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

Photographers - Stop Obsessing and Get Out There and Shoot

As the saying goes…. There is more than one way to skin a cat, meaning there are several possible ways of doing something.

Now I am going to go out on a limb here and say this saying applies to learning. Everybody learns or absorbs information in different ways. I personally learn through reading, listening and making very detailed notes which I can refer back to later when putting it into practice. I have found over time this is the best method for me to learn how to do something.

I think I can safely speak for the majority of people or at least a large number of people when I say the best way to learn is through good old fashioned hands on training or experience. So when it comes to photography, yes you do have to learn the technical aspects of the craft and your tool which can be done by reading or classes to get a general understanding but if you don’t put it into practice, you aren’t going to fully learn it. Don’t get caught up too much in the technical particulars of photography. You have to get out there and just shoot.

Sitting on your ass and reading about or watching training videos and attending photography seminars is all well and good but nothing beats getting out there with camera in hand and playing around with the camera, experimenting, putting the things you have learned into practice. It’s all meaningless if you aren’t doing something with your new found knowledge.

The more you shoot and experiment, the better the photographer you will become. Stop obsessing over the technical and the training videos and get out there and SHOOT!

Photographers - Making Pictures vs Taking Pictures

Is there a difference between “taking” a picture and “making” a picture? I have heard this debate/discussion a fair bit lately and I find it quite an interesting topic. I would have to say without a doubt, there is a difference. Those two little words are also what distinguishes a photographer from someone who happens to own a camera, a machine operator.
Taking a picture is essentially a snapshot whereas making a picture requires forethought and planning. You have to envision the photograph, think it out, plan. It captures emotion, it makes someone feel something, elicits emotion as they look at the image. The photograph tells a story!
When I first started out in photography back in high school and even into my late twenties, I can see I was only “taking” photographs. When I look back on my work, as I sometimes tend to do, I just want to see how much progress with my style has been made and how much I have improved. I can clearly see a progression or evolution and am not ashamed to admit it. We all have to start out somewhere. Not many people jump right into making photographs, it takes practice and hard work to get to that point.
Look at other photographers work, admire, study it, see what they are doing differently than others. This will help on your photographic journey to “making” photographs. With practice you will begin to develop your own style. Shoot what you love, things you are passionate about. If you are passionate about something you are photographing, it will definitely show up in your images. This will go a long way in helping you with the journey and to define your style.

Is Photography Art? Should Photographers Be Considered Artists?

I have heard a lot of chatter and read a few articles relating to this subject as of late on the internet. It does pose an interesting question for sure but I think the answer is really, well, subjective as is art. Think about it, what you and I may consider or deem to be art, the next person looking at the exact same thing may feel and/or think it isn’t art at all.
Firstly, I have heard a lot of people say that photography isn’t art. How is that possible? A photograph is what that person is seeing with their eye, through their viewfinder. It is their interpretation at that precise moment. Is that not considered art? Secondly, if what a photographer does is considered art, then by all accounts a photographer should be called an artist! Do these people or photographers really even give a shit if their work is called art or if they are considered to be artists?
Art by definition is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
I guess what I am trying to say is, if it feels good or feels right to create something, to express your creative skill and imagination then just keep on doing it. Don’t fall into the trap of worrying about whatever it is you do being labelled art or being put into the box of being called an artist. Just enjoy the process of creating and be proud of your work. First and foremost create for you.
Happy Creating folks and just keep on doing what you love to do!

Working For Free - But It's Great Exposure For You

I am sure we have all heard at one point or another in our artistic careers: “it will be great exposure for you!” So I ask, as an artist, how many times have you had people ask you to do a job for free or to give someone art for free?

Personally, I think there is a time and a place for this type of thing. Perhaps a charity is looking for artwork for an auction or a non-profit may be looking for an artist to donate their time. These are the opportunities where this line of thinking works in my mind and it is a great idea, it’s good for the community and everybody wins.

To me, there is no bigger insult than someone expecting to get your trade for free. My response to that is: “Do you get paid for your job?” or “Does your boss get paid for their job?” Of course they do, and most times these are the people I hear complain they don’t get paid enough for what they do. So how do these people have the audacity to expect an artist (or anyone for that matter) to work for free?

I have experienced this a few times in the last little while and it always boggles my mind each and every time it happens. As a matter of fact I just experienced it last week. I have had my art on display (for free!) in a particular establishment for over a year now and for sale at a much lower price than I would normally sell my work. I figured I would give it a try, get some EXPOSURE and they get free art on their walls, an amicable agreement.

Recently, I decided to remove my art from said establishment as it is needed elsewhere. Through communication I was asked if I had any other art of a particular style and genre that could be put on the walls of this same place. I kindly responded that I do and here is a list of sizes and pricing for these pieces. Communication continued about unrelated items without any mention with regard to the additional pieces and pricing I had previously mentioned. So, I am going to assume here they were looking for the same deal as the previous one we had in place. Unfortunately, NO can do this time my friend, once is enough. I have learned my lesson. Not one single sale came out of that exposure. No promotion was done on my behalf. This arrangement doesn’t seem mutually beneficial to me and isn’t that what this was about? Isn’t that why I was supposed to accept this kindness of “exposure”?

I don’t currently work as a full time artist, and granted I still have a regular source of income in the form of my full time job, however it still irritates the hell out of me when people expect my services of my products for free. There are artists who do rely on selling their art or skill as their only source of income and clearly this is not a viable option or possibility for them. Nor should it be!

So, if you happen to be one of those people that expects shit like this for free, think long and hard about this before you ask this of an artist. Honestly just simply ask yourself: “would I work at MY full time job for free if my boss asked me to?” I am will to bet you are going to answer that question with a resounding NO! Food for thought people. Have some respect for what artists do. They work for years at their craft to perfect and get to the point where they can make a living at this. Stop asking us for FREE SHIT!

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Support Systems - Do You Have One In Place?

If there is one thing I have learned as an artist, be it through speaking with other artists or business owners, a key part of their businesses is to have a solid support system in place. This will be of great assistance in building a solid foundation for your career as an artist or business owner.

It is incredibly important to have that support and backing from your friends, family and peers. It is going to be a long road in building your business as an artist and you will need all the help you can get in terms of having people in your corner. This will do wonders for your confidence as well as your creativity. Let’s be honest, as an artist going out on your own can and will be draining because most of your time will not be spent creating your art but building your business and taking care of all the “business” like tasks that need to be taken care of.

I realize, as many of you probably do as well there are undoubtedly going to be many naysayers. People trying to piss all over your parade. There will be others that think you are crazy for doing this and just don’t understand in general. I say a big FUCK YOU to all the naysayers! SCREW YOU negativity! Don’t let them get inside your head. If this is your passion, follow it. These people should be the fuel that drives you, to push you even harder to succeed. Don’t let them get you down. I know that’s hard at times but you have to filter out the noise.

There will always be HATERS. The key is to remember where they are coming from. It’s a place of jealousy and discontent with their own situations. They are just too scared to do what you are doing, so out comes the hate and negativity.

Support systems are an integral part to succeeding. It will most certainly make the road you travel that much easier when you have your own personal cheering section there with you along the way.

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Creative Slumps - How Can We Dig Ourselves Out?

As an artist I am always seeking ways to be and stay inspired. This can prove to be a very, very tough thing to constantly maintain. It’s very important to remain on track and not get discouraged, otherwise you will end up falling down the proverbial rabbit hole known as the creative slump or creative block.

How are we supposed to stay inspired you ask? Well for me as a photographer, I take to the internet and peruse the millions of images out there for ideas and inspiration. I will sometimes listen to music that I love, of all different genres. Music, I have come to find, can inspire a mood, thought or idea which in turn lead to creative bursts. Pinterest could be another source for inspiration. Take a look at other artist’s boards and it doesn’t have to be an artist who works in your particular medium. You can find the inspiration for creativity in many places, you just have to open your eyes and mind and pay attention to your surroundings sometimes. Your next great work of art could be staring you right in the face and you aren’t even aware of it.

Some other possible avenues to explore are just plainly talking to people. Conversation can be a great initiator for ideas. Try reading the newspaper! It may spawn an idea from current events which could turn into an idea to perhaps work on a charitable project. There are many ways to pull ourselves out of those horrible dark creative slumps, we just have to be willing to do the work to pull ourselves up and out.

I will be the first to admit, it’s not always easy to cut through all the noise, focus and come up with ideas but if you just take a moment, step back and are ABLE to see the forest for the trees, you just may be pleasantly surprised with what you can create.

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Gallery Representation - Is It Right For You?

In my short tenure as a “semi-professional” photographer I have managed to find myself gallery representation by two different galleries. Now I use this term to describe myself solely because I haven’t jumped into the “Professional” world with both feet because I still have a full time job.

These places are very different from each other in many ways. One of the two deals artwork in very specific sizes, only three to be exact. They also have the work on display by all the artists at all times. This one is introducing a brand new gallery concept to Canada. The other place has no specific size requirements for work, they also don’t display every artists work at all times and there are shows that each artist participates in throughout the year. The work for those are chose by the staff deciding which shows are fitting for the artists. It is of note that both of these galleries sought me out as a result of viewing my work on a website promoting a show I was participating in.

For almost a year I have been with one gallery and it really hasn’t been beneficial to myself or the gallery in terms of profit or exposure so I have decided it’s time to move on from there. I feel a year is a good timeline to judge and re-evaluate the situation and decide whether to continue and stay with the gallery or not. It was a great experience for me and I have learned from it. Not a total loss since I can walk away from it saying I have learned from the experience. The other gallery still has my work on display there for the last six or seven months. At least with this one, I can say my work is on display at all times.

The bottom line when all is said and done, in my opinion, gallery representation can be a great and very beneficial thing for an artist.

Right now, for me this early on in my career it’s more about the exposure, getting my name out there. I am set to partake in a big show that is geared only at photography which takes over the city for the month of May, this will be great exposure. Of course the money that comes with the sale of my work doesn’t hurt either. I would highly recommend to any artist starting out, if the opportunity presents itself and you are bold enough to go out and chase an opportunity such as this by all means, take it, you never know who could see and like your work!

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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.

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Artistic Confidence - Why Does It Haunt Us?

We have all doubted ourselves and or our abilities at one time or another in our lives, some more than others. I am here to tell you that I am guilty of doing this one more than one occasion. I would be lying if I told you that I don’t go through bouts or spurts of self doubt in my abilities as an artist.

I was having one of those moments recently and happened to be speaking with a fellow photographer/friend about it at the time. She told me straight up, “you have got to let that shit go, it’s going to block your future!” Why is it, some photographers/artists are their own worst critic? Why do we artists do this to ourselves? I am surely not the first, only and certainly won’t be the last to do this to myself.

When I do have these flashes of uncertainty, sometimes it’s hard to overcome but I just persevere and have a little chat with myself or I reach out to friends, fellow artists and talk it through. Occasionally I look back at my work and the positive feedback that I have received and that helps get my mind straight and get my head back in the game, back in a good place, where my work is concerned.

Lack of confidence can damage the creative spirit and career before things even get off the ground. Don’t self sabotage! Keep your head up and your eyes on the prize. You WILL overcome those moments when they do rear their ugly heads.

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