You Do You

I don't know if it's the time of year, coincidence, or just the universe playing tricks on me, but I feel like I've seen a lot of people lately trying to tell others how to do things. I'm not talking about welcomed critique or helpful advice. I'm talking about people who seem to think that the way someone else is conducting their business isn't okay. To be blunt, I see a lot of people who seem a little too worried about what everyone else is doing.

I don't normally get drawn into the drama. I pretty much hate it, and avoid it at all costs, to be honest. But this one... Well, for better or worse, this one seems to have hit close to home for me on a couple of different levels. And by "this one" I'm not talking about a specific person or blog or anything - just this general idea that I have been seeing more and more often lately: that whatever it is you are doing, you are doing it wrong somehow, according to some self-appointed expert.

None of it has been directed at me in a way that is personal, though it's awfully hard at times to disconnect something you DO, passionately, with who you ARE. So in many ways, it IS personal, even if it wasn't directed at me specifically. Because I do love what I do, I'm passionate about it, and though it's been a dream come true, it isn't without it's sacrifices or struggles. And so with that in mind, I want to put a little positivity out there.

To the photographer who isn't as busy as you'd like to be: don't let any one tell you that unless you reach some arbitrary marker of success, you aren't "really" in business. That's bullshit.

To the photographer who has found extra work through selling props, taking on outsourced editing, or doing some virtual assistant tasks: good for you for making smart business choices that insure that all your eggs aren't in one basket, and help put money in the bank so you can help support your family.

To the photographer who's been made to feel less because they photograph other photographers: well seriously - GOOD FOR YOU. What an honor, to be chosen by someone who knows and understands the craft. That is the highest compliment imaginable, and is never something you should be looked down for. Who cares if the marketing is supposedly easier? Since when did struggling to make a business work become something we should strive for?

To the photographer who feels excluded from a certain genre: I can only speak for my genre, documentary photography - but last I checked, you can make your art in any way you see fit, and it's no one's job to say what is or isn't "insert genre/style here." Art is subjective. Art changes. The things that we called XXX ten years ago is not the same as what we call it now. As long as you aren't misrepresenting yourself, you do you however you want. There are no genre police deciding the rules.

To the workshop instructors and mentors who are made to feel bad because their target market is other photographers: Well, last time I checked, basic supply and demand principles dictate that if there is a need, business will flourish, and if there isn't, it will suffer. So if you are making a living teaching others, and you are doing it to the best of your ability, serving clients with as much faith and knowledge as you can muster - then good for you. People wouldn't be hiring you if they didn't want that education.

And to those amongst us who aren't providing good service, who are leaving their clients in a bad place, and who are doing something they aren't qualified to do: That's not cool. Not even a little bit.

But, we've all been there. I've been there. I started a photography business long before I should, way back when, and I made all the mistakes you can imagine. So while I want to encourage you to seek help, research the laws in your state, learn how to take a decent photograph, understand what it means to run a business, and then charge an appropriate amount for those services - I also know that it isn't my place to pass judgement on you. It's my place to be a role model. To answer questions when I can. To be transparent about what it takes to run a business, and how hard it is to learn the craft. If it wasn't for the kindness and transparent knowledge of my own role models, I would never know the things I didn't know.

So to the photographers who are doing the best they can, running a business that works for them: spread some of that around. The industry is only as good as we make it. Be part of the solution, not the problem. You do you, and let's not worry so much about what every one else is doing.

Kate Densmore2 Comments