I spent a lot of time taking pictures of a lot of different things. Berries, carnival swings, cameras, flowers, and vintage junk. Why? Because I loved all those things so much? Not really. Because it seemed like the thing to do. I got plenty of "Oohs and Ahhs" out of it and a modest number of sales on Etsy. I wasn't really excited about that stuff, and I didn't have any particular affinity about it, but it was what a lot of other photographers were doing, so I did it too.
I'm not saying I went out and copied everyone, that's not it at all. To be certain, many of my photos are unique to me while others are dangerously close to other ones I've seen. But let's be fair, there are only so many ways to photograph a bowl of berries. I guess, if I was forced to explain myself, I would say that I admired those photographers and would try to emulate them, because if I could do something like that, then I would feel like I'd accomplished something in photography. And at the very least, I got better acquainted with my camera and editing techniques. Remember, I am still pretty much a beginner in all of this.
Then, from time to time, I would be asked to photograph the occasional baby or senior and once even a wedding or two, and as an aspiring photographer I would eagerly accept and approach the day with trepidation. I would find every excuse I could to reschedule or cancel and it would take me forever to return the photos. Sometimes I'd be proud of the results, but most often, I would feel bad about not doing a good enough job. Why did I do these jobs? Because everyone seemed to think that if I was going to be a photographer, then these were the things I should be doing. I'm slightly terrified of people, and I would stress and stress before a shoot, not because I was afraid of how I would perform, but because I didn't relish the thought of being with strangers and interacting with them. I wasn't passionate about photographing strangers and I can't do justice to an image if I am not at least interested in the subject.
Honestly, this was one of the most fun shoots I did have that falls into this category, so No offense to baby cutie pie here... He's stinkin adorable!
The images that have been most successful for me and most gratifying to take are the ones that I took for myself. My biggest sales through Getty images and the ones that landed me a spot with Bercot Children's wear were images that I took solely for the joy of taking images. They were pictures of the things I did love and the themes that I felt happiest about. My daughter, my home, nature and things that let me express myself uniquely. The images that seem to be most popular on Getty are the ones where I was able to relax and enjoy shooting the moment, rather than being stressed about the product.
It must show for these images to be the highest sellers out of everything I have put out there.
Earlier this year when I took Brooke Shaden's workshop on CreativeLive, my eyes were opened to a whole new genre of imagery. My world hasn't been the same since. At one point, the question of WHY we take the pictures we do came up. We were asked to consider our favorite photos and why they were our favorites, then our least favorites and why. For me, my favorites were the ones that I felt I could express a dream or emotion, ones where my love of family and home were evident. My least favorites were hands down every one I did for the purpose of making money.
So I decided to put aside anything that I did not feel good about doing. I want to create for the sake of creating. For a cathartic release into artistic expression. I have a job to make money. I don't need the added pressure of making my passion be lucrative as well.
My family was nonplussed at the idea of my forsaking all other types of photography. "But you're so good at the other stuff...!!" cries my mother. And "Why not try to make some money at it if you can??" pleads my husband. My daughter is simply worried about getting her commission from Getty sales. LOL But I no longer believe you can do it half and half. If I spend my creative energy thinking up senior sessions and spend my prop allowance on Etsy wall art props, then I'm not dedicating my time and energy and money into what I am truly passionate about. I feel that at this point in my life, I owe it to my art to dedicate all of that to my art and only art.
I was forced to ask myself what I want out of photography as a hobby or a career. The answer for me was not money, but expression. And possibly recognition for that expression as something wholly and completely genuine to myself. Doing anything for money degrades it's value to your soul and I feel that bisecting my time between money making projects and self expressive art would be a disservice to myself and to the art that I am trying to bring into the world.
Coincidentally, someone entered my peripheral vision who is wholly obsessed with gaining facebook fans and making money and worries that other photographers are stealing business that should be theirs. The smallest critique will niggle them to the bone and their facebook friends will hear about it for days before they finally move on to another drama. I read this persons posts online every day and I can only imagine that life for this person must be wrought with insecurity and fear. When you concern yourself with what other people are doing, you aren't paying enough attention to yourself and what YOU should be doing. You lose that perspective that is SO important when creating anything and so much of your energy and time is wasted on worry. How does one expect to be creative when there is so much negativity in the air around them? Annoying as it can be to see the constant whining, I'm glad this person has come into my field of view, because it warns me of what can become of me if I worry too much about others' opinions about my art.
Create for yourself if you are going to call it art. If you are doing it for someone else, then it is no longer art, it's a job. I believe that your reason for creating must be void of any desire for gain if you are to create anything of real value.
I know this has been a long post and I apologize. But I felt like I should get all that in the open. I hope if you read it that it helps you to take stock of why you create and your reasons behind it. You should know that it's okay to not have ambitious goals for your art as long as it's enough to make you happy. I think I needed someone to tell me that. I think I needed someone to give me permission to just be creative and weird and expressive.
Hopefully, that happens for you too.
Peace and Love,
My Fellow Fine Artists
Tammy Zurak of Z Photog Studio | Memphis, TN, USA | Fine Art/Illustrative Photography Gallery:
Pam Korman of District Photography | Philadelphia, PA, USA | Fine Art Photography:
www.bonniealrifai.com Fine art photography
Handy Andy Pandy