Yesterday we asked you to choose one type of photography that you would shoot forever, and explain *Why*.
For some, the answer comes easily. They have figured out what it is about photography that fires them up, and can easily express it. They’re very lucky.
For others, the question might be a difficult one. But don’t worry. That’s not a bad thing. It just means you’re still looking.
And hey, that’s to be expected! As you may know, we believe that photography is for life. This a long time passion, and to know exactly what you want to do, and why, takes time.
So, today I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned as I’ve been figuring who I am as a photographer. I really hope they show you that it’s ok to not know, and part of the fun is the adventure of trying to find out!
We fell in love with photography while we were travelling. When we decided to become pro photographers, we figured a career at National Geographic was the finish line.
But, you don’t just pick up a camera and start shooting for a big-time magazine, so we knew we needed to just dive in, and see where the current took us.
We started off doing a LOT of different stuff. Kids soccer photos, class photos, fine art, cat portraits, people portraits…you get the picture.
When we stumbled on the world of wedding photography, we thought “Hey! This looks exciting!” So we dove into that as well.
The Lesson: You need to try things out, to get in there, to dive in. Don’t hang back, wondering for years if you’d enjoy that type of photography, or that type of anything. Try it now! You’ll never know until you do.
Quitting Is Good
We spent four years as wedding photographers. We met wonderful people, and learned a ton. But after a while we started to feel that it just wasn’t quite right.
And believe me, that’s a scary feeling. You’ve just spent a LOT of time, energy, and money investing in building a business, to realize that it might not be the right one.
We were scared, but knew that the best thing we could do for ourselves as photographers is be true to our hearts. So we “retired” from wedding photography, to keep on searching.
Was it tough to say no to so many wonderful people who had waited years to hire us? Absolutely. Extremely tough. Was it difficult to turn our backs on a business that we had put countless hours of work into? You bet.
But do we regret it? Not for an instant. We’re happier as photographers than we’ve ever been, and are excited to keep moving forward, pursuing the parts of photography that we are most passionate about.
The Lesson: If you know that something just isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to quit. You’ll be scared, but you have to move on. Things are much happier on the other side.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Sometimes it takes really pushing yourself outside your comfort zone to understand what’s deep down inside.
Like I mentioned, we began to love photography when we were traveling. So it would seem as though travel photography was something that we would always love to do.
Right now we’re in Buenos Aires, spending a month shooting, reading, and exploring. And I’ve learned a lot about my *Why* in the process.
See, shooting on the streets is something I thought I would enjoy. I love the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Vivian Maier and other wonderful street photographers, and figured I’d enjoy producing it. And at first I did. It was new, exciting, and a challenge. I jumped in. I had no clue just how much I was about to learn about myself…
The Lesson: It’s easy to get comfortable, and it’s enjoyable. But when you’re comfortable you probably aren’t learning much about yourself. Learning comes from new experiences, so make sure you get out of your comfort zone every once in a while. You’ll get valuable fresh new perspective.
Pay Attention To Yourself
After two weeks of wandering around, shooting the streets, I started to feel a bit empty with the work. It just wasn’t inspiring me to keep shooting.
And that scared me. Was I wasting my time? Was something wrong with me? Am I just not a very good photographer? Have I lost my passion for shooting?
When I recognized how I was feeling, I stopped and took some time to think. What was it that I was missing?
And I realized: it’s the connection with the subjects that inspires me. The stories that I get to hear as a photographer, and then retell in my work. With street photography you don’t know your subject (incidentally, here are our recommendations of cameras for street photography), and I desperately missed that.
So, while I enjoy shooting in a new city, and exploring, I’m starting to realize what sort of travel work I’ll want to shoot in the future. And I’m realizing what it is about portrait work that I love so much. I’m excited to get home and start shooting.
The Lesson: If you’re paying attention to yourself, you’ll feel it when things aren’t quite right. And you’ll feel it when they are. You might not know the *Why* right away, but pay attention to your gut. Once you have noticed your reaction, you can stop and think about it, and sort out the *Why*.
When I first became a photographer, I was certain that I wanted to shoot for National Geographic.
Then I learned a bit more, and became certain I wanted to be a wedding photographer.
After time, experience, and yep, more learning, now I’m pretty certain I want to be a portrait photographer.
But, as history has shown me, there’s a good chance that will change in the future. And that’s ok. Photography is long term. I’ve only been a professional for 5 years. I’m a kid. I can’t possibly expect to fully understand the genre, or myself, just yet.
The Lesson: Keep exploring your role as a photographer. Don’t sit back and think you’ve solved it, because chances are you are limiting yourself. The most interesting photographers of history were fascinating, multi-layered, and deep in their understanding of photography. The more you search and learn, the more depth you’ll give yourself as an artist. That takes time, but the journey itself is the fun bit.
So, if you’re having a tough time of it right now, and aren’t sure if you’ve found your *Why*, keep searching. You will find it, and the lessons you’ll learn in your search will make you a stronger shooter.
And remember, you’ve got a long long road ahead of you. Enjoy the ride.