I’ve been thinking a great deal of late about where my business is at, and the journey that has brought me to this point. One particular train of thought has been going round and round in my head for a few weeks now, so I thought I would blurt it out. Perhaps it will strike a chord with some of you?
How many times do you hear people say they want to push the boundaries and ‘step outside their comfort zone’? It’s a term that can be applied to all walks of life and not just those in the creative industries (it’s also rather annoyingly over used). Now, just for a few moments, I want you to think about the notion of living ‘inside your comfort zone‘.
Maybe you take up a new hobby like hang gliding, rock climbing, surfing, something you always wanted to do but didn’t think you could. You might even apply the term to trying a new type of food when you feel you’ve been eating the same kind of rubbish for ages (yes ok that’s a boring example but you never know, a sheltered life and all that). Maybe you decide to bite the bullet and travel solo for the first time? It’s a great term, and indeed we should reach outside our comfort zones in life if we as individuals wish to grow emotionally and fulfill our potential.
What I want to talk about on the blog today is about how I feel the phrase stepping ‘outside our comfort zone’ applies to me specifically, as a photographer, and if you are a photographer reading this, how it may well apply to you.
We exist in a highly competitive area of the creative industries, and if you live in the Southeast like me, you may feel at times like a tiny fish is a very big ocean; such is the volume of competition out there. The need to continually develop, to improve, to keep up and do as well if not better, to create something original and to be bigger and bolder than the rest can play havoc with the sensitive (and naturally insecure and seeking approval) psyche of the creative. We are delicate souls are we not?
The trouble is, and I speak from experience, there are times when we start searching for inspiration. We look at other photographers’ blogs and we ask ourselves, why are the photographers on there they so successful? Maybe if my work looked more like theirs, my website as well designed as theirs, my processing just like theirs, then I would be successful too?
There was a time when I did this a lot! I was struggling to find my style and I wanted to get those bookings and build my business overnight. Perhaps if I looked at enough work by others everything they did would rub off on me? At that time the faded vintage look was all the rage, and although I didn’t feel very strongly about it I thought to myself, well everyone else is doing it, so maybe I should too. I dabbled in it for a while, but to be honest, it never really felt like my thing (I still think it looks like one of my cats peed on the photos). The result was work that I wasn’t really happy with. I didn’t believe in it and I couldn’t see how potential clients would either.
You know, you really can look at too many other photographers’ blogs. You may be looking for inspiration and ideas, or just checking out the local competition, but somehow the result of all this blog hopping is to make you question the quality and style of your own work. Have you ever had that feeling? It really can dent your confidence. Just remember though, what you are seeing is just what that photographer wants prospective bride and grooms to see, all the best stuff! Like you, they have had to cull each wedding and remove all the not so good stuff, and they too have had to work through the process of developing their own style possibly getting it wrong at some point too. We all have our own stories, our own ways, and have been on our own journey.
Recently, I have started to realise that the key to having a satisfying creative working life is to find your own comfort zone and be happy in it. There comes a time when you have to say to yourself, you know what, I like the way I do things, let others do things their way. This is MY comfort zone and I’m loving it! Who says you have to step outside it all the time?
Be true to yourself. Don’t change your way of doing things to compete with others. There are all sorts of couples out there and they really don’t all want the same look. If you love the way your work looks or the way you do things in business, chances are many bride and grooms out there will love it too. Find your comfort zone and believe in the way you create and in the integrity of the work you produce. When you find your own creative comfort zone, you will find a real sense of satisfaction, a feeling of being in your own space confident in the knowledge that it is entirely yours. Your space is free of all the brain clutter that comes with worrying about what everyone else is doing (and trying to keep up and compete), and you suddenly have all this new space to focus on being creative in your own way, producing work you are 100% confident with and feeling positive about your own authenticity. For me this moment came when I finally found a way I liked to process images that was not based on any tutorial or other photographers work I had seen. I found it standardised my workflow and my images, and instead of my work looking inconsistent, as it used to, it now flowed. For you it could be that you prefer mono photography, and you decide to stop offering colour and make your USP that you do amazing black and white photography. Perhaps it’s another aspect of your business, it could be any process that comes from inside you, and is not instigated by it being something you think you have to do.
Now I don’t mean stop looking at other peoples blogs entirely, we all enjoy other photographers’ work and we can still draw great inspiration, not to mention ideas from great photography, but let it inspire you, don’t let it undermine your confidence. If it sends you scurrying for your presets and actions and results in you trying to mix up a concoction to recreate what you’ve seen, then maybe give it a break for a while.
Finally, I can’t tell you why this is, but somehow when things click, and you begin to operate inside your creative comfort zone, your whole attitude will start to change to one of positivity and self belief. It also has to be said there is nothing more seductive than buying into a product or service those offering it 100% believe in.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any thought, either in agreement, or total disagreement, or you just want to tell me that you think I’ve lost the plot, do please leave a comment.