My advice for aspiring photographers

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Cheryl Jacobs, Dec 14, 2006.

  1. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    I recently shared this on a portraiture forum, so my apologies if it's a duplication for anyone reading. The two sites have very different audiences, so I wanted to share it here as well. Although it was written with portrait photographers in mind, most of it applies to all genres.

    ***********************************************

    These are my thoughts, nothing more and nothing less.

    I get asked all the time, during workshops, in e-mails, in private messages, what words of wisdom I would give to a new and aspiring photographer. Here's my answer.


    - Style is a voice, not a prop or an action. If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don't look outward for your style; look inward.

    - Know your stuff. Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It's like money; you only have it when you don't need it.

    - Never apologize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics on a concensus.

    - Say no. Say it often. It may be difficult, but you owe it to yourself and your clients. Turn down jobs that don't fit you, say no to overbooking yourself. You are no good to anyone when you're stressed and anxious.

    - Learn to say "I'm a photographer" out loud with a straight face. If you can't say it and believe it, you can't expect anyone else to, either.

    - You cannot specialize in everything.

    - You don't have to go into business just because people tell you you should! And you don't have to be full time and making an executive income to be successful. If you decide you want to be in business, set your limits before you begin.

    - Know your style before you hang out your shingle. If you don't, your clients will dictate your style to you. That makes you nothing more than a picture taker. Changing your style later will force you to start all over again, and that's tough.

    - Accept critique, but don't apply it blindly. Just because someone said it does not make it so. Critiques are opinions, nothing more. Consider the advice, consider the perspective of the advice giver, consider your style and what you want to convey in your work. Implement only what makes sense to implement. That doesn't not make you ungrateful, it makes you independent.

    - Leave room for yourself to grow and evolve. It may seem like a good idea to call your business "Precious Chubby Tootsies"....but what happens when you decide you love to photograph seniors? Or boudoir?

    - Remember that if your work looks like everyone else's, there's no reason for a client to book you instead of someone else. Unless you're cheaper. And nobody wants to be known as "the cheaper photographer".

    - Gimmicks and merchandise will come and go, but honest photography is never outdated.

    - It's easier to focus on buying that next piece of equipment than it is to accept that you should be able to create great work with what you've got. Buying stuff is a convenient and expensive distraction. You need a decent camera, a decent lens, and a light meter. Until you can use those tools consistently and masterfully, don't spend another dime. Spend money on equipment ONLY when you've outgrown your current equipment and you're being limited by it. There are no magic bullets.

    - Learn that people photography is about people, not about photography. Great portraits are a side effect of a strong human connection.

    - Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself. Never let your technique upstage your subject.

    - Never compare your journey with someone else's. It's a marathon with no finish line. Someone else may start out faster than you, may seem to progress more quickly than you, but every runner has his own pace. Your journey is your journey, not a competition. You will never "arrive". No one ever does.

    - Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacence.


    - CJ
     
  2. JJC

    JJC Member

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    That says alot. :smile:
     
  3. eddym

    eddym Member

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    This is good advice not only for aspiring photographers, but for those of us who already are one. I'm going to print this, if you don't mind, and hang it where I can see it often.
     
  4. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi Cheryl,

    Print that puppy into posters!

    Ever think about fleshing each of those paragraphs out, and making it into a series of articles for a magazine? Wisdom is earned...there has to be some good stories in there :wink:

    Murray
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Thanks Cheryl - a very valuable read.

    I especially like "Embrace frustration" - trust me, it has applicability to my day job (lawyering) as well:sad: :sad: .

    Matt

    P.S. - come to think of it - if you ever need another name for a band, "embrace Frustration" might work there too.
     
  6. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    Thanks Cheryl. A good read for sure. Pretty much applies to life in general.
     
  7. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Most excellent Cheryl. Better advice than Adams or Weston ever wrote.
     
  8. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    Wonderful Cheryl.
    This is going into my ipod.
     
  9. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Great advice - I hope you don't mind if I also print it to re-read frequently.
     
  10. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    Cheryl, thanks so much for this. I agree with everyone else that this would make a great poster.
     
  11. JohnArs

    JohnArs Subscriber

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    Cheryl it s like music in my ears!
    Well sayed!
     
  12. Mike Té

    Mike Té Subscriber

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    The APUG Desiderata!

    May I add, "Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in composition".

    Very fine advice, truly stated; thanks.
     
  13. wfe

    wfe Member

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    Wonderfully stated Cheryl, thank you

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
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  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Beautifully written, Cheryl!

    The only sad part is that it took me so long - years - to learn what you have written here.

    BRAVA!!!
     
  16. Tom A

    Tom A Member

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    Wonderful written and so true :smile:
    It would make a nice poster as some one else already has written.

    Tom
     
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Good job Cheryl.


    Michael
     
  18. catem

    catem Member

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    I think you've written a mantra for all photographers. Well said :smile:

    Cate
     
  19. simulatordan

    simulatordan Member

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    Amen to everything you said Cheryl. I second all the replies. I hope you don't mind if I print it off as well.

    Regards Daniel
     
  20. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    My favorite statement among the many you've made so well. It seems to be the most troublesome for a lot of people perhaps because they're afraid to offer what's truly their own.

    An excellent list of worthwhile things to think about, Cheryl!
     
  21. BWKate

    BWKate Member

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    Great advice Cheryl!

    We need to remind ourselves why we are wrapped up in making images. I'll be printing this off to keep reminding myself of those words.
    Well said and thanks so much for posting them!

    LOL on the new band name that someone else posted!
     
  22. don sigl

    don sigl Member

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    Well said.
     
  23. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I keep reading and re-reading this.

    To me, the most important "bit" and the most difficult is,

    "- Never aplogize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics from a consensus."

    A wonderful example of a strong, clear TRUTH. Where is my chisel? That will be carved in stone!!
     
  24. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    After all these years, all the $ spend and these waisted hours of doing rubbish, now you tell me? :D
    This is the Photographers bible condensed :smile:
    Wery well writen Cheryl. I must pleed guilty in many of the issues you bring up. Printed for rereading
    Cheers
    Søren
     
  25. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Thanks for all the positive responses. Sorry for the late reply here -- somehow missed the last few replies.

    I'm still guilty of some of these points, too. Sometimes knowing and doing can be two different things, eh?

    - CJ
     
  26. JustK

    JustK Member

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    Thank you Cheryl! I was happy to find and read your words of wisdom today!! And I'm with Ed on the above point!!!

    Cheers, Krystyna