You were 21 when you took this photo, and, even then, you knew your entire life was ahead of you. After a lot of pain and loss, you drew inward. Focused on work, school and, eventually, travel as a means of “finding yourself.” Through photography you could capture your travels, as you had intended. But, probably not long after this photo of Kristy and Bebo was taken, you realized the camera could be so much more than an instrument for preserving memories of your wanderings; it could be the conduit by which you could (finally) connect with others. Contemplating your journey from that August day in Honduras up until this point, to be where you are today and, more so, aiming for the caliber of work you know you are capable of in the future, here are 11 points I want you to try to be mindful of as you continue to grow along this photography journey:
1. Grow With The Flow. Continue to educate yourself; soak up as much as you can – be it through photographers’ memoirs, hands-on workshops, online forums, documentaries, ANYTHING. Don’t close yourself off to the wealth of inspiration that could spring from those vast, untapped resources.
2. Trust In Your Ability. On your way to sessions make sure you keep up the mantra, “I will take the best client photo I have ever taken today.” Because you are capable. Don’t forget that.
3. Don’t Compromise Your Vision. Even if a client is skeptical of your documentary style, help them get a better understanding of what you can provide for them by connecting with them, show them your work, be purely yourself and you will always be able to produce what you know you can for them. If they want something different, don’t be afraid to tell them to seek out another photographer.
4. Follow Your Intuition. The moments of intuition that hit you like a ton of bricks and make you think, “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit I really should go grab my camera!” Do it. Make the effort. Make the photo.
5. Don’t Compare. You get hung up on this a lot. But, as your father-in-law told you (originally Teddy Roosevelt, but, still) when protesting (for the 1,000,000,000th time) about another photographer’s work being soooooooo much better than your own, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and, I might add, the thief of oh-so-many hours that could be spending honing your own skill. Please, FOR THE LOVE, try to remember that.
6. Celebrate In Others’ Successes. Competition is essential in the field of sports, not in the field of Photography. Appreciate your common admiration for the medium as well as the guts it takes to share such an intimate part of yourselves.
7. Keep Snapping. Even if client work is filling your schedule, you must continue to work on personal projects and taking purposeful images of your own family (with you in them as well!). Otherwise, years and years from now, you’ll be looking back through albums of memories only made for others.
8. See The Learning Opportunities Of Client Sessions. Don’t expect that all moments of enlightenment or learning only come from books, workshops or online tutorials. Open yourself up to the hands-on education that each individual session can bring you.
9. Don’t Work For Free. You’re a professional. If you don’t value your work enough to charge what you know it’s worth, no one else will.
10. Be Vulnerable. It might take a lot out of you, but, if you expect your clients to be their authentic selves in front of your lens, you have to continue to wear your heart on your sleeve and trust that your connection is pure. Share a piece of yourself with every person you work with, never settle into a pattern of feeling comfortable with your approach, and, always strive to offer an honest, human connection from a place of humility.
11. Consider Success To Be On An Individual Basis. Especially in this day in age, being recognized for your ability on a wide-scale simply won’t happen (and, quite frankly, there are many many many others that are doing what you do too – DON’T COMPARE, DON’T COMPARE). So don’t sulk about it. Instead, when your daughters laugh hysterically at the photo you took of them or your clients tear up at the slideshow you made for their newly-welcomed son – let that fill your heart with gratitude for your art and your ability to share that, and let that be enough.
About the photographer:
Icarian Photography specializes in documentary-style, natural light family, newborn, and head shot photography and is the lifework of photographer Melissa Schmidt. Melissa’s photographic and design aesthetic is unpretentious, heavily-influenced by experiential and documentary techniques but, most of all, by the unique narrative found within each individual she has the privilege of serving. Melissa is not only the youngest of two sets of twins, but, is also a mother to two radiant, zestful, and exceptionally goofy twin daughters, Ruby and Vera. Go twins! A trained bilingual educator, Melissa met her best friend and life partner, Joe, in 2009 while they were teaching English in Barcelona, Spain. Though she still thinks he’s just a figment of her imagination.