For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Different, not more.

Where is the line between job and passion? As my last wedding of the year approaches this weekend, I've had some time to take stock and think about what it is I want out of photography. I've had the opportunity this year to shoot weddings, engagements, bridal showers, baptisms, maternity, newborn, real estate, storefronts, events, boudoir, birthday parties, portraits, pets and am even scheduled to photograph a live birth next year! I've travelled south and photographed a destination wedding and trash the dress. I have been asked if I wanted to photograph local sports teams or take a photojournalistic approach for small newspapers. I'm not sure that's where my passion lies.

It feels in this industry, more equates to better. More equipment, more booked weddings, more expenses, more genres, more props, more clients, more of the same (speaking of same, I read an article that the vintage wedding craze of luggage and old vase props is going out of style. I never thought I would tire of vintage but I have to admit that seeing the same old same old everywhere was making me lose my mind.) I've done what I had to do to satisfy the more. I've said yes to everything. This was my plan this year. I said to my husband, we don't yet have children, I'm sure things will be crazy but it's best to experience the crazy now and not later. I wouldn't want to be a new wife, new business owner and new mom all at the same time. Nuh uh. Not me.

October was an insane month. My business plan was due. As part of my grant for new small businesses, their seminars and required documents must take priority in order for the funding to continue. They were confused as to how I was so busy for a new business. The nail lady even said to me the other day, (you know, the one who told me I should paint my nails)...well, she leaned in and said to me in an almost proud fashion: "You've got yourself a good little business kiddo. I'm jealous!." Next year I'll know that October is the month that EVERYONE wants fall photos done. I was wrapping up editing my summer weddings as well as trying to keep up with bookings for next year, and oh yeah, run a business, be a friend, a daughter and a wife, and I felt that familiar feeling start to creep in....the polar opposite of joy. I was taking on too much, I was editing thousands of photos and starting to dislike my passion. That's when it really started to feel like a job. A wonderful photographer emailed me at the beginning of my journey. Her words rang into my head over and over. "Don't take on too much. You'll start to resent it."

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'd rather be boutique in all aspects than to sell out to the masses. This is how I live my life. Everything in my life is about good quality. The problem is, other competitors make you feel (or maybe I just feel it myself because afterall, nobody can make you feel anything) pressure to keep up with the more. I disabled my Wendy Alana Photography fan page because I felt it was retarded to remind people to "LIKE" my page and my work, just for the sake of numbers. What do those pages actually mean anyways? People also "LIKE" Gain detergent and Hershey's and Winners. So what? I can see how many people visit my site and blog a day with google analytics. I don't need everyone else to see it. Status in life does not matter to me. Proving myself to others doesn't matter to me. It used to, but not anymore. I've realized that my toughest critic is staring right back at me in life's reflection.

My second cousin Sylvia is a prominent and successful writer in Calgary. She runs a magazine and has been in the business for years. Growing up, we used to be pen pals. She visited me this summer and said that it's great I'm pursuing photography but she warned and encouraged me to not give up on my writing. I started to feel my writing slipping. I had no time to write, and to me, that is part of what made the experience special. I could photograph and write about it.

I knew that this business was going to be tough but I don't think I realized how tough. Part of the reason why it's been particularly difficult for me is because I feel like I ran before I learned to crawl. Just as I was learning and second shooting, the requests started pouring in and although I was honest with my clients about how new I was, they were booking me anyways. I'm not complaining at all. Although I work 3 times as many hours as I ever did at an office, I'm doing the things that I love. I think the first year in business for anyone is definitely the toughest. You have nothing to gauge or compare to previously. Next year I'll definitely plan things out better. I will take some time off during the summer and enjoy. My priorities will be in line again. I was told this year that my business must be at the forefront of all my priorities. Other things will have to give such as time with family, friends and even a clean house. I have come to realize that if I live my life in chaos, with no routine, schedule or even a planned meal, I start to feel frazzled. We have a beautiful home that I have no time to keep clean or entertain in. Conversations have been replaced by the glow of the computer screen until the wee hours of the morning. This is not how I want to continue. Busy is good. But less is more. I want to do what I love, and also have our life back that we had when we recited our vows on that beautiful Mexican beach.

It's not about the more, it's about the different. It's difficult to always be different. Perhaps this is why we see the same shots over and over again. We're all guilty of looking at other's work before a shoot but I've stopped doing that. It takes away from the real moments that are unfolding right in front of your eyes. You have to wait for it, frame it, and shoot the real. You can't copy, pose or fake the real. Fake the real? Huh?

I've debated whether or not to build a home studio. It certainly would make my life easier in bad weather or unpredictable lighting. I picture Santa Claus sitting there, with me photographing one child at a time with faux backgrounds or muslins and God forbid uttering the words "Say Cheese." A studio would force me into the more category.

There is definitely a place for the more in life. The cookie cutter banquet halls that offer one stop shop services such as invitations, flowers, centerpieces, etc), the all you can eat buffet and buying in bulk. Costco, wholesalers and pretty much anything that involves getting more and paying less. I don't think this is the case for photography. I feel that the more you take on, the less time you have to be creative, and devote to conversations and well thought out details for your clients.

I don't think more is better. I think different and thoughtful is better. I've been told my photography and writing is honest and real. I am proud to hear that. As I plan my year for 2012, I look at my calendar and definitely don't want it crammed full like it was this year. I want to put more effort into less events and really and truly offer my client a unique, thoughtful, hand crafted experience from the consultation at our home with Michael's gourmet spread (more wine anyone?), the shoot itself which feels more like a day with friends, and the finished product which hopefully will be treated as a piece of fine art and not just a disk full of mass edited images.

Different, not more is best. Quality over quantity.


1 comment:

Courtney said...

Hey Wendy.. I was creeping your blog post and felt compelled to write to you about the "different not " piece. I feel like I want you to know how I feel from a client's perspective... (and I really enjoy your writing and your blog by the way).

I totally wholeheartedly agree. I feel that the reason why you appeal to clients is your different approach. Do I love that you included 300+ shots on a disk? Of course, that's a bonus. But the reality is I love the core shots, the ones that make my heart jump. And if you were busy trying to fit in more, you might not have got those. You give clients an opportunity of personal artwork, that really can speak to them and their family. That is why I love your photos. I'm so excited about that, the possibilty of adding art to our new house that is in reality, your photography of us in our old home. I might not have got that with someone else.

During the shoot, we didn't feel like we were forcing Ciara to "smile for the pictures". Nor does it look like we did. The unstaged ones totally turned out better then our "plan". I said to Rob the other night when I was looking through the pics, "I like the ones where Ciara is frowning, because it instantly reminds me of so many times she's given me that face".
I love that you consulted with me before and asked what I wanted from the experience. That made it special and not just another "yearly family photos" session that my husband complained about having to endure. (Which by the way, he commented that he was so happy I was so excited about it and it was "actually really fun".) You made it special and unique and I do agree that if you take on more just for the sake of having more, you will love it less.

That's what happened with my cakes, I did too much too fast along with trying to work full time, part time, be a wife, a good daughter/sister/friend etc,.. that it turned into a burden and I finally said "I don't do it anymore". The best cakes are the ones where I'm doing it for a person I feel like I have a good relationship with, and I want to create soemthing I think they'll like, not that they "want it like this exactly". Its helpful to have some idea, generally, but trying to mold it to everyone else's past cakes didn't work and frankly stressed me out and pissed me off.

I really feel you should do less, in your different and passionate style. I honestly think that no matter what, success will come. Don't lose the joy in the ride, because then it is just a job. You are an awesome photographer because of your passion and creativity. If you start stifling that, I really believe in the end you'll lose out, but your clients will too. I have a hard time saying "no", and I feel bad, but I've learned this year that I have to in order to preserve my quality of life and people should understand that. Keep yourself in your work! xoxox
Love Courtney