A Call to Arms: Stand Apart
The world needs more photographers. That is to say, the world needs more individuals, people who stand out from the crowd. Everyone seems to be a, "professional photographer," nowadays, but what does that really mean? Anyone can buy a camera and find someone else to pony-up a few bucks to get them to snap a shot or two at a kids party. It's a grey area, and the market is saturated to the point where it's gotten a bit ridiculous. Be honest with yourself, if you're under 40 and you live in North America you probably know at least three people who own a DSLR who in some capacity or another are acting as a, "professional." What's wrong with that? Well that's all a matter of perspective, but it's my blog so here's mine.
The world of photography has changed. Gone are the days where there were only a few options, a select handful of professionals who possess both the skills and the equipment to manage as a professional, particularly as a wedding photographer. Now cameras are much more affordable, more user friendly, with more features, exponentially more image storage, and immediate feedback. We plug into Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or whatever other imagery-driven social media tool is trending, and we get inundated with the same images and trends. Naturally when we find our niche, our own little piece of the photographic pie, most of us draw our lines, we find the photographers that represent the shades of what we want to be ourselves.
I feel like there's room for everyone in this field, but the problem is that we're so inundated with access to every style that it's hard to break away and be your own person. It's hard to break away from the expectations of others too. If you want to be a wedding photographer you're almost expected nowadays to have Jasmine Star or Lee Morris' persona, with Chase Jarvis' edgy personal style, add a pinch of Cliff Mautner's window lit portraits, Ryan Brenizer's namesake method, Joe Buissink's fine art photojournalistic je ne sais quoi, with the retouching and finishing with the styles of the guys and gals at The Image Salon, and the business savvy of Pye Jirsa and the Lin & Jirsa crew. It's too much.
From my experience it seems like most of us spend more and more time trying to emulate our photographer-crushes, mimicking their signature elements and styles, and we all end up somewhere in the middle, the same mushy, non-committal, indistinguishable lumps. I did it. I still do it in many ways. We clutch to our Pinterest boards and stick to the safe. We fear the idea of pushing into our own directions. We consume ourselves in buying new equipment, convinced that it will be the cure-all. In many cases we rush to reject our own attempts at creativity, allowing our negative perception of our own creative spark to chip away at our confidence. I personally had won awards for my work and was still uncomfortable with being labelled as, "professional," that's how bad I was caught up in the cycle.
Here's the thing though: the world has enough people who are mimicking each other. If we let ourselves get caught up in the same traps we'll all become more shades of the same thing. Boring. Neutral. Scared. Worse than scared: safe.
So here's my call to arms to each of you: stand out from the crowd. Risk something to be your own photographer. Embrace every opportunity to work hard at defining yourself, and learn to accept your style. Be confident, and be unapologetic. If people don't connect with it then let them go to the millions of others who will match them better. Be okay with that. Be comfortable with losing out on work from time to time to be true to your own vision. Learn to make the best of your failures, and then fail often. Joe McNally himself struggles, learn from him. Don't fail, redirect, or at the very least learn and adapt.
...the search for something that propels you, draws you, and simply becomes that which you cannot help but do is in itself a worthwhile endeavor. - Joe McNally
The world of photography has enough carbon copies, dare to be your own person.