It’s an old Spanish proverb and ironically it’s engraved on a pewter plate given to me by relatives who no longer speak to me, because in their judgment I'm happier than I am supposed to be. Sadly we all have to deal with people’s assumptions, especially when they make them in vacuums and without taking the time or making the effort to ever consult us in the process.
Why would I write a post and start with one of my own personal frustrations? Well, we’re coming up to the biggest photographic convention on the planet for professional photographers, WPPI. It’s been especially attractive for new photographers and aspiring professionals getting ready to take the plunge into the pro category. I’m seeing a lot of questions from photographers who are trying to decide whether or not to go to the convention. Often they’re being side-tracked by the economy, new business challenges and family members or friends who just don’t get it.
There are few words to describe what you'll get out of a great convention like WPPI. It's about building your network and meeting new people and vendors. It's about expanding your skill set. It's about just getting yourself pumped!!!
Photography is an art form and so often misunderstood by family members and friends. They don’t understand your passion. They assume you’re going to starve in the process. They may never have seen your work and question whether or not you’re good enough. They don’t understand why you can’t just go out and get a “real job”! Sound familiar?
Scott Bourne and I, on the old GoingPro podcasts, talked a lot about surrounding yourself with people who have positive attitudes. You need to block out the “Negators”! No, it’s not out of Greek mythology, but it should be. Negators are people who are so unhappy in their own lives their only joy in life is screwing with yours!
The end result is your self-confidence needs constant reinforcement. So, let’s come up with a few things to help you stay focused, pun intended. You know how to focus your camera, but do you know how to hold the focus on your career?
- Here’s an easy exercise and you’ll have a good time in the process. Go back and look at your very first images. It might have been a party you photographed, a landscape while on vacation or maybe just a few shots of the kids. Now compare them to where you are today. If you don’t see a difference, you’re in trouble, but most of you will see serious changes in the way you compose and expose your images today. As you get more experienced there should be some serious changes in lighting, composition and depth of field, just to name a few.
- Roberto Valenzuela suggested a terrific tool for practicing the craft on a GoingPro podcast once. He suggested you go back to the last wedding you photographed and look at all the bad images. “Look for what you missed and learn to understand why the image wasn’t good!”
- Enter some images in print competition. It's too late for WPPI this year, but not for the future. This is a personal favorite, but whether you enter prints or not, at least go to judging. It’s open to the public the two days before the trade show opens. Listen to what the judges are saying about each print. Use their suggestions as guidance for your own work.
- Join your local chapter or guild of professional photographers. Sooner or later, we all share the same frustrations. A local chapter of other photographers becomes a support group and an important part of your network. There’s a lot of good solid comfort in knowing your peers share some of the same concerns and frustrations.
- Join one of the better Facebook groups where there are groups of people with some of your same interests. I'm a co-administrator in Facebook Wedding Photographers and Advanced Wedding Photographers and I'm amazed at some of the questions that come up and the way people help each other. There are also groups like Newbies, WPPI, Professional Photographers, the Light Cast Group and both Jeff Lubin and Jen Rozenbaum have forums offering you a lot of good help. And, if you've attended any of the programs with my name on them over the last few years, there's the Skip's Summer School group, started by Brent Watkins.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Sooner or later they’ll come around, but for now, those people who are throwing up the road blocks need to simply be kept on the sidelines.
- Listen to your heart. Okay, it sounds trite, but you know what you feel inside. You know what your gut instinct is saying about your passion to be a photographer.
- Don’t respond to trolls! When you do step out in the public forums and get shot at by a troll, don’t let yourself get caught up in the battle. Don’t respond, because your silence is far more effective at driving them mad!
“Even if you fall flat on your face, you’re still moving forward!” Victor Kiam
“If you wait for all the lights to be green, you’ll never get started on your journey!” Zig Ziglar
It’s January and time to really dig in to your journey. Time to be happy and in turn you’ll find you’re living well, which brings this full circle in response to those people who feel their choices in life should be yours too. Living well really is the best revenge.
Illustration Credit: © quka - Fotolia.com