I’ve received a number of emails lately asking me various questions about my creative process, all of them revolving around being a better artist. Naturally, in art, “better” is an extremely subjective word. We could get into a philosophical argument over those simple words that would extend into eternity. I personally don’t engage in arguments that I can’t win, so join me in assuming “better” is about the quality of the image and it’s ability to evoke the response you want it to.
I recently was floating in my pool, talking to a model perched on the edge trying to catch her breath. I asked her about the photography community locally. [Side note: I find the more I allow myself to “be” an artist, the less I find the desire to leave the little world I’m creating, as a business owner, running your business is a life long passion and time consuming…and I have two small children, so there’s that.] I haven’t really made an effort to get to know any of the photography talent locally, so I was interested in hearing what she had to say. She confirmed my assumption: as a general consensus, local photographers aren’t interested in shooting, unless they are getting paid. Now, before I continue with my point, I want to say, without hesitation, that getting paid for your art is the only thing that separates professions from hobbyists, and is not something to devalue. In fact, I’m such an advocate for being a good negotiator and not leaving money on the table, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my online photographer friends think I come off greedy. I just firmly believe that in today’s world, where everyone has a camera in their hand, defining for your worth as a professional artist is paramount to your survival as a small business.
Unfortunately, as a photographer, I don’t believe you should only be shooting if you’re getting paid. That leaves little to no room for growth/evolution. As an advertising photographer, I have a team of people that are expecting results and have placed limitations on my final vision. Now, don’t get me wrong, I excel under pressure, but when I have to surrender my artistic control (or compromise it), the act of “creating” in this environment does very little to inspire me or expand my horizon. This is when having passion/personal projects or an Instagram feed to fill comes in handy. Creating to create. Honing your craft. Experimenting. All those are necessary to evolve as an artist and as a skilled photographer. Being dormant or regurgitating what you’ve already done will never get you ahead.
Give yourself a chance to not answer to anyone. Step away from the expected. Expect to “fail.” It’s my favorite thing to do. Don’t expect this process to not make you hate your work. I think that’s just something that artist struggle with. But, if you’re lucky, you’ll see your photo in a new light as you randomly scroll through your social media of choice, and think: “Hey, that photo is much better than I originally thought.” Plus, you’ll be putting out content into the world that you created and people will start hiring you for your ideas. And that’s something to get excited about.