You have probably heard the old saying, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” While I truly believe that, I like to keep the Peace Corps’ slogan in mind when thinking about photography, “The toughest job you’ll ever love.”
Why is photography one of the toughest jobs you will ever love?
The hours stink – Weekend, what’s a weekend? One Sunday I worked on a project from 6:15am until 8:30pm. Those are long hours to work on a weekend after a “normal” work week. That doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Over the years I have created a more manageable routine for myself. I use Mondays to sort out the coming week and to tidy up any loose ends from the previous week. In the past, I did try to do that on Friday, but it never worked for me.
Family life suffers – Your significant other wants you to spend a lazy day around the house, but the “Honey Do” list has more than a few ongoing projects to be finished. The problem here is that there are some very cool things happening that you would love to go and photograph. It’s a tough choice, but I try to make room for everything which can work out well or be a complete disaster. You never know which going in.
The money – Well, let’s just say you probably did not get into photography for the money anyway. Besides, no one has a budget for photos because the economy is circling the drain and everyone is broke so why should you make any money? Sounds reasonable right? Not exactly, the trick here is to find clients who realize that photography is a great way to help market their business in the long run.
Creativity – Huge bonus points on this one! I’m not sure there are many other jobs where you can be playing with smoke in a studio one day and working in a foundry the next. Being out all night on a ride along with paramedics, spending a night in the ER, hanging out of a helicopter at 1500ft, climbing up a vertical rock face all tend to help spark moments of profound creativity or sheer terror, sometimes both!
I have enjoyed being a photographer for many years, and every time I hear that someone wants to get into the business, I think that’s great. The world needs more creative people in it. The more, the merrier I say.
As children we learned by playing and as photographers we still learn by playing. My youngest son’s favorite question for many years was “What if…” Every time he would ask that question I could see the wheels turning while he tried to imagine all the possibilities. As photographers we do the same thing all the time. When we ask that question with a camera in our hands the wheels are definitely turning. “What if I made the background more out of focus?” “What if I drag the shutter?” What if… what if… what if? Some of the answers to that question get pretty creative and being creative is what photography is all about.
Even when I say I’m “working” I’m still trying to imagine all the possibilities of a thousand “what if’s”. I put working in quotes because for me, most of the time, making photos doesn’t seem like work. The feeling that this might be work comes from other things but not photography itself. I might be under the pressure of a short deadline or in the midst of loosing light but when it come right down to it, you guessed it, I’m playing!
If I weren’t having fun I’d probably be sitting on the couch with the TV tuned in and my mind tuned out. Creativity comes much easier when I’m having a good time, so I play. For me, when I have my camera, playing is always a good time. I’m not afraid to be a little silly when I can be and I don’t take myself too seriously. One of those silly ideas might lead me to the best idea of the day.
Playing with a camera in my hand let’s me be curious and try things that I’m not entirely sure about. Just do it and see what happens. The results might surprise me. Happy accidents happen all the time and quite often produce some great photos. I know for a fact that happy accidents will not happen unless I’m trying something that I haven’t tried before. Happy accidents also happen when I haven’t thought the process all the way through. These are the best kind because I’m thinking one thing is going to happen and something completely different happens!
Whenever you can grab your camera and head out to play and be sure to have some fun. You just might learn a thing or two while you’re at it.
Inspiration comes in many different ways and in many different forms. The real trick to getting inspired is being open to the possibilities. Yesterday I had the good fortune to be part of a group that was discussing blogging. It’s obvious that I have not been active on this blog for some time. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about, it’s just that I have not been inspired to write it. In many ways, I have missed writing. I can’t say that writing has always been something I looked forward to, but I do enjoy writing posts for this blog.
As a photographer, I’m usually looking for inspiration to make photos. What wild idea can I use and try to bring to life photographically? Where can I go that will help photos come more freely? What creative source can I tap into to help make interesting photos? There are no easy answers to these questions. On a recent trip to the UK, I didn’t go out to make photos as often as I thought I might. The holidays are for spending time with family so that is what I did and I enjoyed their company quite a bit. I did go out with the express purpose of making photos twice. Once for a walk by my self and another time to Gloucester Cathedral. You might recognize the photo from the cloisters at the cathedral. Several scenes from the Harry Potter films were shot there.
The inspiration for this post comes directly from the meeting yesterday about blogging. I started thinking of different things I want to talk about. The many posts I have started and never finished. The backstories of the photos that I want to share. Inspiration is all around us. All we need to do is be open to it. When we are open to it, inspiration will find us, we won’t have to go looking for it. I know this time of year can be uninspiring photographically. They call it “the dead of winter” for a reason. And then there are the cold temperatures to deal with, definitely not my favorite conditions to make photos in. But looking around, there is something nearby, maybe even within arm’s reach that will inspire you to do something that you haven’t done in a while. Take the opportunity to be inspired and to do whatever that might be.