I’m not going to lie, sometimes I feel like photographers try too hard. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to try to improve ourselves, and that I completely agree with. It’s a new year, and with that comes new challenges and new opportunities for us to better ourselves as creatives. Challenges aren’t supposed to be easy, and are certainly supposed to push you to step outside your comfy little box.
That being said, for 2016, I want to challenge you to:
Stop trying to make a good first impression
Guys and gals: be personable, but not too talkative. Don’t go over the top and overwhelm the subject you are shooting with too much information about yourself. Don’t ask them too many questions about themselves either. Some friendly banter at the beginning of the shoot is fantastic, but cut to the chase. You both know what you are there to do. You don’t need to try so hard to make a good impression. The person you are shooting, be it model or client, has already seen your work and agreed to work with you. They are there to shoot, not be your next best friend. Making your subject at ease: yes! Talking their ear off in an effort to make a good first impression: nope!
Stop relying on a mood board
In my opinion, one of the hardest things for any artist or photographer to overcome is trusting ourselves. Sure, it is nice to have a mood board that is cholk-full of pretty Pinterest images, but many times, true art comes from within. This year, I want you to trust yourself. Put your phone and all of those pictures down and go out there and shoot what inspires you.
Stop beating yourself up over location scouting
Unless you are scouting epic locations for the next “Star Wars” film, you can give it a break. If you want a grand location, there are probably only so many of those in your area, and you probably know about most. Challenge yourself this year by going with the flow. Explore your area. Shoot what you come across. Don’t plan a thing and see where the spirit moves you.
Stop worrying about gear
Grab your sibling, BFF, or model friend and go out and shoot. Don’t worry about if you are shooting at the perfect “golden hour.” Don’t worry about the sun. Shoot in rain, fog, snow, direct sun, and cloudy days. Don’t worry about bringing flashes or tons of gear. So what if that is how you normally shoot, this is a challenge! Maybe try shooting fashion using natural light at noon on a rainy day. There are many ways to go about achieving good photography.
Amateurs worry about equipment. Professionals worry about money. Masters worry about light. I just take pictures...
— Vernon Trent
Stop shooting for others
When people notice stellar photographers, or are inspired by their work, it is namely because that artist shoots for themselves. It is great to be inspired by others, but don’t channel that inspiration into mimicking them exactly. Let it be just that: simply inspiration. Top photographers believe in themselves and believe in their work. I challenge you to stop thinking about what other people say. Stop listening to the naysayers who tell you to diversify your portfolio, sign with an agency, or try a new shooting style. Create and inspire yourself to create better art.
Stop making it all about the money
Remember why you are there and why you are in the industry. Many people fall into the “it’s all about money” trap. Of course, each and every one of us professional photographers needs to pay the bills, but don’t sacrifice your art. I have known a few too many money-hungry photographers who would focus on just the monetary aspect of the industry, and then would get upset when their peers would progress more artistically while they were stuck in the same rut. If you make this mistake, you may become monetarily rich, but your creative vision and growth will be stifled. Make making art the love of your life. Put it first and foremost, above anything else. Put making money second.
This 2016, I challenge you to be an artist, not simply a photographer. Let me know in the comments what you plan to do in the new year to grow as a creative.