Eye on Business | Why Are You a Photographer?

You will be hard pressed to find a photographer who hasn’t questioned who they are as an artist and as a business owner.  Competition to be the next best thing (and pay your bills) can fuel the tendency to let outside influences get in your head.  If you are struggling to find your style in your art and how you run your business, then it may be time to question your motives.  Why did you become a professional photographer in the first place?  To make a living, to create art or both?

I am a closet pleaser.  At some level, I need to fit in and be liked.  Throughout my life, all of my creative interests were hidden neatly and deeply so that I could continue to fit the profile of the teacher’s pet.  When I did make an attempt, it wasn’t worthy according to someone else’s standards.  So to me that meant I was not good enough.  When I started shooting professionally (at the encouragement of friends who thought my pictures were “amazing”), I foolishly allowed others to control how I shot my sessions, thus pleasing the masses to make a buck, not create.  I spent late nights following all of the “rockstar” photographers and tried to shoot just like them, to make a living.  I bought their lenses and actions.  I attempted to use props and do stylized sessions.  I was influenced by all of the industry trends and would often edit a certain way, just to get featured on this blog or that page.  I was so busy trying to make it that I “created” images that looked just like what was out there already.  To the pleaser in me, I was satisfied.  To the business owner, I was excited to see the money.  To the budding artist in me, I was disappointed.

A pleaser hates to fail.  So, if that’s you and you are facing failure in any aspect of your life, the first area you may start to doubt yourself is who you are as a photographer.  Don’t you hate that?!  It doesn’t matter if you are shooting a senior, a wedding, or a landscape, you capture images in a way that you want others to experience them.  You become vulnerable and that is scary (for ME anyway).  You bare your soul as an artist so what if no one “gets” you? Maybe you are comfortable with letting others see right into you, no matter what they think.  WOW, I totally admire you.  Or, like me, you put up a wall when others come too close to seeing your vulnerability.  My wall is self-doubt.  Photography helped me to reclaim my creativity but it did not stop the self-doubt until I dug deep and started to own who I am (every part of me).  And this is ongoing, by the way.  I had to no longer question but DEFINE my true motives for becoming a professional photographer.

  • Find clients who love my work, even if it’s not pleasing to everyone.  I would have to get over not being everyone’s photographer.
  • Capture my clients authentically and give them an experience like no other.  This means my shooting/editing may vary slightly from client to client.
  • Help my seniors to feel like models for a day (if I have to create an image rather than letting it unfold {sometimes}, so be it).  Others may claim it’s not “lifestyle” enough.
  • Shoot beautiful individuals and things that inspire me.  Understand that your muses and moods change, so what and how you shoot will reflect that.
  • Continue to learn, grow, and evolve as an artist, even if others’ judgments sting.  Get over it or stop asking for feedback.

If you are struggling to find your style in photography and business, your clients will be confused.  Use this as an opportunity to grow.  Don’t get so wrapped up into what is going on around you that you ignore what is going on within you.  Use your motives to base your decisions and feel that self-doubt vanish as you become the photographer you envisioned all those late nights ago.

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