I went to a meetup group yesterday in Oakland run by Jules Bianchi, a San Francisco Bay Area based wedding & portrait photographer. This was a somewhat special meetup since it offered an opportunity to get to know Dane Sanders. While I’ve read Dane’s “Fast Track Photographer” book and have watched several of his podcasts, I didn’t really know what to expect. I jokingly call Dane the Tony Robbins of Wedding Photographer since he aims to be very motivational and tries to get people to search their souls for their own inspiration.
While that description of Dane might seem bad, I think you have to take things as they are and make the most of it. There are some who hate everything about the big names in the wedding & portrait photography industry. And there are some who obsess over every detail about those big names. It’s a huge spectrum and I’m sort of a fence sitter.
So I went with an open mind and found a couple of great takeaways.
Dane presented his talk as a “conversation” which I didn’t believe at the beginning. That’s usually just podium-talk for having a Q&A session and lots of rhetorical questions. But in this case, I was surprised by how much direct conversation he had with audience members…doing what I would call mini-introspection sessions. It turned out to be rather beneficial just listening to the conversation that I eventually participated to some degree.
He commented about a couple of things which got my mind running. The first was about getting tough. Dane was talking about the idea of being too soft on new photographers. The second point was about making a declaration to help yourself move forward.
So let me take the 2nd point first. I decided to talk about “lack of time” and not using that as an excuse or crutch to prevent me from actually doing things. Yeah, it’s an oft-talked about thing. You’ve gotta make time and just do it, yadda, yadda. I decided to be somewhat more realistic and specific. If I have an idea or thought, I need to set aside the idea of “if I only had more time” and actually do some legwork to determine how much time it would actually take to get it done. After that legwork, if I determine I really don’t have time to do it, then I need to leave that idea by the roadside and keep on moving. I can’t let myself get hung up on the idea and leave it as just another dream. So I’m trying to be realistic and note that I won’t have time for everything, but also not letting myself use the “lack of time” as a generic reason to not do certain things.
The 1st point is something which I think photographers and creative professionals need to take to heart and it’s something which I spoke to Dane about briefly after the event ended. And that’s about being too soft on ourselves. I specifically thought about a hypothetical excuse summarized as “It’s different for photographers”. I sort of see this every time I read tweets or facebook comments breathlessly noting how awesome, amazing, or unique some business or personal method/process/goal is. I think it gets on many people’s nerves and they eventually just see these breathless comments as a herd following a rockstar.
Leaving the whole rockstar and herd notion on the side, I think we need to think a bit more from the outside in. Not just from outside ourselves, but outside of the photography industry. Think about whether the business practices of successful photographers are unique to the photography industry. Think about whether the work & personal ethics of successful photographers are are unique to the photography industry. More often than not, those practices and ethics aren’t unique to photography.
And it’s something which I think a lot of people need to come to terms with because they use it as a crutch to not improve themselves and their businesses. As an example, Dane mentioned something last night which I summarize as “how long are you going to be an *aspiring* photographer? At some point, you’re just a photographer. Join the club”
Seriously, how many times have you met an *aspiring” plumber? Or an *aspiring* programmer?
My point is that using the term “aspiring” is just one of the ways that photographers allow themselves to make excuses. One way to get around that is to think about whether a non-photographer would use similar reasoning or excuses. More often than not, they wouldn’t…so why should a photographer use the excuse?
We should get tough on ourselves and recognize that we, as photographers, aren’t “special” just because we’re photographers. The business tips & tricks, the inspirational seminars, all of it…they may be designed for the eyes & ears of photographers, but they’re not unique challenges to just photographers – they’re challenges for all small-business owners. Maybe if we recognize that, we’ll take ourselves more seriously and get tough on ourselves as professionals.
So I mentioned this briefly to Dane and while he agrees with this, he’s of a bit different opinion on the matter of making this point to photographers. I personally think it should be duly noted when it’s relevant, while Dane thinks it’s not worth the trouble and it’s better to just focus on the business/personal growth rather than tell people that XYZ is important to the success of ANY business, not just a photography business. That’s fine, but I was glad to have some of this back-and-forth with Dane.
So to close out on this long post, I think we do need to step outside ourselves and think a bit more about the excuses we make for ourselves and how we should get more tough on ourselves. I personally use the “lack of time” excuse. I think a lot of people use the “but it’s different for photographers” excuse. Either way, we need to drop those excuses and move forward.