I get to meet a lot of photographers. I know photographers who shoot weddings for $400, and I know photographers who shoot weddings for $4000. I know people who only shoot one kind of event or subject, and I know people who will shoot anything. There are a lot of people out there clamoring for any shoot they can get.
I often describe myself as a photographer. I don’t make my entire income from photography, but it is a significant portion. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and there’s a lot of hard work ahead of me. It might seem strange that this month I’ve been turning down paid shoots.
Shoots are bragging rights. Shoots are proof that you really are a photographer. If you have a client, you are a professional. There are a lot of people who want to be a Photographer with a capital P. Photographers, by definition, take photographs for a living. This is so general that it hardly describes any successful photographer I know, but some people seem to want to do anything that involves clicking that shutter. More often, photographers like interacting with people and making them feel good about themselves. Some photographers want to help people remember important events. Some photographers want to travel and share their discoveries with others. Some photographers want to be well known as artists, and photography is their way in. There might be some photographers who just love turning those dials and pressing that button, but that’s not me, and it’s probably not you.
It’s a lot of work figuring out what you love. It takes a lot of experimenting, and a lot of going down the wrong path. Once you find what you love, it takes a lot of work to articulate it. Once you’ve done that, it takes a lot of work and courage to pursue it. I’ve tried a lot of things over the years and a few things have become clear. I love being outdoors. I love playing one color off another, finding a line that curves just the right amount, that leads into the just the right amount of confusion. Creating beauty and adding to the beauty in the world, these are things I care about. (my constantly changing definition of beauty could be another blog post entirely, and I suppose it’s hinted at in every photo I post) I want to find natural scenes that abstractly resonate with our human condition. These goals change over time as I discover more about myself and the world, but they don’t change dramatically. And by knowing these few things, I can continue to enjoy life and photography. And I don’t go chasing after every shoot – I leave them to people who want to make a living doing what they love.
A willow leaf, still green in October, when only the last few yellow poplar leaves are left.