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STYLE | a lesson

Confession: I don’t read a lot of blogs. Those I do read, I either follow on facebook, or add to my RSS (“how to RSS” post coming soon). Back when I was first starting my photography business I looked everywhere but inside for inspiration. I read photog blog after photog blog and none of them made me feel better. All of them made me feel inadequate & made me question my ability behind the camera. And then one day, I was reading one of my favorite blogs (Photography by Erin Vey) & Erin posted a link that changed my perspective. I have never looked back. Though this is geared towards photographers, I think it applies far beyond this field. Words courtesy of Cheryl Jacobs.

STYLE

– Style is a voice, not a prop or an action. If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don’t look outward for your style; look inward.

– Know your stuff. Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It’s like money; you only have it when you don’t need it.

– Never apologize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics on a consensus.

– Say no. Say it often. It may be difficult, but you owe it to yourself and your clients. Turn down jobs that don’t fit you, say no to overbooking yourself. You are no good to anyone when you’re stressed and anxious.

– Learn to say “I’m a photographer” out loud with a straight face. If you can’t say it and believe it, you can’t expect anyone else to, either.

– You cannot specialize in everything.

– Know your style before you hang out your shingle. If you don’t, your clients will dictate your style to you. That makes you nothing more than a picture taker. Changing your style later will force you to start all over again, and that’s tough.

– Accept critique, but don’t apply it blindly. Just because someone said it does not make it so. Critiques are opinions, nothing more. Consider the advice, consider the perspective of the advice giver, consider your style and what you want to convey in your work. Implement only what makes sense to implement. That doesn’t not make you ungrateful, it makes you independent.

– Leave room for yourself to grow and evolve. It may seem like a good idea to call your business “Precious Chubby Tootsies”….but what happens when you decide you love to photograph seniors? Or boudoir?

– Remember that if your work looks like everyone else’s, there’s no reason for a client to book you instead of someone else. Unless you’re cheaper. And nobody wants to be known as “the cheaper photographer”.

– Gimmicks and merchandise will come and go, but honest photography is never outdated.

– It’s easier to focus on buying that next piece of equipment than it is to accept that you should be able to create great work with what you’ve got. Buying stuff is a convenient and expensive distraction. Spend money on equipment ONLY when you’ve outgrown your current equipment and you’re being limited by it.

– Learn that people photography is about people, not about photography. Great portraits are a side effect of a strong human connection.

– Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself.

– Never compare your journey with someone else’s. It’s a marathon with no finish line. Someone else may start out faster than you, may seem to progress more quickly than you, but every runner has his own pace. Your journey is your journey, not a competition. You will never “arrive”. No one ever does.

– Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacence.

From the day I read this, my thinking changed. I follow blogs about creativity. I follow blogs about home decor. I follow other photographers who have a style completely different than my own but I try not to get inspiration from other photographers. I seek inspiration from people & etsy & everything, really. Today I made the clerk at the fabric store empty out the basket that was on the counter, full of ribbon, so I could buy it. (clearly no one had thought to ask to buy it, because it was about 90% off…kind of feel like I stole it.) I had a vision of an image, with that exact basket & a newborn. Now I just need a newborn. My brain just never stops creating, imagining & envisioning!

I know many of you that read my blog are here because you love photography & I try to give you something pretty to look at each time you stop by. I hope you never compare or judge of feel anything other than the joy that I hope my images exude. I love to be behind the camera. It’s that simple. This is a love, not just a business. The business came after the joy. I do just enough business to keep the joy. I hope it shows.

& here is a post inspired by Erin. My Rusty Nuts (as we oh-so-affectionately call him) is getting some blog love this week. He has been slightly neglected since the little miss arrived, but he is SO good with her. I can’t wait for it to cool down so we can get back outside & be active. These images were taken at the BEAUTIFUL Chadron State Park in Nebraska. We road tripped up there over the 4th of July & encountered the perfect weather to play fetch. He was my very first subject & I have learned a lot from those deep brown eyes. I think you can say he knows how to work it!

& this is my desk. The words above have been hanging there since I read the post. The one that is speaking to me right now is “you cannot specialize in everything.” 2011 will bring some changes to my business. Changes that make my heart sing.

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  • Emily - Thank you for sharing these special words. I am by no means a professional, but I bought my nice camera for a reason and I have not been using it. Life has been in a rut and I have GOT to get back behind it!
    P.S. Rusty with that tongue out is HILARIOUS!!ReplyCancel

  • Renee Booe - Great post. I am learning the lesson that you can’t specialize in everything. It’s freeing!ReplyCancel

  • Rachael - Loving the Rusty pics, especially the last one. He reminds me of a little kid sticking his tongue out! ;-)ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - I love the “Never apologize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics on a consensus.”

    Thank you for sharing. I remember the first time I read this post and loved it as well!!! Thanks for reminding me! I need to print it out as well! Such great advice :)ReplyCancel

  • Erinn - Great post. Good lessons for everyone. I love that the boys’ picture is still by your desk!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - I love the pictures of your “goofy dog,” as you put it! Pets are such special members of our family, aren’t they? :)ReplyCancel

  • Jenn - I’d love to get a copy of your STYLE sayings anyway to do that??ReplyCancel

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