The time has finally come. Leading to this moment, you sat in the hot sun for hours, waiting for the grazing of the bird’s toe on the water, creating mesmerizing concentric circles, and boom: you got it!
Or perhaps you set up an expertly crafted four-strobe lighting, and after repetitively throwing kombucha left and right, you nailed your splash shot (then mopped all night). Maybe you worked for weeks on a mood board, pulling the latest trends in fashion, coordinating with other vendors, and using your new optical spot, you created a resplendent fashion shot. You edited it in Lightroom, then in Photoshop, and now the time has finally arrived: you get to share your masterpiece with the world. And then...
“Did I forget my hashtags? Nope, they’re there.”
Meanwhile, a reel of an 18-year-old doing bicep curls gets its 763rd like and 26th comment.
You wait until the next day and check your insights.
“It only showed it to 374 people of my 7k followers?!”
It is so easy to get discouraged as a photographer, especially if you’re the kind of photographer who is not into reels, social media trends, or taking videos of yourself sipping lattes and doing an orchestrated song and dance to the latest popular audio clip.
If you are one of the photographers who hopes that people will love and engage with your work because it shows a high level of skill, patience, ingenuity, and crushes the checkpoints of “seven elements of art,” you may often find yourself discouraged. You may feel like no one cares about your brilliant shots, and they just want you to shake around brainlessly in your studio to the latest trending audio.
There are several reasons that can leave you feeling disheartened as a photographer. One of them is having to deal with clients who always try to negotiate for the lowest possible price while demanding the most amount of work from you. This constant devaluation of your work can leave you feeling frustrated and demotivated. Another source of disappointment for photographers is submitting their landscape images to magazines, only to receive no response at all. While rejection can be tough, being completely ignored can be even more defeating. With all of these challenges, it's no surprise that photographers feel tempted to throw in the towel.
But this is why you don’t give up: because you’re an artist. You continue to make art because you are an artist. You don’t make art because people give you a three-centimeter pixelated heart on a cell phone. You make art because you are art — an art maker. You don’t make art because you want people to stroke your ego; you make art because you have something in you that you want to express visually. You don’t make art because people validate the art. You make art because you have ideas, curiosities, and visual explorations inside of you that need to come out. You make art because it makes you happy to make art. Period. You make art for the sake of making art. The way to not quit at making art is to remember why you make art.
We can get fall into discouragement when we lose our why. It's important, when battling defeat, to come back to that earlier version of yourself. The one that launched you to become a creator. The one that existed before you started building your website, making your YouTube channels, sending your work to publications, and posting it on Instagram. Come back to the person that loved creating photos for the joy of expressing your unique interpretation of whatever is behind your lens. Try to detach yourself from everything else that comes with the business of being a photographer, and come back over and over to the love of expressing your unique vision.
Let me leave you with this closing quote. I have shared it before, but it’s so fitting in this instance. It’s a Michelle remix of an Andy Warhol quote and it has kept me many times from throwing in the towel in the illiterate Insta art world:
Make art, and while everyone is deciding whether they like it or not, make more art.
I’m wishing everyone a week of making art: for the pleasure, purpose, and end aim of making art.
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