Once again it is the start of a new year and just like every other January we are encouraged to make some new year’s resolutions. Because this is the time of year that we re-establish our goals, in other words we re-establish our purpose, we need to examine not only our personal goals but the goals we have for our businesses as well as this creative endeavor we like to do called photography.
Each year, some times more than once a year, I think it is important to re-establish our purpose as a photographer. Let’s start out by defining what a professional photographer is and the job description of a professional photographer. Simply put, a professional photographer is a photographer who charges money for their services; if you are charging people money you are telling them that you are a professional. As for the job description of a professional photographer; your job is to use a visual means to tell stories and preserve memories.
It is the photographs that tell a story that make the greatest impact. Recently I read an article (http://improvephotography.com/2241/what-the-people-in-your-portraits-are-dying-to-tell-you/) that re-established the importance of telling a story with our photographs. It has a similar experience like the one related in the article, a family member had gone to someone else and had some photos done of their infant child, once this family member got the photos they were sad because of how bad they were. The family member brought the photos to me wondering if I could fix them. I looked at the photos and yes they were bad and unfortunately there was nothing I could do to fix them, David deChemin said “Photoshop doesn’t have a revision filter that will make a poorly conceived and poorly executed photograph sparkle with vision. Lazy vision can’t be recovered in Photoshop. There is no Un-Suck filter” (David deChemin, Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision, Page 62). David deChemin also said; “As a visual storyteller, you are responsible for everything within the frame. If it’s in the frame, it’s because you allowed it to be. If it’s missing, it’s because you chose to exclude it, or you neglected to include it…. The world within the frame is all that exists to the people who will one day look at your images…. To allow your images to communicate to the broadest audience possible, you need to be obsessively aware of what is within the frame” (David deChemin, Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision, Pages 14 & 16). I feel that this sums up really sums up the job description of a professional photographer.
Now we move to re-establishing the purpose of your business. There are a lot of people who get into business without understanding the business side of things. In a photography business the photography aspect is only a very small part of your business. After starting my own photography business I have had to learn the hard way that it is tough to make it as an artist. Scott Robert Lim has pointed out that being a professional photographer is one of the hardest professions to succeed in; because for example look at how many doctors there are, how many lawyers, and then how many professional photographers?
To succeed in business and in life we need clear well defined and achievable goals. If our goals are not clearly defined then you will not be able to establish a path to achieve the goal. If our goals are not realistic then they are not achievable and your business will not go anywhere. Yes you still need to have goals that require work to achieve and once a goal is accomplished another goal must take its place. It is a cycle of steps working toward the goal of having a successful business. So at this time of renewal and goal setting we should be looking at our business goals and re-establishing the purpose of our business.
Which brings us to the last point; we need recommit ourselves to educating ourselves about photography. I cannot stress this enough; if you are not learning then you are not improving. You can refer to my previous blog post on the “Importance of Education” (http://doublerrphotography.com/the-importance-of-education/). At this time of recommitting ourselves, we need to re-establish our desire to educate ourselves about our craft. As a photographer you are responsible for everything within the frame of your photograph; I think that the first part of the David deChemin quote stated above bears repeating; “As a visual storyteller, you are responsible for everything within the frame.” David deChemin further said, “As photographic storytellers, it is our job to ruthlessly exclude every element within the frame that is not part of the story. The results will be more powerful images” (David deChemin, Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision, Pages 19 & 20).
It is important to remember that the people we photograph want the stories; they are coming to us because they want something other than the regular studio experience. People are coming to us because we are representing ourselves as professionals. It is also important to remember that “The key is information. The more you know the better” (David deChemin, Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision, Page 155).
So at this time of re-establishing our purpose please; we need to consider our purpose as a photographer, the purpose of our business, and recommit ourselves to our photographic education. If we do what we can to remember our purpose throughout the upcoming year we can improve both ourselves and our photography. My goals for this year are to finish putting together a photography business startup package, rebuild my photography website to include all the features I feel an artist website should have, and improve my photography education by continuing to write these blog posts and to work on my own personal photography projects which will challenge my current skill set and help my perfect my photographic vision.