A DM? FROM REDDIT
September 20, 2019
Yesterday I received a DM from a reddit user inquiring about my "perspective on motivation". He / she is a wedding and event photographer whom feels they are "stuck on a hamster wheel". I have been meaning to get a blog rolling here on my portfolio website, and so I figured a good start would be to copy / paste their inquiry with my response. This was a stream-of-consciousness, unedited once twice conversation between them and I, so please forgive poor grammar and spelling on both of our behalves.
I came across some of your website while browsing some subreddits and want to say your works is amazing and inspiring. I'm currently a wedding and event photography but am feeling like I'm stuck on a hamster wheel. I mean I feel like I'm doing work to make money and not something that's more substantial and rewarding. I'm hoping I can get some perspective from another photographer that will motivate me and get me back on a creative front.
Can you share a little more about how you approach subjects for stories or get permission to shoot something like a voting station? There are some interesting people/local-business in my area I'm wanting to get in touch with to possibly write an editorial on, but am having trouble on how to approach. Any tips you can share?
I appreciate the compliment. Thank you.
I am definitely not doing work to make money, so don't quite your day job! The editorial field of photography is not lucrative, and it seems to be slowly fading away. But it can be fun, substantial, and rewarding.... and I would encourage you to give it a try... if for nothing less than to quench your own creative thirst.
Most of the stories on my website were commissioned by a client, including the Voting story you referenced... so a big part of my motivation is to NOT FAIL... to not let down my client. I am in introvert and very much intimidated by approaching subjects. It is, in fact, my biggest obstacle, even to this day, 15 years after starting. I am not alone. I have heard first-person stories from National Geographic photographers who will occasionally lock themselves in their hotel rooms for days at a time and struggle with the same social issues that many of us struggle with. It is a human thing, and I would venture to say it makes them (us) better photographers. Empathy often gets in the way of a good story. The idea of "not wanting to intrude - exploit - etc". But empathy also leads individuals (photographers) to want to get the story right... to want to show these folks in their best and truthful light... to tell the story correctly and with honor.
Know that the emotional obstacles you face are normal. Also realize that both the negatives and the positives feed off themselves in like an ouroboros. Once you get into the swing of a good story the obstacles and hesitations fade away and picture taking motivates itself... but avoiding a story does the same thing: it eats the idea of itself until the story and the motivation to tell it vanish from existence.
My best suggestion is this: combine the idea of Fear Of Failure with the passion of Telling An Important / Interesting Story. Go to your local magazine offices (almost every town / county / area has one) and pitch them your story ideas. Let's say for instance your story idea is something simple and quirky like "The Local Barber Shop"... ask your local magazines if you can shoot and write that story... get them to say yes. If it is not up their alley, ask them what might be. Now you HAVE TO DO IT! Not only is it a story that you wanted to do anyway, but now you can't let the magazine down. This should give you the emotional courage to approach the barber shop, the empathy to want to do a good job, and the obligation to execute it with perfection.
The fact is, if you have good intentions, a warm and genuine persona, and the will to follow though, many folks are honored to have their story told. Not everyone though, so you need to know when to take "no" and when to realize the initial "no" is a simple hesitation to a curious idea. Practice will help with this... you will make a few folks angry in the mean time, but don't let that discourage you. And don't let "no's" discourage you too much... I say "too much" because they will likely always discourage you.... they do me.
When all is done, the pictures take, the story printed, be sure to make copies to give away. Don't sell them, gift them. Always remember that these pictures are theirs too... that is a primary difference between documentary and events / weddings.
Feel free to reach out any time. And good luck.