I read an article when I first started my hand at photography that caught my insecurity just where it hurt. I had just purchased a web domain and had a friend design my site. I had clients who liked my work and I was enjoying the thrill of doing something new that was fun and important - documenting milestones and relationships in the lives of others.
What was the article about? It was by a photographer whose work I admired from afar, who stated that photographers who qualify themselves as 'natural light photographers' were simply using that fancy phrase to hide the fact that they had no equipment for their client's sessions.
Well, yeah...I had no equipment. Other than a camera and a lot of dreams. I seemed to be doing alright. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
That article and opinion has stayed with me and comes back to haunt me every time my dream is challenged. I wonder if I should be doing this. It whispers in the back of my head that I'm not good enough. This insecurity reared its ugly head with the few negative interactions I had with clients when I started out; clients who didn't prefer my style but loved my introductory prices as I built my experience and portfolio.
My first newborn shoot was extremely cheap, simply because I wanted to attract clients and learn. I spent three hours at a stranger's house, getting to know a new family, which included a beautiful new addition. The mom's first reaction to her newborn's gallery was complete praise. But then her family started looking through the photos, so she called me back and told me she hated them and, I quote, "they're nothing like my sister's newborn photos."
She was correct - I had never seen her sister's newborn photos but I would find out later that the style of newborn photography I had captured for her family was called Lifestyle. I captured beautiful elements of their home and relationships within that home in the first days of her son's life. But I almost quit photography altogether after this woman's insults branded themselves on my heart.
Years later, as I was looking through old client galleries on my hard-drive, I finally got the courage to view the images again. I had just done another lifestyle newborn shoot for a different client who had raved about the images. What had I done wrong earlier?
I'll never know if she actually hated the photos or if she had been influenced by family members who were expecting something different than what I produced.
It was a huge learning experience for me and while I do not like to disappoint, I have to give myself grace as I was beginning and had no idea what my style was at the time. There are amazing newborn photographers - a few that I know right here in town - who do the posed and set newborn photography. I've used one for my youngest and she was amazing, so talented. But as I recently told a friend who is just starting out, as ugly and painful as the negative feedback can be, it's where you grow. And so it's necessary.
Your style may not fit the preferences of everyone around you. I believe learning through experience is the best learning possible. I can't navigate on my own without GPS unless I've driven the route myself before. I learn through doing. Don't give up just because someone doesn't "get" your style. Keep trying and find your niche. When you find it, you'll realize that it was worth the rough experiences to get there. Best of luck!
"Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography."
- George Eastman
Stuff I wrote...