Confessions of an “Uncool” Photographer
I’m not a cool photographer. I’ve never been to Iceland or shot in the mountains. I’ve never photographed a bride in a desert or along the coast. Hell, I don’t even have a passport. I’m not fashionable; lacking in a floppy brim hat or stylish glasses. I’ve never once worn a beanie (or as we call them in Canada…. toques) and I’m still not entirely sure how to use the VSCO app on my phone other than just downloading my edit into my gallery (seriously does anyone publish through VSCO? Serious question.) I definitely don’t have a beard and if I remember to book my waxing appointments I don’t have a mustache either. I don’t label myself as a wanderlust and have never posted about “the mountains are calling” and “put things out to the world”. I don’t post my travel dates (see above re: passport).
I didn’t shift to become “light and airy” three years ago when everyone jumped on board the Mastin train. I’m not mimicking Gabe McClintock now either. I didn’t jump ship to Nikon 2 years ago like most of my colleagues and nor am I jumping ship for Fuji now. I don’t showcase my personal life on my Instagram in a beautifully branded way; I stick to posting what I know… wedding photos. My personal Facebook is still mostly cat-pictures; even though I like to connect with other photographers through my personal page my intent is to develop actual relationships with them rather than sell them workshops or presets as a means of beating the Facebook page algorithm.
I sit at home and upload images to my cat’s Instagram page. I like to hang out with my son, despite that constituting of endless diaper changes and more spitup than one thought could humanly exit a baby. I like to go to Tim Horton’s for my coffee and I live in a regular condo in a regular neighborhood. I like to gather and analyze the statics for my business: where leads are coming from, which areas convert to the most business. I’m as much a business person as I am an artist. In fact, maybe a little more of the former than the latter if you were to ever see how organized the back end of things are. I like to take on endeavors that I feel benefit the photographic community and contribute something meaningful to it, but I also like turning off my computer, putting away my camera and binge watching the entirety of the DC Universe shows (except for Supergirl… just can’t get into that). I don’t travel. I hate traveling.
Is there anything wrong with the people that aren’t like me? The people who escape to Iceland and shoot film the whole time? Nope. Not at all. In fact, some of those people are pretty damn rad and so talented and it will blow your freaking mind.
But here’s the thing…
What I described above are not characteristics of any one person in particular; rather, they are a culmination of what seems to be trendy over the last year or so within the photographic community. It’s things that “the big influencers” talk about or do and, especially with social media, the propagation of their glamorous life affects what people feel a successful photographer should be doing. It can be really easy to feel jealous of that glamorous life. It can be really easy to feel like your own business isn’t good enough because you don’t travel. It can be really easy to feel like you have to change your editing style to keep up with what’s popular. It can be really easy to feel like you’re not as great of an artist because you still shoot digital (and Canon, especially!).
It can be really easy want to stop marching to the beat of your own drum and instead, flow with the tempo of the others in fear that if you don’t do this, you won’t be successful.
I feel the pressure.
I feel the pressure to be a wanderlust (or if it feel wanderlust? shit… I don’t even know) and to get published on Junebug and Green Wedding Shoes and to be part of the “popular” crowd. I feel the pressure to curate my daily life and display it on Instagram in order to showcase my “behind the scenes” personality. I feel the pressure to keep up with the Jones’s. I feel like if I don’t do it my business will fail even though time and time again this is not the case.
I keep reminding myself that you don’t have to be trendy to sell. You can allow yourself to be inspired by current trends but you don’t have to mimic your idols just to succeed. In fact, the key to a successful business is to provide a consistently kick ass product to your clients and the best way to do that is to create from your very soul.
When you shoot a wedding, an engagement or any other session – allow yourself to be inspired by what you’re seeing. Don’t try to mimic what’s trending, rather, gather inspiration from your couples and from within yourself. Let your actual life, and not the curated version you feel you should be posting online, be your driving force. Make your own footprints in the industry, not just step in someone elses.
Give yourself the gift of individuality; you will create a sustainable business and you will find your niche… even if it means forfeiting your seat at the cool kids table.