3 Qualities To Make Sure You’re Always Improving As a Photographer
I don’t like when other photographers do better than me.
This was once a personal struggle of mine. It started when I was a designer in Chicago. I saw others succeed instantaneously. Feelings of jealousy and envy, along with personal self-guilt that I didn’t achieve that type of immediate success, filled my soul.
I often witness photographers hording their knowledge. Feeling threatened, they hold back from helping others. I don’t understand this behavior. I once acted in this manner when I had feelings of jealousy and envy. At the time, what I didn’t understand is that I was only hampering my own development.
During this struggle, creative brainstorming sessions became excruciating. I took constructive advice personally and it deterred my evolution as a creative professional. I realized this could potentially be the start-of-the-end of my creative career and I personally believe this struggle is the reason why a lot of creatives have a difficult time ‘making’ it.
Here are 3 qualities that I always strive to cultivate to make sure I’m always improving as a photographer.
Frist things first, stay humble. Confidence is a double-edged sword. It can be a motivator and a detractor. Differentiating the two areas is often difficult. With abundant confidence, you can feel superior and entitled. But, with confidence you can also feel content and satisfied. Keep the right balance for yourself and you will always feed your passion to create and produce better results.
When the confidence creeps into narcissism, it doesn’t do you any favors.
In one of Pye’s (editor- in-chief for SLR Lounge) recent and necessary rants he discusses the “elitist mentality” in an article titled, “How Photographers Are Destroying the Photography Industry”.
I’d like to show you with one of the first shots I took at a wedding. I wasn’t hired and I didn’t even know I’d be at a wedding that day.
During our honeymoon in St. Lucia my wife and I rented a cabana. We didn’t realize that in front of the cabana would be somebody’s wedding. It was small – the couple, the officiant, and one set of parents. The ceremony had just ended and it was the moment where the couple first looked into each other’s eyes as newlyweds. They had no words, they just kissed.
After the ceremony had completely concluded, I walked over to the couple and told them I had snapped a picture. I gave them my contact info and a couple weeks later I received an email. I was glad I did. I wanted to send them the image and by requesting their contact info I was able to do just that. It wasn’t easy and I was scared to do it. What if they thought I intruded on their moment?
Since our wedding dates are pretty close, we shared a bond. For the first couple years, they sent me an email congratulating me on our anniversary and again, thanking me for the image. They told me they printed the image and hung it up in their home. I’m thankful for the acknowledgment, which brings me to my next point…
Stay positive with everything and everybody. Always keep an attitude of gratitude and be thankful for everything. That’s the baseline rule I keep to make sure I stay positive.
A fellow photographer friend once gave me this philosophy to follow that he had implemented from a book-turned-movie titled, “The Secret.” If you’re not familiar with it, the concept revolves around the idea of always looking at the glass half full as opposed to half empty. Even at times when the going is rough, you can control your mind to be positive, which in turn, will attract the positive you desire. I admit I don’t always apply the philosophy, but I attempt to live the lifestyle everyday. Since I’ve started doing so, some great things have entered my life that I could only dream of prior.
My first opportunity as a professional wedding photographer came from someone I now consider a good friend, Joseph Pascua. He was technically my boss, but he never treated me as an employee. With only a few Facebook conversations he invited me into his home, on long gigs, had me stay with his family, which included two young kids. How he trusted me around his most prized possessions was a leap of faith. In turn, I worked my butt off.
The shot below was one of the last weddings I shot for his company.
3. Share, Share Everything
I do my best to keep good company. They say, a man is judged by the company he keeps. I’m blessed to be surrounded by great people at the studio I work for, Lin & Jirsa. We’re family and everybody helps each other out. Besides a great network, something I’ve attempted to do is have three essential people in my life.
1. A person who is more experienced than me. Someone who has tasted more success. Someone I can learn from.
2. An equal, someone who is at the same point as I am in my development. Someone I can exchange ideas with.
3. Someone less experienced than me. A person I can coach, motivate and keep myself energized.
All the great ones kept a variant of this system. Aristotle learned from Plato and Aristotle later taught a young boy who matured to be Alexander the Great. F. Scott Fitzgerald had his wife Zelda and mentored Ernst Hemmingway. Michael Jordan mentored Scottie Pippen and later found his own mentor in Phil Jackson.
When I find myself in a creative bind I refer back to Ira Glass’ advice on the creative process. Fellow writer, Kishore Sawh wrote an article about “The Gap”. Check it out here. He uses a different video for his article, but I’d like to share with you the original one I constantly watch below.
Encourage your fellow photographers. Don’t hesitate to comment on other photo blogs. If you see a post you like, let ’em know. If you come across an image on Facebook that makes you pause and appreciate, don’t think twice to hit ‘like’. It doesn’t matter how well you know them, we’re all conscious of the measuring system Facebook has implemented into our lives. That ‘like’ merits positive implication. Several photographers I know wear their heart on their sleeve, that little comment or like goes a long way.
Another gesture that impacts us so greatly and is so simple to execute – compliment others. Not just in the social media world, but in real-life. To keep yourself thankful, exhibit your recognition for someone else’s great qualities. It could be the way they wore their hair, the way they put their outfit together, or just the company they provide for you. Remember, positive attracts positive.
Knowledge isn’t meant to be a secret. Create it, develop it, share it and you’ll reap the benefits.