Confessions of a phoney

 

This is very difficult for me to write. I recently posted a link on my photography page written by  Jennifer Amie of Jennifer Amie Designs  about “fauxtographers“. A little discussion happened and I could not help but get a knot in the pit of my stomach. At one time I was a “fauxtographer”. I had a web-site and a Facebook page. Later, I created a blog. I had a fancy flash, even if I did not really know how to use it to it’s full potential. I sold all of the edited images on a dvd for very little money. I was not producing the images I wanted to create and I had little time to get there. I was busy editing hundreds of images for one session, yes editing each and every image. Workflow and proper culling images did not exist in my work. I thought that the more images I supplied the greater chance I would have of the client at least liking some of them. I had time to spend learning if I was shooting hundreds of images per session and then spending 20 – 40 hours to edit one session. WHAT WAS I THINKING!!! Clearly, I had no time to even think!!! My images were not terrible but they were not where I wanted to be. My editing…although not terrible was again not where I wanted to be. I had no style and no voice. I thought tilt was cool (thankfully that ended real quick). I thought selective colour was cool (that ended even quicker). I over-edited. I forgot that less is more and somehow channeled my teenage self from the 80’s. The one who wore green glitter gel in her hair, had Madonna from Desperately Seeking Susan as a fashion role model and wore enough jewellery to send Liberace hiding. You get the picture. I thought vintage processing was cool.And it is…for some images but not for every single one of them.  I knew a little about lighting and the basics of posing. In short, I had no clue who I was. I had no clue of what my style was. I was not producing the work that I wanted to produce and I felt like a phoney. How could I possibly produce the images I wanted to produce if I did not even know what they were or even what appealed to me? I couldn’t, it was impossible. Looking book, I did create some beautiful images. But, I had no confidence in my technical skill (mainly because I had so little of it) and any great shots felt like I had gotten lucky.

Since December 2010, I have been living in England with my wonderful husband. I choose to not work. this time was going to be for me. I was going to take this time and see how far I could go. I attended workshops. I read countless books. I took thousands of pictures and then spend time editing these images. I learnt about workflow and proper culling. I studied images I loved and really analysed them. I practiced, practiced, practiced. I studied flattering posing. I learnt how to use m flash properly. I spent time, lots and lots of time, thinking about what images appealed to me and what I wanted to create. I spent time getting to know me and what my style was. I spent time doing all of the times I wish I had done before I hung out my shingle. I spent time researching suppliers and web-site companies. I filled two books with notes. I did all of the things I wish I had done so many years ago.

Being a professional photographer is not something that happens over night. You cannot receive a DSLR as a gift and suddenly become a photographer. Becoming a professional photographer is not an easy or quick way to make lots of money. If you want a quick and easy way to make lots of money, design a pavement that does not form potholes in the spring…please. My car will be so happy and thankful. I have spent over a thousand dollars on education this past year and a half. This is in the form of both workshops and books. I have spent a few thousand dollars on new gear. And no, we are not rich. I am also not working during this time. To spend this money on my photography business was a joint decision with my husband. My husband believes in me and happily agreed that we could spend this money on my becoming a better photographer. Andrew saw that I was struggling, that I was not happy where I was and wanted to help me get to where I wanted to be. This was a sacrifice for both of us. It was an investment in my business and an investment in my clients that I felt so strongly about making. I would have loved to have had a fab 2 week holiday in Italy, complete with stunning Italian shoes. But, I wanted better for my photography and much much better for my clients. I wanted to invest in my clients because I feel that they deserve nothing less from a professional photographer. I wanted to invest in myself and be able to create images that I made me heart swell with pride. When I look back at my earlier work, I am not ashamed nor does my heart burst with pride. I am upset because I knew that I could do better and my clients deserved nothing less. I did not know how to get to that better place until I stopped working and took some time off. All of the time, energy and money I have invested into my photography was made knowing that upon our return  to Canada in June 2012 I would be taking a break from photography for probably a year. That will be a whole other blog post.

I had spent all of this time learning but could I, on my own, pull all of this together and produce the goods? I hoped so but I needed to be sure. Last week I tested out some new lighting equipment and flattering posing techniques. I tested  new workflow and culling methods. I knew what I wanted for my images which made post-production so much easier. Everything came together. I no longer felt like a phoney. I was able to create images that made my heart sing and my soul swoon. I can now say that when I do return to work, I will charge what I am worth, what I know that my work is worth. I know that I can deliver images that are worth what I charge. That is huge coming from someone who for so long felt like a phoney.

I can truly say that I have come a long way baby. It took me taking a year and a half off from my photography business for me to no longer feel like a phoney. I am not saying that others will need to take an extended break. But, I can say that, for me, taking this break was what I needed to get to where I wanted to be.

 

This was very difficult for me to write. I did not want to hurt any of my former client’s feelings or have them believe that I was just out to make a quick buck. I did the best I knew how to do at that time. But, I did not even know what I didn’t know I did not know. I did knew that I was not producing to the standard that I wanted for myself or my client. It took stepping away from my photography business and giving myself time to get to where I needed and wanted to be. I cannot fix my early mistakes and can only hope that future clients judge me by the photographer I am now and will be in the future and not the photographer I was yesterday. I made so many mistakes and I wish that I knew then what I know now. I have invested thousands of dollars, countless hours and endless amounts of energy into a project and will see no financial return on that investment for almost 3 years (the time spent living in England and my time-off in Canada). This feels very familiar. Been there, done that and got the B.A. to prove it. And I am more than ok with that. Investing in education and anything that will make me a better photographer is a sound investment, both for me and for my client. I hope that this post helps someone who wants to be a professional photographer and is feeling as lost as I was. Time and lots and lots of practice.

If you would like to see what I have been doing during my “time off” in England, please check out our travel blog, Living England.

~ Jody

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