The Importance of Taking Stock of Your Photography

The Importance of Taking Stock of Your Photography

Amid a busy week, I figured I’d share a few brief thoughts on why it’s important to keep moving forward and why it’s just as important to sometimes remain still long enough to see where you stand.

Last month was a busy one for me. In addition to multiple film projects, I was fortunate enough to come straight out of the gate with several still photography shoots as well, which led me to be both creatively fulfilled while simultaneously really exhausted. This first week of the new month has been no less busy. But, in the case of the past week, the business has come more from the part of a photographer and director’s career that takes place without the camera. It’s been meeting with producers, photo reps, and mentors and getting a gauge on where I am now, trying to decide where I want to go in the future, and plotting a course that can hopefully get me to the destination.

Part of this process is the periodic overhaul of my website, my portfolio, and my reel. It’s this part that has consumed much of my time over the last week. These things are all updated constantly. But, there are always those less frequent times when the update is not so much an update as a complete overhaul. It’s not about becoming a different artist overnight. And many of the old favorites remain. But, it’s sort of like that night when you are excited to go on a first date with someone new. You walk over to your closet, ready to pull out your best “please give me a second date” outfit, when you suddenly realize that, for whatever reason, you can’t stand any of the items in your closet. Those outfits that used to make you feel like a million bucks walking out the front door now just seem like yesterday’s news. That’s kind of how I feel on those semi-annual house cleaning portfolio updates when my tried and true images and films somehow fail to excite me and I find myself re-evaluating everything currently there.

This is always as confusing and frustrating a process as it is an exciting one. Wondering which images should remain or stay leads to bigger questions of who you want to be as an artist. Sometime,s it even makes you wonder who you want to be as a human being. It’s like one of the classic lines from "Fight Club" when the main character wonders which IKEA dining room set best describes him as a person.

The previous paragraph likely makes it clear that I am something of a reflective person by nature. I’m a measure twice, cut once kind of guy. So, this kind of deep analysis comes somewhat naturally to me. Sometimes, it comes whether I want it to or not. This is why I’m a big proponent of getting out there and trying new things as an artist. Plan, yes. But, don’t let overplanning get in the way of actually doing. There is always value in throwing yourself into new creative situations and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, whether they ultimately bear fruit or not. This is how you grow as an artist and how you learn. Doing this also sometimes results in you discovering a new talent or a new passion that you might not previously have been aware even existed. It’s good sometimes to just get in the car and go, finding the destination only once you are already on the highway.

But just as important as it is to be brave and try new things, it is also important to step back and take stock of where those journeys have taken you. What new skills have you learned through your experimentation? Have those new skills piqued your interest in one thing or another? Would those new side interests added into your main line of business benefit your customers? Or, are those interests that you enjoy but don’t need to be part of the public-facing persona also known as your portfolio?

Growth is normal as an artist. If you aren’t growing, that’s a pretty good indication that you aren’t doing a sufficient job of pushing yourself. You should grow over time, both in terms of skills set and interests. The key is finding the right way to incorporate that new growth into your photographic journey so that your career can grow along with it.

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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