learning

Don't Burn Bridges - You May Just Need To Walk Across Them One More Time

Growing up as a kid, my dad bestowed a lot of wisdom unto me with his little one-liners and pithy anecdotes. Now, there were quite a few of them but one in particular really stood out for me: “Don’t ever burn your bridges”

For the past month or so, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster; a veritable whirlwind all rolled up into one for me. I quit my full time corporate job after 12 ½ years with the same company to pursue my passion, my love of photography. Scary as hell but I have a great support system in place in my family, my friends and my former colleagues, which to be honest I didn’t fully expect but it has been an incredibly pleasant surprise.

It wasn’t that I expected people to be pissed off with me or not be happy for me but I didn’t expect them to be as supportive as they have been, and it has been amazing to say the least.  When I handed in my resignation, my boss said he knew this was coming and he was one of the most supportive people out of everybody. He was totally 100% happy for me, unhappy to see me go but in my corner and wanted to help in any way he could.  He helped in more ways than one and I am incredibly appreciative for his help.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit but I was a little taken aback by the offers of help from the different people at work. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it ALL, more than words could ever express!  It was just a little unexpected. The outpouring of support from people was incredibly supportive and kind. It made me a little emotional reading some of them to be honest but moreover it made me feel especially good and supported.

I had partners at the firm approaching me and calling me to wish me luck in my future endeavours, asking for my contact info and offering their help. I even had one partner from the firm tell me to USE the network I have built there, ask for help. More often than not, people are willing to help out, you just have to ask!

I spent a lot of years at my job, met and worked with a lot of amazing people.  I made a lot of friends and forged some great relationships. So the “old man” was on to something.  You should never ever burn your bridges.  It’s always good to keep your relationships in good standing because you never know when you might need help from someone. Thanks for the words of advice Dad, they certainly came in handy!

Putting Yourself Out There - Showing Your Work

For me this was one of my biggest struggles when I was first starting out as a photographer and believe me it was an ongoing inner battle, I was nervous!  What will other people think of my work? Will they say it sucks? Will they like it?

I was THAT guy who would only show my work to friends and family and of course the feedback was always good, which in hindsight was more of a hindrance than help when I look back on it now.  Showing your work to your family and friends is one thing, they are not going to tell you your work sucks are they? They are going to say the things they think you want to hear which doesn’t benefit you in any way, shape or form.

It’s very tough to put yourself out there, seemingly on display and sharing your work with a bunch of strangers. You feel vulnerable, naked and alone!  After all, this is something you created from scratch you put your heart and soul into this. Everybody is a critic, everyone has something to say. It takes a lot of courage. You are worried about being judged, what will everyone say about you’re work, I get it! You are going to get deflated and knocked down but you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and grab your camera and make more photographs.

You have to reach way down within and find the courage to get your work seen.  Get as many eyes on it as possible!  That way you find out what you need to work on and know which areas you need to improve.  There will always be areas you can improve on even after years of being a photographer and just as in regular life you are NEVER EVER finished learning.

One of my past photography teachers reached out to me recently and we were talking and he said: “…as artists, we thrive on encouragement. It's like the tide, when it's in it feels good and when it’s out, it can be damn lonely!” His words rang in my head for days afterwards. This really struck a chord in me and if you are reading this right now, you know who you are. Thank you for all your words of encouragement as of late, they mean a lot to me.

So people don’t give up!  Keep consistently putting your work out there. Yes, it is definitely not an easy thing to do but it IS necessary!

 

Photo courtesy of Linda Langerak

Male Boudoir Photographers - It's NOT a Man's World

Now I am fairly new to boudoir photography and when I say new I mean I have done a handful of shoots.  I know there are lots of guys out there who aren’t photographers at all but think wow that is so cool and what a great gig that would be. Believe me I have even heard that from a few friends. You get to photograph half naked women in lingerie, look at sexy women all day and so on. While yes this is true I photograph women in lingerie this is not what it’s all about for me, not at all!

When I am shooting a session I am not even thinking about how sexy the woman is or anything like that because I am too busy focusing on posing her.  I am making sure the lighting works for the shot and ensuring my camera settings are correct in order to make certain I get the shot as close to perfect “in camera” as possible. I really don’t have time to be concerned about the other stuff especially when I am in the zone shooting, interacting with my subject.

I know that some people would balk at that and say I am bullshitting and it must be at least part of the intrigue and interest but it really isn’t. In all honesty for me it is truly about making the women who get in front of my camera feel comfortable in their own skin.  Feel beautiful, help them build their confidence, help them love their bodies.  Ultimately I want them to be happy with the images/art I create for them and if I can do that for EVERY woman that gets in front of my camera then I know I have done my job as a photographer.  I will have helped another person to realize their self-worth and beauty and that my friends is the icing on the proverbial cake!

The Networking Effect

There is no doubt that networking is a hugely advantageous tool to any and all business owners. Now there are many groups, clubs networks out there to choose from but which one is the right one for you? How do you go about deciding which one is the right fit for your business?

Networking definitely forces you out of your comfort zone but It can generate referrals and increased business as well as creating connections.  These sessions give you the opportunity to rub shoulders with highly influential people in the business world.  These are opportunities that you might not normally have. It is also a great way to get advice from like- minded entrepreneurs/business people and make new friends in the process.

It’s tough not to drown in the sea of options but you have to keep your head above water. Talk to friends, friends of friends, do your due diligence and research and find the right one(s) for you.  I know I am currently struggling with this exact dilemma right now and am trying to figure out a couple of more avenues to explore in order to expand my network.

I currently belong to the Toronto Board of Trade and this is a great organization. Business owners from all walks of life are members it’s a great place to meet people BUT you have to put in the time, do the work and that I think is part of the reason people have a tough time with this type of thing. These connections don’t get built overnight, you have to nurture them they take time and let’s face it you’re not going to connect on an organic level with everyone that you meet at networking events. Sometimes, you just need to walk away as there will be nothing mutually beneficial so move on, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Relationships are the catalyst for success. People tend to do business with people they like and trust. Be a resource for others and help them succeed.  Just because there might be nothing beneficial for YOU doesn’t mean you can’t help someone out in the process if you have the capability to do so. Remember, this networking thing ISN’T all about YOU! It’s a two way street.

 

Image courtesy of accelerateplaces.com

Yervant and Anie - The Photography Symposium 2016

“All good things must come to an end” and no better way to sum up the second day of Yervant and Anie’s Photography Symposium. This event rolled through Toronto as one of its many stops on June 15th, 16th and 17th.  I attended the event for 2 days and there was a master class on the third day which I opted out of.

It was an incredible experience and one I won’t soon forget. If you do get the chance to attend this event in your city, I strongly advise you do check it out, you won't be disappointed. Yervant and Anie put together an unbelievable program packed with a wealth of information, knowledge and not to mention an incredible line up of 6 industry professionals all experts in their particular area of photography. It took place at The Berkley Field House, a truly beautiful venue. It was geared at a smaller more intimate group of about 60-100 attendees which I feel was the perfect amount.

The two days were jam packed with information and personal stories and at times, astonishingly emotional and honest moments.  Yervant speaking about wedding photography and making us laugh hysterically.  Joe Buissink sharing his incredibly moving story of his childhood and why he is so passionate about wedding photography.  Sue Bryce sharing her brilliance on posing your subjects.  Michele Neal Celentano and her insistence on existing in your photographs because of her beautifully moving story.

There were a couple of common threads that were strung through these two days of presentations and stories. These recurring threads seemed to be:  if you work hard at your craft, you can achieve whatever it is you want for you and your business and you are worth it so charge your clients what you feel you are worth but keep in mind, you must deliver on that promise.

One thing in particular really struck a chord with me, the presenters kept re-iterating was with regards to printing your work.  Then I thought about it and we don’t print our work nearly as often as we should! You MUST print your work.  Preserve those moments in time through print as you never get a second chance to go back and relive those moments.  They are fleeting!

Remember, it’s not a photograph until it’s printed!  This statement really reverberated me and reminded me just how important it is for us photographers to print our work. Not only are you helping yourself but you are also helping to preserve our industry.

Entrepreneurship - Do We All Have It In Us?

Entrepreneurs, are people just born with it? Is it in our DNA? Is it a learned behaviour?
I would say over the past six months while scouring the web I have noticed a huge increase in videos and posts all relating to entrepreneurship and becoming an entrepreneur. Embrace it, there has never been a better time than now to be an entrepreneur. These are all over the internet! Now I don’t know if it has been there all along and I just didn’t really pay attention to it or if it is just exploding as of late? I would have to agree there has never been a better time to start your own business. I mean, with the digital age and the reach the internet has granted every single person who has access to it, it would seem the timing couldn’t be better.
As the saying goes, “If you want something bad enough, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse”. I do honestly and whole heartedly believe this saying and you CAN achieve whatever you set your mind to.
Ever since I was in my twenties I have dreamed of owning my own business. I came to a realization that it has been for twenty years, I have procrastinated to say the least. Fear has of course played a part in this, not to mention the self-doubting questions like “what the hell would my business be? or do? or provide to people?” I know these are simply excuses. Procrastination is a horrible animal that lives in a lot of us. In my forties, I have decided to finally take the leap. Albeit part time but I have taken a step in the right direction. I know this part time thing is ONLY temporary!
In the words of Sir Richard Branson “screw it, just do it”. Is it really that simple? I guess if you have an idea, the hustle and the drive to succeed. I don’t think the entrepreneurship life is for everyone and that’s fine. Some people are happy working for someone else. You know the type going in every day, doing their job and going home at the end of the day and not having to think about it.
Personally for me, I know I am destined for bigger better things. I don’t want to continue making money for other people for the rest of my life. I want to do something I absolutely love and am passionate about and make money at it. Who wouldn’t be happy doing something you love and are passionate about and get paid for it? That’s not to say it’s easy but think about the freedom!? The joy of going to work every day doing something you love. They say: “if you do what you love you will never have to work another day in your life”.
Think about this: we spend over half our lives working, why would you want to be stuck in a job you don’t even like and be miserable for that amount of time? Life is short, make the best of it and make yourself happy. LIVE LIFE!

Image courtesy of ttentrepreneurship.com

Workshops - Learning, Sharing, Shooting

When considering whether or not to attend a workshop, a lot of factors contribute to the ultimate decision of attending. They are a great way to expand your network as there will undoubtedly be other like-minded people to speak with, to share knowledge with and of course the obvious, to learn! Do I? or Don’t I? Of course the first one is cost followed by content followed by a series of questions: How will it benefit me? How long is the workshop? and who is giving the workshop?
When the Peter Hurley “Illuminating the Face” workshop was announced for Toronto, well that was a no brainer! I knew I had to attend as I had been waiting some time for this one to come to town. It took place back in March and this was an incredible opportunity to learn from the best in the industry. How could I possibly pass that up!? I figured I wasn’t going to get many chances to actually get to interact, to learn from him. I had to take advantage of being up close and personal with the one and only Peter Hurley. I found the cost to be incredibly reasonable. The location was right here in Toronto, so getting there was easy. The time commitment was only an 8 hour day. This was without a doubt something I had to do.
The workshop was put on by Henry’s Camera and they did an incredible job. I would like to say a huge thanks to them for putting this on. The workshop was also sponsored by Profoto and I have to say their gear is absolutely incredible, so easy to use and easy to work with. Their reps were so friendly and helpful.
It was an absolutely incredible day all around. It was a full, jam packed eight hour day where I got to learn from the master of headshots. I got to meet a ton of great people. Perhaps some of the nicest people I have ever met. Peter Hurley was such an incredible teacher. So easy to talk to, down to earth and just an all-around incredibly nice guy. It was such an invaluable experience I will never forget.

The Learning Curve - Hard Lessons

I have learned quite a few lessons along the way with my photography business however the toughest is pricing my work. I know I wrote a blog post a month or so ago about pricing but this animal has reared its ugly head to me yet again

I have had some work on display for an extended period of time. I put my framed images on display at this location, set my pricing for each piece and walked away. I even have two different sized images on display. Someone that works at said place let me know that there was a lot of positive feedback about the pieces but one constant was about how high the pricing was. I took this into consideration and decided after much agonizing and self debate, I should drop the prices. I was told by a very wise person, it is better to sell some work at a lower price than to sell NO work at high prices.

A month or so had passed and I received more feedback about how much people loved my photography but again this pricing conundrum has popped up. This time I was told that my work was neither original nor was I a “known” artist therefore nobody in their right mind was going to pay the kind of money I was asking people to pay for my artwork. I will agree withthe latter, I am not a known artist “YET”. As far as not producing original artwork, I can only assume the person meant my artwork wasn’t signed or numbered

Lesson learned this time... ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS sign and number your artwork if you plan on selling your artwork to the general public. This has been a very hard and somewhat expensive lesson for me to learn. I now realize that I probably can’t ask the prices I was originally asking due to the fact the works aren’t signed and numbered. All has not been lost here, I can walk away from
this experience saying I will definitely remember to sign and number any pieces going forward.


Image courtesy of thelearningcurve.com