“I want to work with my dream wedding photographer as an assistant, learn the craft, and start up on my own sooner. What is your advice to me?” This question was posed to me at a recent photography meet up. In a way, this reflects the aspirations of many new-generation photographers who are raring to get started with wedding photography. One logical step many think about is to join as an assistant, master the skills, and startup. That's what I did six years ago. But there are mistakes that I made and hopefully the new-gen wedding photographers don't make too.
I wish I can go back and change a few of them so I could fasten up my learning curve and ace forward. I am sharing the mistakes here so it could help someone down the lane. This article is for all those that are aiming to join as assistants in established photography firms, learn the trade, and startup down the lane.
1. Not Understanding the Power of Being Indispensable
Everyone in this world is replaceable. It is about becoming one who is hard to be replaced. You have to be so good with your work that you'd be a priceless asset to your firm. We talk about job satisfaction, job security, and all that stuff, but fail to understand that it is not about the market condition or any external situation, but how we carve a place for ourselves in the industry through sheer skill and performance. Assuming that you are in a job where you want to excel and start up on your own someday, you have to thrive in it rather than just holding on to the opportunity.
2. Underestimating the Power of Perseverance
To see the light, you have to bear the night. Your mentor or boss may be at a standard of life that you look up to. Their societal status, the fan following they hold, and the money they earn did not happen overnight. It took years of sincere hard work to get there. You may want to enjoy all the perks and benefits of such a successful life but very well fail to notice the time in between their inception and success. For any successful role model of your choice, what you see is the icing on the dessert, but beneath it are the layers of endurance, character, and struggle that makes them what they are. It is like wanting to be at the top of the mountain but not ready to climb it. Give it the time. Choose the right leader who can guide you through and submit yourself completely to the pursuit. Everything else will fall in place.
3. Expecting the Firm to Take Care of You Rather Than You Taking Care of the Firm
Everyone gets stuck in this mesh of expectations. "I have not gotten my bonus yet." "I have X years of experience with no raise in my salary yet." I've made such rants so many times too. We all do. What we fail to realize is that what we do to the firm is more important and only then will the firm be able to share the reaps with us. It is about investing your time, heart, and mind sincerely into the work you do. When you do, without a doubt you will get more than your expectation. Start selfless and become holistic.
4. Personal Life Versus Professional Life
It is quite a cruise ride to juggle between these two faces of life. But let us set the priorities right. "I have no time for my personal life!" This is simply a wrong statement to utter at the initial phase of your career. In a passionate pursuit, it is always mandatory to push your limits and pull your strings. Remember that your personal life depends on your professional life too. A progressive professional career would give you the power to earn more time, money, and space for yourself. The secret lies in making your dream chase as a way of life rather than a mundane routine. Be excited. Be enterprising. The real fun lies in execution and becoming better.
5. Not Getting the Bigger Picture
This is a common mistake most of us do in our earlier days. We focus on the task we have in hand but fail to get the bigger picture. For example, if you are working as a photographer in a reputable photography firm that has a name for itself, all you do is listen to what is expected out of a project, click photographs, and rest in peace when you don't have shoots. But that is just not enough. Instead, what you can do is sit with the editors and see how you can experiment with the outputs. You can collaborate your ideas with the content team and come up with something innovative for the brand's digital communication. It is vital that you plug yourself into the bigger picture and strive to be a jack-of-all-trades.
That's my five cents. There is no doubting the energy levels and talent depth of this new generation of photographers. However, the social media frenzy of today's world may have given off the wrong idea that success happens overnight. With all that passion, if you can persevere with character, there's nothing like it.