This blog entry is about five years overdue. There's this thin line between writing out helpful truths, and oversharing information that leave people with a bad taste in their mouths. I find leaving some time between events and letting the dust fully settle before openly writing about touchy subjects can sometimes help ease everyone into it, and if not? Well then, who cares ;)
I realize I'm only 27 and three quarters old, so I can't really say this with as much weight behind it as I'd like to, but I've noticed a pattern in the artist world that seems to reoccur every few years. It seems this giant wave of negativity seems to wash over the art world, usually as a result of one little person rocking the boat and it traveling out from there. So in an effort to stop the wave in it's tracks and to help hold you other artists up that are in my sphere of influence, I'm notifying you of three main negative brainwaves that seem to pass through the atmosphere like wild fire.
Art is tricky. It's all-consuming, and can turn you against yourself or help you to grow.
There will come a time in your life where these thoughts will find you, so fellow artists beware:
1. They are copying me.
As sad as this may sound, people don't care about you as much as you think, and they probably didn't mean to directly copy your work. This sentence leaving your mouth is generally a big red flag that you need to step back and take some time to reflect - trust me, I've said it too. There was a time when I first started in this profession where photographers were claiming that other photographers were copying their locations, their poses - even their props. If someone uses something similar to what you've used, and they just so happen to shoot it better than you did, mad "props" to them! You better step up your game.
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received in my six years of being a photographer was from another local, seasoned photographer: Find someone in this business, outside of your immediate world, that completely wows you. Someone whose work speaks to you so greatly, that you want to emanate everything you do after them, and then get to work on it. I only received that advice two and a half years ago, but it has vastly changed my business, and if it wasn't for my inspiration being right there in front of me, I wouldn't have been able to make that turn. Don't ever be afraid to choose someone to be your silent mentor. Let someone inspire you, and if you want to do your best to copy their style, their business format, their writing - do it! It will only stretch you and help you grow into the artist you want to become. Originality is an extremely hard thing to find these days, and I believe it only comes to you through the vigorous desire to know and understand yourself. Knowing what things make you excited and feel inspired is just a step towards that.
2. They are better than me.
I've seen first year's out-shoot people who have been in the business for over fifteen years. Even twenty. If you are not allows growing and changing, this art will leave you behind in the dust. Say no to jobs because they don't fit right with your plan, not because you don't think you're good enough.
When clients switch photographers, don't take it personally. People are flighty. One second their loyal brand users, the next their die-hards over something new. Clients will move between photographers - don't let this ever make you feel like you don't deserve to hold a camera. Do look at your business practices, your follow through with clients, and make sure you are providing a great service that you are proud of. Nothing else matters.
3. I have to post every day on social media.
A lot of artists are introverts, and I don't know about you, but social media exhausts me. Every time I write a blog post, and schedule a set of posts for my Facebook page, or post a simple instagram photo, I have to separate myself from the internet for a few hours. I'm terrible at answering comments on social media because of this, I don't sit there and wait for the "likes" to pour in. It actually causes me anxiety to see those little red notifications on my Facebook page. Ridiculous? Maybe a little bit. But I'm just being honest. It's this strange love/hate relationship that I enjoy so much, but can cause so much damage to me.
And here's the thing: I've made the same amount of money for the past three years (exactly what I wrote out in my annual business plans), while only posting once or twice a week. Consistency is key. Don't beat yourself up over your online presence, especially if you come from a small town. Like it or not, your business is still built on word of mouth and reputation, not your beautiful Instagram feed. I don't write this to discourage you from building a great online presence, but rather to release you from these ridiculous expectations that you should spend your life glued to social media.
I actually heard a friend say today that a business didn't market very well because she had no idea what the business was, but in fact they had a beautiful online presence. Just no presence in the real world; no place for anyone that isn't in a relationship with their phone to find them. And it got me thinking once again, if we suddenly didn't have Facebook, Instagram...the internet, could we still run our businesses? Could we figure out how to reach our clients where they are, instead of assuming they'll find us?
There you have it. Three negative thoughts that will rip your brain apart if you let them, destroy your passion for art, and leave you bitter towards this profession. Don't let those thoughts in, and don't let your fellow artists speak that negativity into your world. Help them rise above it.