I recently wrote a blog on being paid what your worth and I got some interesting feedback from other photographers. There was one comment I couldn’t get out of my mind. You shouldn’t spend your energy trying to prove your worth as a creative. You should show why you are different.
Initially, I struggled with this feedback. My inner ego shouted, “I bring value and should receive the pay I deserve.” But the idea continued to pester me. What is it what sets me apart? Do I even know? I came back to this question many times over the next few weeks. It was time for me to understand my identity as a photographer.
I want to do more on a photo shoot than just show up with my camera. I want to try to understand my subject. I want to have a relationship with them. But I have limited time on most of my photo shoots, so the work on the relationship comes before I’ve ever met them.
I spent time in each country I live in learning the local language and reading about the history of the place that I will be working. I am always amazed that a simple greeting and introduction in Kinyarwanda opens doors for my work in Rwanda. This small effort on my part changes the dynamic of the photographs that I create.
I am a voracious learner. I came into the industry as a creative, not a technician. But I have spent the last thirteen years sucking up knowledge via degrees, books, workshops, and online classes. I. I do not limit myself to studying only photography but also business and innovation. I believe that my passion for learning has been the best asset in my pursuit of greatness in my craft. I find knowledge in both my successes and failures as both teach me to be a better photographer. This pursuit of technical understanding forces me always to strive to be better than I was yesterday.
I began to dream of being a professional photographer in my early college days, and I haven’t been able to shake it. I cannot imagine a future without my camera. That is what gets me through the tough stuff. When I doubt myself, I look back at my first portfolio of work and I see the journey. Progress is simply putting one foot in front of the other. I understand that I cannot do without photography. It is as much a part of my identity as breathing.