Top Photographers Share the Advice They’d Give Their Younger Selves
If you could travel back in time and tap your earnest, naive younger self on the shoulder, what would you tell that younger version of you? We asked 8 of today’s top working photographers that very question.
Remember that to be a freelance artist is also to be an independent business person. Often we let our inner artist drive us, but are undermined by the fact that many of us as artists are insecure, easily flattered, emotional, and at times unpredictable and idealistic. These are all terrible things to be in business. In order to be successful in a creative business, you must find a balance between keeping your edge as an artistic person and knowing what is required of you and what your talents are worth in the workplace.
Be patient, keep your pace, and know that you will encounter discouragement over and over again. Do not compare yourself to others and just focus on your work, goals and dreams. There will be lots of blockages also, not everyone will like your work. Some people will hate you for “no reason” — You will get insults and tear downs, but learn to take that and use it to your advantage. Be confident in yourself and always seek out inspiration. Work hard and it will all be worth it one day!
Miss Aniela (left):
Don’t be naive about trying to be some kind of legend with your photography right now. Seek out the sparks of what makes you curious and follow them like map co-ordinates — for they will take you along an evolutionary journey to the next level, and the next. Don’t be afraid to take constructive criticism but only from the people who you decide matter to your direction. And just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should: you don’t have to sell yourself to everyone.
If I knew then what I knew now I would have stopped caring what other photographers think of me sooner! I spent too much time worrying if my work was “fitting in” or if other shooters liked the work I was creating. When I started caring more about what my clients thought and less what other wedding photographers thought, I really turned around my entire business!
Every day is a new beginning, Let go of the past and face the future with gratitude for all that you have and that makes you happy. Follow your dreams and embrace every opportunity with gusto and don’t let fear or preconceived ideas hold you back. You will make mistakes along the way but it is better to have tried and learnt then not at all. Spend time with the people you love and finally have patience, practice and be persistent.
As artists, our work is a reflection of ourselves. We put pieces (or all) of ourselves into our work. That is why rejection becomes so difficult. When we hear critique, criticism or rejection all we feel is complete and utter rejection of ourselves as people. At least that is how many of us feel. When we hear negative words our minds often turn into a haze or we melt into despair. The most important things I would tell my younger self would be, rejection isn’t rejection of YOU. Perhaps my work didn’t fit with that particular client.
Or maybe it just wasn’t the ‘right time.’ Or maybe, my work was weak but I have a great deal of room for improvement. Negative feedback shouldn’t destroy me or tear me down, but instead help me find ways to build up and be stronger. Also know, pay attention to where the criticism or rejection is coming from. Sometimes it is by the cruel of heart, knowing it will hurt you. Others are from experts simply trying to help you grow. Learn that rejection is just part of being an artist and a professional, and don’t let it cloud your mind. Even the most successful artists in history have been rejected, often. Their resilience is why we know them today.
Scott Robert Lim:
When establishing your business model, try to job out all those things that you hate doing. This will allow you to devote more time to the things you love doing. Make sure your business model is expandable and generates income from areas of your business that do not always rely on YOU servicing or fulfilling these things. Take on plenty of personal projects, this keeps the creativity sharp and when you have to take on jobs that are less creative because they pay the bills, these projects will keep you sane and happy — which will keep you inspired and passionate about your work and career. When things get rough or you feel down about your work, always remember you were designed to do great things.
Matthew “The Body” Kemmetmueller:
Taking saleable images is the easy part…. Learning how to connect with clients and successfully market your business into new areas can be so much harder for many! Also, how turning your “new” clients into lifelong clients is the ultimate key to success! Failing is part of business. One failure doesn’t make you a failure in this industry. The true measure of your character and how successful you’ll be is how you handle that failure. Have a plan and a vision for your photo shoots (or even each image). This is absolutely the fastest way to grow your work. I know what I want that image to look like before I snap the shutter which means that I am instantly able to know if I met my own expectations! I wish I hadn’t spent so many years clicking and hoping!
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