Apr 29, 2010

Keep Your Ego Out Of The Picture

I tend to over-analyse EVERYTHING and sometimes even doubt my talents (ya, I know, shocker!).  In the earlier days of taking pictures as a hobby, this was not a problem.  I just took pictures in the garden because I liked the flowers and the scenery, and photos just seemed to take themselves. 

Then I transitioned to sharing them on Facebook, and I suddenly found myself censoring the albums, only posting those I thought others might appreciate.  So, when I finally progressed to using my photos on greeting cards and other printable formats for the purpose of selling, well...the inner CENSOR showed its true colors.  I really struggled with this for a while.  I would go online to various galleries to see what other people were selling (this portion of starting up a business was supposed to be market research...until it became a self-defeating marathon of comparing my abilities to other photographers), and found myself feeling overwhelmed at how good some of the photos were and thinking there was no way ANYONE would ever buy my art. 

I even started to question every shot I would take.  I never used to do that!  Now all of a sudden, because the game plan had changed and I was taking pictures to earn income, my pictures didn't seem good enough.  Every time I'd set up to take a photo, the little voice would ask things like "is this really a money shot?"  or "is this one good enough to put on a card?". 

The agony went on for awhile, until an afternoon of quiet contemplation in the back porch revealed an incredibly powerful statement (that came from yet another, more gentle voice in my head) that went something like this, "girl, you gotta get your ego out of the picture!"  Quickly realising that this pun was both hilarious and profound, I did the work needed to stop the voice dead in its tracks.

First, I acknowledged that photography, more specifically nature photography is an incredibly saturated market and that there are about as many ways to photograph a flower as there are flowers, and people on the planet.  I also recognised that while the art/photography community is vast and full of really talented and successful people, it is an incredibly supportive one, and running with the big guns can be both informative and inspiring.

Next, I returned to the beginning, where I just took pictures because it was fun, back when the flowers seemed to call me, posing for the camera and made lovelier by the different angles of the sunlight.  I just intuitevely shot images that appealed to me and didn't worry about whether anyone else would like them.

And finally, I kicked my ego to the curb (well at least during photoshoots.)  The moment I took the doubts out of the picture, the pictures became spectacular again.  They just took themselves.  You see, I have nothing to do with the beauty beyond the lens.  Nature takes care of all those details.  My job is just to capture these fleeting moments of life and share them with those who will look.

Taking the photos is the easiest part of this entire process.  I have to stay away from analysing, or doing informal market surveying, or any of the business jibberish that says I need to optimise my photos for them to found...blah...blah...blah...  So if any of you are considering selling your art online, beware of the very powerful CENSOR in your head, lurking and waiting to pounce on your innate talent!  Your art is as unique as you are (corny, but true), and there are many ways to market yourself and be successful, in spite of the saturation of that greater niche.

I'm happy to report that when I take the tripod and camera out to play, I can hear my ego squirming in the deepest recesses of my brain, trying to come out and 'gong' my every shot.  She is relunctantly under lock and key when I work, and withering away in other areas of my life too...nasty little thing :)


danamitey said...

You love to capture the beauty! Keep doing it! The weren't selling before you started to sell them, and you still wanted to take more and more.
Art isn't great when you do it for someone else. An artist needs to do it just to express themselves only.

Debbie said...

Thanks Dana,

I will keep doing it. You're right about the art being personal. Sharing it with others is just a bonus.

Birds and Blossoms said...

Love the poppies! Nature photography is a very difficult market...especially when you are competing with photographers who have $3,000 lenses!!!..your flower pictures are beautiful!

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