One of the pitfalls of turning any passion into a profession is that it can become routine and start to feel like a job. As the business side of things takes over and requires more and more attention in order to keep your livelihood moving forward, it’s even more important to stay connected to that drive that initially fueled your passion. And photography is no different. That’s why personal work is so important, and why it’s something we always make sure to devote time and energy to. To us, it’s just as important as a client shoot.
Devoting time to experimentation and personal work allows us to grow as artists; it allows us to refine our visions and gives us the room to stay connected to the playful nature of creativity. It’s the time to make mistakes and learn from them — and often those happy accidents can unlock ideas and directions that never would have occurred to us had we been locked in business mode, trying to stick to what got us our last client.
The real truth is, your personal work is what will ultimately lead you to your clients. Work that resonates with you and acts as a representation of what moves you will ultimately resonate with others. One of the biggest misconceptions in art, and especially with photography, is that we need to create images on the level of someone else — some famous individual who’s already making it in order for clients to appreciate your work and come to you. And while inspiration is definitely important and seeing someone else’s work can spark a desire to try something new, no one ever really succeeded by being a cheaper knockoff of someone else.
It can be helpful to cut back on the noise. Take a look at your social media and ask yourself if the bombardment of imagery is actually driving you and helping you create better work, or if it’s just turning into noise that’s actually overwhelming your own vision. And most importantly, don’t forget to take pictures … all the time. Not just when money is involved. We never know when creativity or inspiration will strike. And while we do plan out excursions devoted to personal work, we’re also always ready with a camera. Because even those daily moments, like riding a ferry (a must here in our home base of Seattle), deserve a closer look. And that closer look will inform all your work, and soon, you’ll be catching the attention of people who want your vision to help express their vision.