One year ago, I wrote this post: How Trashing my Best Work Made my Business Stronger. And, boy was it a cathartic thing to do! In that post, I discussed how I found myself in the same trap many of you are in (judging by the many emails I receive). I found myself shooting sessions I didn’t like, didn’t want to do and didn’t want my business built on. But I was doing them anyway. Why? Money. You know…the thing that’s in your hand one minute, gone the next. But you know what doesn’t disappear as quickly as money? Self-disappointment.
So yes…a year ago, I threw my dollies out of the pram and proclaimed that
I will no longer take pictures I don’t wanna take!
That included families, maternity, events, boudoir…none’a that. I stripped it all away from my Facebook page and from my website and declared that I was through -finished!- with families and anything else I didn’t want to do. I would forever be a children’s portrait photographer and everyone else could beat it. And you know what? It was the best thing I ever did for my business.
I guess I was feeling backed into a corner. I felt like I had to do it all. Be all things to all clients. Say yes to every job. Never turn money down. Charge less than everyone else and still give clients more. But from the moment I put my foot down and decided that I was going to do it my way, my business started taking a turn I never ever saw coming. And this is why I say that we never stop growing. As soon as we’re convinced that we’ve made it -that we’re proper professionals- life and business can take a turn that we didn’t see coming.
So where am I today? Many of you have been on my journey with me as long-time readers. Others are new to my madness (hello!) and whatever category you fall into, some of you are wondering why you read my manifesto in that fateful blog post yet when you view my website, you still see that same work I had declared that I trashed. It all comes down to one very simple concept…
After trashing anything from public view that didn’t represent the new me, I went on a journey of discovering what I really wanted to photograph. At that point, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to be a children’s portrait photographer. So I dedicated myself to getting better at it. I invited many beautiful children I knew for sessions where I could experiment with new ideas, new poses, new locations. I took lots of ridiculous photos. I made many new friends. And ever so slowly, I silently experimented with the things I said I hated. Like families. And maternity. And couples. And newborns.
I discovered that I didn’t hate photographing families. I hated the feeling I had that I had no choice. That if I wanted to be a ‘real professional’, I had to be able to produce any kind of photography on demand. I hated feeling backed into a corner with no choice in the matter. And I hated compromising for the almighty dollar. Those are the things I hated. I have discovered that I don’t hate photographing families at all. Now that I actually know more about how to do it, of course.
I discovered Beloved. And it has changed my life. I discovered the power that photography has to mend a relationship. To create an experience. To bring a mother and teenage son into a moment which is rare. Who could argue with this? Who could look at this and say there’s nothing good to be found? Beloved has saved my business from itself and I am passionate about bringing it into every interaction I will have with a client from now on.
And so with all of these discoveries, I have slowly integrated the genres I have found that I actually enjoy back into my business and onto my website. And there are still things I look at and say “Meh. I’m not that into newborns. Maybe I’ll take those off the website” because I’m still discovering who I am as a photographer. But you will never NEVER know what kind of photographer you are until you give things a try. Be willing to try. Be willing to fail. Be willing to laugh at yourself. Being a photographer really isn’t rocket science.
If you want to be a photographer, start taking pictures.
Some other changes I made since writing that post:
I changed the stupid name. Glacier Cake was an anagram of my three children’s names. I thought it would be quirky and memorable. Instead, it was confusing and…more confusing.
I started charging more and working less.
I stopped sending the previews online and started pushing in home viewing and sales sessions.
I closed my studio. I spent the better part of a year renting a great little studio space in a barn but I found that I was using it as a glorified storage unit and dressing room and I was doing all my best work outside on the farm. So I said goodbye to the studio dream and embraced the great outdoors.
So in short, I have stuck with my decision to only do the genres that move me but over the past year, it has changed shape from what it was when I first made the decision. Once in a while, I’ll take a commercial job or something that I decide is a good move because it puts food on the table and sometimes, I really do love getting all my equipment out for a studio session. But the point is that I do it because I want to. Not because I’m trying to be something I apparently wasn’t.
And that is a