Why You Don't Want to Be a Photographer

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So you want to be a photographer? Poof. You’re a photographer.

Now what?

It turns out that just making the decision that you ARE a photographer helps you answer that question and get started doing what you previously just “wanted” to do.

Let’s get started.

When Do You Stop Wanting to Be a Photographer and Start Being a Photographer?

People have a mental block about some things. It’s as if we’re trained to wait for permission or some kind of accreditation to become the thing that we want to be.

With some exceptions, you don’t need permission. You just need to put yourself out there and flip the mental switch that says “I am a photographer.

If you know your business and your craft, you can do that today. If not, then you can ask yourself this question:

What do I need to know or accomplish in order to be a photographer?

This question isn’t just for those who want to be in business as a photographer. There are plenty of people who enjoy photography as a hobby or sideline. This question applies to you, also.

You could describe yourself as an amateur photographer or a semi-professional photographer. I don’t think you need those adjectives in the way, though. Just start believing in yourself and tell people you are a photographer. Then do the things you think a photographer would do.

If it sounds very simple, that’s because it is.

A photographer is simply a person who takes pictures. A professional photographer is someone who takes pictures and earns money from the activity.

It really isn’t any more complicated than that. Perhaps some people are better photographers than others. Just as some professional photographers earn more money than others. That doesn’t delegitimize anyone or prevent anyone from growing as a photographer.

If you still think you need permission to be a photographer, then you now have my permission.

Why Is This Transition So Important to Your Photography?

You will never make the progress you desire as a “wanna-be” photographer. That’s because the “wanna-be” part is a barrier. It’s an excuse that prevents you from taking your photography seriously, and it gets in the way of your progress.

Basically, you need to own up to your desires and declare yourself to be the thing you want to be.

It’s the end of one journey and the beginning of another. With that declaration that you are a photographer, your mind opens up to possibilities you didn’t have to imagine before. That’s partially because you’re accepting responsibility that you didn’t know about as a “wanna-be” photographer.

Another important aspect of this transition is how others view you.

They expect results.

Now there’s some additional pressure on you to improve your photography, even if you aren’t doing it for money. That’s not a bad thing at all. A bit of pressure gives you motivation to deliver results, which sometimes means you have to improve your photography to achieve those results.

External pressure is a good thing for creative people.

I watched the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” recently. There was a great moment of clarity in the latter part of the movie when Freddie Mercury got back together to meet with his Queen bandmates after spending some time working on a solo project that never yielded the results he wanted.

I went to Munich, I hired a bunch of guys. I told them exactly what I wanted them to do and the problem was – they did it. No pushback from Roger. None of your rewrites. None of his funny looks. I need you – and you need me.

Great results rarely emerge from isolation. Put yourself out there. Work with others. Show your work to others. Get feedback and do it better the next time.

That’s how creative people make progress.

How Do You Make the Transition from Desire to Reality?

Start with one thing.

I’m not going to tell you what that one thing is, because you have to figure it out for yourself. Lee is a fitness coach and this is something she tells her clients that have some doubts and insecurities.

Nobody sucks at everything. Find the one thing that you do well and work on it. Enhance your strengths rather than worry about your weaknesses.

This goes hand in hand with some of my own training and experience. I took the Gallup CliftonStrengths test to discover and analyze my own strengths. There are 34 areas of your life measured by the test, and the idea is that you will have more success in life by concentrating on enhancing your top 5 greatest talents.

Think about it. How much success will you get by trying to bring your weaknesses up to mediocrity vs. enhancing the areas where you’re already strong?

Think about photographers you admire. Are they doing a bit of everything, or are they working to their strengths?

I mentioned an example of this on the podcast. While at WPPI this year, I attended one of Peter Hurley’s sessions. He talked about becoming a headshot photographer.

Other photographers did headshots, but Peter is the man who made headshots cool. Peter literally wrote the book on headshots. He teaches other people how to do headshots.

Let’s be clear, he’s a bit brash about his position and being known as THE headshot guy. Of course, he’s earned it. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t learn it as he built his business.

The guy enhanced his strengths by digging into anatomy to understand the muscles in the face. Learning which ones need to tighten up or relax in order to get the expression that makes a good headshot.

He has a website dedicated to Hurleyisms – silly things he say to his subjects so they loosen up, relax, and give him the expression her needs to deliver results.

Someone asked him what focal length is best for headshots. He said 92 mm. When they followed up to ask why, he said “Because that’s about as far away as I want to be from my subject.” Part of his job as THE headshot guy was to figure out the right distance from his subject so he can communicate, yet still get the right look out of his lens.

That’s how you transition from desire to reality. You find your strength and you build upon it. Then you go serve others who push you to be even better at your strength.

If you want to be a photographer, then you have to own it.

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