Monday, March 9, 2009

Great advice!

Okay, so I came to this in a fairly convoluted sort of way. Someone on the Etsy forums posted a link to a blog containing some words of wisdom for photographers. That blogger, however, had found the words on yet another blog. And THAT blogger was quoting yet another photographer. But regardless of who said what, ha, it bears repeating! So, with all credit to photographer Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai, the original author of the words below, I'm reposting here for anyone who might run across my little corner of the blogosphere.


- Style is a voice, not a prop or an action. If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don’t look outward for your style; look inward.

- Know your stuff. Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It’s like money; you only have it when you don’t need it.

- Never apologize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics on a consensus.

- Say no. Say it often. It may be difficult, but you owe it to yourself and your clients. Turn down jobs that don’t fit you, say no to overbooking yourself. You are no good to anyone when you’re stressed and anxious.

- Learn to say “I’m a photographer” out loud with a straight face. If you can’t say it and believe it, you can’t expect anyone else to, either.

- You cannot specialize in everything.

- Know your style before you hang out your shingle. If you don’t, your clients will dictate your style to you. That makes you nothing more than a picture taker. Changing your style later will force you to start all over again, and that’s tough.

- Accept critique, but don’t apply it blindly. Just because someone said it does not make it so. Critiques are opinions, nothing more. Consider the advice, consider the perspective of the advice giver, consider your style and what you want to convey in your work. Implement only what makes sense to implement. That doesn’t not make you ungrateful, it makes you independent.

- Leave room for yourself to grow and evolve. It may seem like a good idea to call your business “Precious Chubby Tootsies”….but what happens when you decide you love to photograph seniors? Or boudoir?

- Remember that if your work looks like everyone else’s, there’s no reason for a client to book you instead of someone else. Unless you’re cheaper. And nobody wants to be known as “the cheaper photographer”.

- Gimmicks and merchandise will come and go, but honest photography is never outdated.

- It’s easier to focus on buying that next piece of equipment than it is to accept that you should be able to create great work with what you’ve got. Buying stuff is a convenient and expensive distraction. Spend money on equipment ONLY when you’ve outgrown your current equipment and you’re being limited by it.

- Learn that people photography is about people, not about photography. Great portraits are a side effect of a strong human connection.

- Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself.

- Never compare your journey with someone else’s. It’s a marathon with no finish line. Someone else may start out faster than you, may seem to progress more quickly than you, but every runner has his own pace. Your journey is your journey, not a competition. You will never “arrive”. No one ever does.

- Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacence.


I particularly need to remember the fifth one down. I've always had trouble declaring myself to be a photographer out loud, to strangers. When people see my camera 'round my neck and ask, "Oh, are you a photographer?" something in me shrinks away from boldly answering, "Yes, yes I am!" I tend to hem and haw and mutter something about a hobby. But no. I AM a photographer, darn it! Loud and proud! :-D


  1. Thanks for sharing this list. Lots of wisdom here, for sure!

  2. You are very talented and yes, you should proudly say, "I am a photographer"!

    My absolute favorite of your etsy photos is prairie autumn!

  3. Beautiful words and to me, most of them carry over to all art forms! Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Yes, thanks for sharing. I love them!