer to see the success after a mistake.