What an Amazing Year
So, I have come to the end of my first year as a professional portrait photographer, and I have asked myself:
1: Has everything gone to plan? – No.
2: Have I learnt anything? - Yes
3: Has what I learnt been helpful outside the business? - Yes
So, I thought to myself, that perhaps some of what I learnt might be worth sharing with you. All of my business lessons are also life lessons. And so, with authenticity (see point 5 below 😉) I want to share with you some tips and takeaways from 2017.
1. MOST WOMEN I HAVE ENCOUNTERED THIS YEAR HATE HAVING THEIR PHOTO TAKEN
Okay, this one is probably no surprise to most of you since there is a high percentage that you fall into this category.
When I tell people that I am a portrait photographer and that I specialise in taking modern beauty portraits of women (not kids, babies, weddings, families or landscapes), the most common responses are:
“Oh,, I hate having my photo taken, I look terrible in them!”
I did some research and there is a scientific reason for some of this feeling. In short, we are used to seeing ourselves in the mirror, so when we see ourselves as others do in a photo, our brain thinks things are “just not right” (you can read more about this in detail here). Or maybe you were not posing in a flattering way and someone caught you at a bad angle (read more here).
“I once had my photo taken by a professional and they said that they couldn’t do anything for me.”
That is really not your fault at all. As a professional it is my job to help you feel comfortable in front of the camera, to direct you into the best pose/position for your body shape, and to photograph you with the correct lens and angle. If your previous photographer did not, that is a poor reflection on them, not you, but if you want some tips for the Christmas photos coming up, check them out here.
“My friend had photos taken like that in the 90’s and they looked nothing like her.”
I had the same sort of glamour/beauty shot in the 1990’s at an Adelaide icon which is no longer with us, Studio 2000. They were infamous for this – Photoshop was entering our world, we could edit the ordinary woman to look like superstars! We could smooth out every pore, add a fancy background and add colour. Not to mention the Vaseline lens! Well, modern beauty is not like that at all – think Vanity Fair, Vogue or GQ (for the men).
TAKE AWAY MESSAGE #1: We should exist in photos but most people are afraid/dislike what they look like in them. But with a little education and help we can look as great as we feel!
2. STARTING A BUISNESS TAKES UP A LOT OF YOUR TIME
Yep, I have created a really wonderful relationship with my office and computer. I step into the office saying, “this won’t take long,” and emerge hours later with only a ‘rough draft’. I have learnt how to create a website (which I have done twice) and how to post ads on Facebook (sorry everyone). I have learnt all about SEOs (really, is that an acronym that we need, they could have at least made it fun), image tags, contracts, design, gift certificates, business register, web hosting, Google, blogging (which we all know I am hit and miss on – see unwritten rules, point 4, below), unwritten rules (see below) and an amazing host of other things. I have learnt new skills and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
But, none of this would have been possible without my husband. He has been patient, supportive, helpful, accommodating and patient (yes, I said that already, but it is really important, so should be said again, book-ending the whole thing). He has fed me when I disappeared into the office (see above) and kept me supplied with a myriad of cups of tea and hot chocolate. He has allowed me to spend money on the business. Most importantly he has let me grow and learn and blossom – (ooo, that has just made me think of the coolest metaphor – he has been the soil to my flower 😉).
TAKE AWAY MESSAGE #2: We need to be grateful for those around us who take care of us and encourage us to grow. It is with enormous gratitude that I thank all those in my life who are there for me.
3. I AM REALLY, REALLY STUBBORN
Yes, I am. I think you need to be to start a business – it takes time and effort.
But I did something else this year – I started a personal project: a365 self-portrait project on Instagram (you can check it out here). It is taking up a lot of my time but I stuck at it despite wanting to quit around day 100 (I am now at day 258 – not long to go now). But it has started to bear fruit. I did it to learn stuff, stuff I need to create images for the business (conceptual portrait anyone?) and to increase my familiarity with processing software.
Sometimes stubbornness is a really good thing. Nothing comes to those who just sit back and hope that great things will happen to them. Manifestation is great – I do it all the time – but I know that it won’t work if I don’t work at it. I have to make effort, I have to believe, and most importantly I can’t stop trying and striving for it.
TAKE AWAY MESSAGE #3: One of the best things I could tell anyone who wants to start something new – try, do, fail, try harder, change, create, fail, try again. Nothing happens without persistence.
4. THERE ARE A LOT OF UNWRITTEN RULES ABOUT THE PLACE, AND WE ARE JUST SUPPOSED TO FIGURE THEM ALL OUT
Gosh, where do I start on this one?
I have been shadow banned from Instagram (who knew that was a thing) – maybe I used the same hashtag too many times in a row, maybe I used one of their many “banned” hashtags. I don’t know, and Instagram don’t tell you… I’m just guessing. Oh, and did you know that there is actually a maximum amount of text that you can enter on an Instagram post – found that out mid-sentence….
I have had my account rights to post an ad suspended on Facebook with no explanation. Even after I managed to find (not easily or quickly) how to have an online conversation to sort it all out I still don’t know what I did wrong. I am may have put in an odd combination of words, I may have used too many words, I may not have used any words – who knows?
Oh, and don’t make your blogs too wordy (clearly fail on that one) – people don’t want to read that much…. Does not one read books anymore? Are we really that rushed in our lives that we can’t find time to read a few pages?
I have had people unfriend me on Facebook. Upset family members. Upset friends. Had to guess what is wrong with people I love. Had to be polite to people who are blatantly rude to my face. Had to ignore comments about my body and my mood because people were upset or “dealing with a stressful situation” by commenting on me.
TAKE AWAY MESSAGE #4: With so many unwritten rules in our life it is amazing that we can get through the day unscathed. Just remember that the person next to you could be just as confused as you and maybe if you share a little of what you have learnt you can make their life a little easier too.
5. BE AUTHENTIC
This has to be my favourite thing I found out this year. Be Authentic.
I have to ask if the people who spout this actually know what it means. Apparently, I am to be authentic to my audience – but it should be in a well curated way. My Instagram and Facebook accounts should be visually appealing while showing you the ‘real me’.
Unfortunately, I am just not pretty, or visually appealing all the time anyway. Let’s be truthful, if you saw me in my authentic nature first thing in the morning, you probably would worry about my ability to give you a beautiful portrait because you would question my idea of beauty (hee, hee).
On the flip side, I have been told that I should post funny things, odd ball comments, stories to get your attention. But at the same time been told to not do this (see point 4 above).
I do strive to show you a bit of me, so that you can see that I am just a human as the rest of the world.
TAKE AWAY #5: I don’t know what everyone means by “be authentic”. I know that my thoughts and words are true to me. I have principles that I live by. I am loyal – often to a fault.
To finish I want to thank all the gorgeous women and men this year who allowed me to show them the beauty I see, and who all rocked their photo sessions – you are the reason I got into all of this in the beginning, you are what it is all about! Thank you, thank you, thank you with all my heart!
P.S. If you actually got this far, I was wondering if you want to let me know what sort of things you might like to hear about next year. Would you like some guides on how to use your phone to take great photos? Some guides to great selfies (I’m a master of those….)? Would you like to hear from some make-up artists/fashonistas/hairdressers on what is rocking at the moment (I know this is a photography site, but hey, it’s all important to the final product!)?
I would genuinely love to know what sort of things you would like to see and hear about.