It took a long time for me to call myself a photographer. If someone asked if I was a photographer I was frozen..."Ummm I have done a lot of photography work... I have been shooting for many years...or, I really like taking pictures...." I would say anything but, "Yes, I'm a photographer." I cringed inwardly if someone called me a photographer because I felt I was not worthy of that title. I had had the opportunity to work on creative teams and marketing teams with some pretty amazing photographers. Sure, I loved photography and I was pretty good at it, but having had worked with people whom I considered "real" photographers, I couldn't meet my own high standards.
I had the opportunity to direct a commercial photo shoot for a fitness company and to intern at The Richards Group, the Dallas ad agency, and be behind the scenes for a big photo shoot. I knew what excellence looked like and I knew I wasn't to a place where I could truly be proud enough of my photography to call myself a photographer. There came a point with my photography where I was frustrated and I thought, I am either never taking another photo in my life or I need to get some training and better equipment. I loved photography too much to leave it behind, it is truly a part of who I am, so I chose the latter option. And several years later, I was able say with confidence, "Yes, I am a photographer." This is how I got to that place and these are the four things I invested in that have made all the difference.
Invest in Training. It was, and is, necessary for me to spend some money on education. I invested in some one-on-one mentoring sessions and an in-person Lighting Workshop with photographer Nichole Van who is known not only for her photography, but for her teaching skills. This was so helpful! I thought that since I had been trained as a film photographer and knew how to develop my film in a dark room that I should magically be able to convert that knowledge to digital. I beat myself up all the time thinking, why is this so hard for me? Technical things take a lot of work for me to master while the artistic side comes more naturally. I needed to have patience with myself and recognize the ways I learned best and be grateful for the things that did come naturally for me and not just focus on what was more difficult. Purchasing video tutorials from photographers that I admired also helped a lot. I especially learned a lot from Angie Monson's family video session and watching Jasmine Star on Creative Live. I realized that videos helped me learn so much faster than trying to read a manual. I also had the chance to assist two different photographers who had completely opposite styles...Yan Palmer and Andrea Hanks. It was very helpful to see them in action during an actual wedding day and because their styles are so completely opposite, it helped me to realize what my own style of not just shooting was, but also what my style of interacting with clients was.
Invest in Equipment. A Canon Rebel with a 50mm 1.8 lens is just not the same as a 5D Mark III with a 50mm 1.4. Everyone has to start somewhere, but upgrading to better equipment helped me tremendously. I could then pinpoint what I needed to do differently instead of beating myself up about bad photos that were a result of the limitations of my gear. The right lighting tools also opened so many doors. Investing in good equipment is not cheap, but it makes such a difference.
Invest in Time. Because I had taken the lighting workshop and had some lighting equipment I was hired to shoot several product catalogs for a company based in Salt Lake City. I was working with an amazing, experienced food stylist and this project forced me to slow down. I was hitting my shutter maybe 4 times an hour as opposed to hundreds of times for a typical family shoot or wedding. We would set up each shot to perfection and then I would hit the button. The sheer amount of time I spent behind the camera...8 hour days, day after day, helped improve my photography skills in all areas, not just in the area of product photography.
Invest in Organization. The people I idolize the most are those who are creative and organized. The organization piece is where I struggle the most. When I discovered the photography resources that Design Aglow offered it was a dream come true! I could finally figure out how to make my business and my life fit together and learn to manage my time. I knew that to reach my goals I needed to keep the big picture in mind, I'm in this for the long haul and I couldn't just run things by the seat of my pants and get the results I was looking for. I love my Big Picture Planner and use it every single day. I may be a bit old fashioned, but I am just more of a paper and pen sort of girl! Templates, contracts, frames, glass USB's, forms, logos, and inspirational articles in Aglow, all help me to feel more organized, inspired and professional.
Because I have invested in myself and continue to do so, I am able to not only become be a better photographer, but a better human being, a better mom, a better wife, a better everything! May you find success and happiness in your journey with photography and in life as you continually invest in yourself!
For some reason I thought that I should be able to become a fabulous photographer, overnight, by myself, without spending any additional money on training, equipment or other resources. I thought I had to create something from nothing, (or barely anything). I progressed so much quicker, and as a result was much happier, when I realized these three things:
Rebecca Malouf Franson of Merrakai Photography is based in Boise, Idaho. Mother to two and step mother to four her passion is capturing the joy of families through her photography work. Rebecca is also the founder of the Instagramhub @camera_mama.
To view more of Rebecca's work, visit her at www.merrakai.com.