3 Mistakes Photographers Make [that can hold you back]
You guys, I have been thinking a lot about mistakes. I have made a few in my career and sometimes I can't help but ruminate on them. I made a boo boo that hurt my own business a couple of months ago. (I'll tell you about later in this post).
But the one upside to mistakes is that we can learn from them. Here are the top three mistakes I see photographers make and some advice from someone who has experienced it all.
1. Trying to be Someone You Aren't
Far too often we fall into the trap of trying to be something we aren't. We follow so many blogs, Instagram feeds, or watch too much HGTV (don't we all kinda wanna be Joanna Gaines?) and we think, "I want her life"!
This is problematic for 2 reasons:
1- Her online life isn't real. Media shows us only the best, most gorgeous parts of each other's lives. I'd never show you a dirty kitchen or an unflattering selfie. -- while I think there can be merit in talking about our mistakes and helping each other grow, there's no way I am taking a picture of my living room without tidying up. It's not happening. So we end up aspiring to be something unattainable because you can't achieve perfection. And you only hurt yourself when you try.
2- Her life isn't your life. Maybe she is 10 years ahead of you in her career. Maybe she makes more money than you. Maybe Maybe Maybe. Maybe focusing on being everything she is detracts from who you are. And when you take away from yourself, your followers pick up on that. Example -- I've been trying to grow my Instagram feed. Up until a year or so ago, it was a personal account. So when I converted it for my business, I started posting a ton of portraits. Because I was mimicking another photographer I know who has a lot more followers than me. She posts beautiful portraits that get a lot of social media love -- and I wanted that. So I copied her -- I didn't copy her pictures of course. I used my own. (Our style is totally different). But I started posting portraits and doing all the things top Instagrammers tell you to do -- Be consistent. Have a branded feed. Hashtags! Interact -- and my following did grow a little. But not as much as I had hoped. So I looked at my analytics and it turns out that my posts with the most engagements were still life, flat lays, and commercial work. Not portraits. Because, while I do love to shoot portraits for fun, they aren't where my heart really lies. I'm a commercial photographer and that shows in my work. My love and passion shows. People like me best when I am genuine. Which is great! It takes the pressure off. I can be me and do what I love and that's what resonates with people!
2. Resting on Your Laurels and Getting Stuck There
It can be easy and tempting to find something that works and/or feels comfortable and just stay there forever. You're in a rut. And that rut is where your creativity can suffer. You get bored. It starts to show in your work. You get burnt out. I hope this doesn't sound familiar to you but chances are it does. I have been there. I think most artists experience this at some point. The trick is to not to get stuck here and ultimately quit. In order to stop this before it starts you have to always try and feel creative. Are you always shooting for clients but never for yourself? Take time to schedule a shoot with no pressure or expectations. Something all about creation. And if that's also something that you can turn around and incorporate that into paid work...Bonus. But it has to be all about you.
Mix things up. Shoot with a new lens. Try something that scares you. Never stop reaching for more -- pushing yourself to be better.
I mean, take a break when you need one - overdoing it leads to burnout too - just don't let a break become a rut.
3. Forgetting to Keep Learning
This one's related to your laurels but I split them intentionally to stress how important I believe education is. NEVER STOP LEARNING. Never stop moving forward. Cliche time -- The moment you stop moving forward is the moment you start sinking.
Here are some ideas:
- take classes
- collaborate with or shadow another artist
- go on a retreat
- create a new Pinterest board full of inspiration for a new shoot
- experiment with a new Photoshop tool
Never let yourself be that cocky photographer who "knows everything." Nobody likes that guy.
It is so important to be yourself, but also, to always be improving that self. When you meet your goals, make new ones. When you get stuck, try something new. Never settle. Never stop.