This blog post is for all those aspiring photographers and artists out there who are struggling to figure out what it all means. It’s for all the people who are visually bombarded everyday with all the wonderful images on social media and having a tough time keeping up with it all.
You have to ask yourself, “Why do we take photographs?” On a personal level there can only be one answer. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
When you get into photography and then jump on the social media band wagon, there are a few things you should know right from the start that will make your life a lot easier:
1.) It’s a very small (but kind) act when someone likes one of your photos on social media. So don’t be too flattered and think that you’re a prodigy.
2.) It’s becoming more and more rare nowadays that photographers support other photographers, although it’s not unheard of. I’ve purchased images and books from other photographers. I’ve spread the word about other photographers work on my own Facebook photography page. However, most photographers these days are so busy promoting themselves and trying to make ends meet that many (but not all) hardly ever give a thought to liking the work of another publicly, or handing out a link to another talented photographers portfolio. After all, why would they? They represent competition. I think that’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s important to realize that’s just the way the world operates.
3.) For every one hundred people that say they support your creative work as an artist, there are only perhaps two who are prepared to part with their own cash to help support what you do financially. Talk is easy. It’s the follow through that really counts. See my post “The Creative and the Bell Curve.” Most places will charge you to decorate their walls for them. Everyone wants their piece of the pie.
4.) If you have grandiose ideas about how you’re going to sell your photographs that you’ve worked so hard to get, think again. Not many are interested. And in this day of digital photography where people are satisfied with a quick fix of a finger scroll on Instagram or Facebook, they are even less likely to ever want to spend money on a nice print. I happen to value the printed work a lot more than any digital offering, but then again, I represent probably less than 2% of the general population in this regard.
5.) If you are a photographer who cares about making money doing what you do, be prepared to spend the vast majority of your time promoting yourself and selling your services. Unless you have dedicated staff to take care of this for you, you will spend very little time actually taking photographs. There is a famous quote that says, “The quickest way to make money in photography is to sell your camera.”
It’s very depressing isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be…
It helps to realize that what you see on social media is all the fun and games. It’s the best work of people and all the hoopla and excitement associated with it. You very rarely ever get a glimpse into an artist’s long periods of stagnation, their creative blocks, or the massive amount of hard work, effort, and knowledge that goes into creating a good photograph. You will never see their frustrations and disappointments. You will never see their crappy photographs or share their experiences dealing with people who want more for less.
I recommend finding a mentor or colleague who encourages what you do. Find someone who is not afraid to support you and your work publicly perhaps even on their own photography site.
Don’t ever get hyped up about photography contests. They mean nothing. You are placing your heart and soul in the hands of someone else’s very subjective analogies. And most are simply a way of taking your money much like buying lottery tickets or gambling at the casino.
Appreciate those who are willing to support your work financially by purchasing a print or a book. Consider it very special when someone does this and be sure to thank them for appreciating your vision.
So apart from being a photographer who takes personal photos for others in exchange for cash, why do we take photographs? The real answer has to be that you do it for yourself. You enjoy it. And you enjoy the learning process and the challenge. You enjoy sharing the odd image not for likes, but because you are proud of it regardless of whatever level you’re at as a photographer. Perhaps you are someone who feels a tremendous satisfaction teaching and helping others.
You enjoy it. Remember that. And the best way to become a better photographer is simply to appreciate your everyday life.