The formula is simple.
We think a shift should be made in photography. A happiness shift. You likely got into photography because you love taking photographs. And then the reality of making a living at it started to creep in, and you became bound to jobs you didn’t really want to do, because you needed the money. We’ve been there, and yep, it stinks.
Now, we’re not saying only do the fun stuff, and forget about making money. Because part of what makes us happy is making money. In fact, nothing makes us crabbier than when we’re not able to pay our bills. But right now, we’re not talking about money, we’re talking about finding happiness in your day.
The first step towards happy is being honest with yourself about what you like to do. And we mean really honest. Become obsessed with finding your passion, and then become obsessed with your passion.
Some photographers love the wildness of toddlers; while others dread any shoot with kiddos under 5 years old. Some love the feeling of working with days old newborns; others loathe being in a hot room for three hours with breast milk, orange poo, and anxious dads. Some are immediately coming up with photo ideas the second they book a wedding; others are scared to death and dread every day for the nine months prior. Some think senior girls with their outfits and opinions are the best; while others are driven mad by their “teenagerness.”
Image © Hannah Rose Gray
Image © Michele Suits
Once you’ve started to hone in on who you client tribe is, the other stuff needs to go. We’re serious. Too many photographers are doing it all. And when you first start out, that diversity often a critical part of your growth. Try it all on, and see what fits. Just like skinny jeans don’t work for everyone, every genre of photography doesn’t fit every photographer. But over time, you are limiting your success by not specializing. And you will start to hate it all, if you hate one part of it. Specializing allows you to put all your creative energy and resources into one area. And clients will begin to view you as an authority figure for that style of photography.
The next stage is growth. As you begin to grow, you will become busier and choices about your business’ direction will come your way. One of the biggest choices you will make affecting your growth is whether or not to bring on staff. And to keep your internal compass pointed in the direction of happiness, don’t just automatically assume that growth brings happiness. If the idea of running a large studio with a staff to manage is something you strive for, then work out the financials, and plan to go for it. But if your true love is the simple task of shooting and editing, then take pause before you just leap into what you assume is the next stage of photographer success.
For any photographer that has been in business longer than a decade, then you know the challenge for longevity is finding ways to keep every day interesting. Once you’ve worked out all the major kinks and things are running smoothly, sometimes the boredom sets in. At this stage, it’s time to find your photography-related guilty pleasure. For some, stretching creatively may mean painting original backdrops for your session. Others find immense bliss in updating their website or becoming an Instagram sensation. And many love the idea of taking a photo trip every few months to get the creative juices flowing. Whatever your photography guilty pleasure is, embrace it! It is so easy to ditch all the things that don’t make us money. But putting time, money, and energy into our passions can pay off. Trust us, your clients will take notice too. Finding a passion project can keep you motivated, and have the added bonus of enhancing your brand.
Our final piece of advice for finding the joy, is to be genuinely enthusiastic about connecting with your clients and embracing the actual photography process. If you are introverted, we know how hard it can be to prep yourself up for a photo shoot. Try to stop thinking about it as work, and start thinking about it as the opportunity to see your friends (or fan club!). Find things within the session that you are looking forward to trying, like a new concept, lighting technique, or pose. A mind shift away from simply taking a family portrait, to creating original artwork, can make a world of difference. And, you’re an artist, so why not?
Every photographer has their own unique style. Some like to blend in and shoot in a more photojournalistic way. And others prefer to choreograph every image. But most land somewhere smack in the middle.