Recently, (and I’m going to go ahead and mention this is going to be an honest blog post/journal entry) – I’ve been struggling with photography.
(And that’s okay.)
It has nothing to do with my couples - it is a completely separate, internal issue.
As most of you know (unless you don't follow me on any form of social media), my sweet niece was born last week. I was unbelievably lucky to have shot my brother and sister in law’s engagement session, anniversary, maternity, and of course birth and newborn. (Because I love them and want them to remember this time in their lives as it is, even though I’m as far as can be from a newborn photographer.) They’ve waited for four years for a baby, through a struggle with infertility… so naturally, I wanted the images to be “perfect”.
Well, as amazing as Nora is, and as incredible and patient as John and Sara are, Nora is a newborn. As anyone who has ever shot newborns know – it’s not on your timeframe. We had to wait later than I would have liked in the day, and I felt myself getting so frustrated with the lighting, with posing, with everything. We cut it short after 20 minutes and I made the call that we would try again another day.
I took a breather after our shoot ended to try to figure out why I was so annoyed with myself.
I knew it had nothing to do with John & Sara, they were amazing and Sara looked incredible six days after giving birth. I know this sounds crazy, but I realized that I went into the session as a photographer. An anal, detailed oriented, “I want everything to be perfect” photographer. And instead, in this particular moment, I should have been Emily. The sister, who was capturing moments that they wanted, despite the lighting conditions being less than ideal. It was then that I realized, I don’t know where the line between my identity as a person and my identity as a photographer is.
So, that’s why I’m writing all of this. I’m going to try to work this all out, so that maybe you can find the balance we all need, if you’re struggling too.
Often, I’m asked “oh, what do you do?” and I always really hesitant to respond that I’m a photographer. I actually know a lot of people like this. Mostly, because everyone in the WORLD is a photographer nowadays, and I feel like I have to somehow justify that I am a legitimate, full time, put all my eggs in one basket, kind of photographer. I have no side income, or spouse supporting me (which, btw, there's nothing wrong with that!). I feel like I have to justify that I’m not some newbie picking up a camera and shooting their friends for free. That this isn’t one of my million trades. That’s all I have. And I absolutely, hands down, wouldn’t change my mind about doing it…. about 340 days out of the year.
But it’s those extra 25 days that have me second guessing. And I realized it’s because my identity is “photographer”. Sure, I’m a sister, a daughter, a friend, a confidant. But more than anything, what I’m known for, is being a photographer. And it’s when I find myself the most frustrated, is when I realize that some days, I put all of my stock and worth into what I’m creating.
I put so much pressure on myself for things to be “perfect”. And that isn’t fair to myself, or my clients, or my art. If you put all of who you are into something, and it doesn’t turn out as beautiful or amazing as you’d hoped, you feel, in the simplest of terms; pretty shitty about yourself.
But in reality, it has almost nothing to do with you.
You are not your art. Your worth is not determined by how beautiful you captured something. You aren’t a better person because you shot an unbelievable elopement on the top of a mountain in Iceland. Your value is not intertwined with your ability to write a blog post.
This is what you need to remember:
Your art, your work – they are contributing factors to what makes you so special, but they are not the sole reason people are interested in you. People love you and your perspective. They love the way you see a moment; they love the way your soul appreciates the world around you. They love your presence, and the way their heart connects with yours.
And it’s so important to remember that, when you start to feel down on yourself because of the work you’re putting out. You could just be in a dry spell. You could just be uninspired by what’s currently around you. And that’s okay. I recently went to a workshop with some of the most incredible photographers around the world, and they’ve all been at the same point we’re at. And recently. Success doesn’t necessarily mean you’re constantly inspired. But the one theme they all came back to was this; the best thing to do for yourself is to just breathe. Take a beat. Go outside, and find someone or something that inspires you, be it film, music, another photographer/creative whose work just takes your breath away. Analyze it, and try to figure out why their work sets your soul ablaze.
(Now, it’s important to note: being uninspired is not an excuse if your work is bad. If your work is straight up bad, go to a workshop led by someone whose work you admire, and figure out why it’s bad. Then adjust what you’re doing.)
I guess what I’m trying to accomplish by writing this blog post is to let you know that YOU are not alone. Give yourself permission to be an artist. To feel immensely.
We all go through these seasons of being a little insecure about our work, of comparing ourselves to those around us who are straight up killing it.
But, you’re killing it too.
You’re kicking ass just by realizing your dream, grabbing the reins and being unconventional. Just remember that when you start to get discouraged and can’t remember why you started whatever creative adventure you’re currently on. Give yourself a little grace.
You got this.