For me, photography started off as a job, not a hobby. It doesn’t happen like that for everyone. I’ve more often heard stories of how the passion for photography came long before making it a profession. But, landing a photography position right out of college, and quite by accident, I didn’t have much time to dabble in the art of photography long enough to find what parts of it I was really passionate about. From the very start of my photographic experience, I not only had specific subject matter to shoot, I had a boss—and clients—to shoot for.
Luckily, I did love the world I found myself in, of brides, grooms, expectant mothers and babies. I took great pleasure and discovered deep satisfaction in being able to distill special moments and milestones for people through my lens. Getting paid to do it really was a dream opportunity for a recent graduate with a degree in art. I learned my way around my camera, the studio and the business—baptism-by-fire style—being thrown into high-stakes scenarios where there were no do-overs, long before the safety net of the digital camera LCD preview was available. Although it was intense at times, it was creatively challenging and totally inspiring.
Tens of thousands of event and family images later, my career has evolved into shooting subject matter of my own choice (my surroundings, my kids, my everyday life) for a different kind of work. My images are now used in my blog, my books, my classes or articles like this. Many of the clients I work with now don’t give me much by way of parameters, which leaves me to shoot what I’m drawn to shoot within the creatively loose confines of the assignment at hand. Shoot what you love in a way you love to shoot it. It’s a great freelance gig.
Even still, there have been times when I’ve been nudged into shooting differently than what or how I might normally shoot. I won’t deny that it can sometimes feel more like a push or even a shove than a nudge, but I’ve found that if I can keep an open mind, and lens, those types of challenges often yield some delightfully surprising results.
I can say this because as I look back on my body of work and identify some of my all-time favorite images in my collection, there are some that never would have been captured if it weren’t for being pushed past my comfort zone on a particular job or assignment. Even when I wasn’t that happy about it at the time—when I was prompted to go in a different or even difficult direction, worked long, late hours or traipsed over many miles to get to an unfamiliar location—I often made photographs that certainly surpassed what I would have created if I had stayed in my normal creative routine.
It has been an interesting observation. I’ll be the first to admit I can easily get into a photography “groove,” which can be an awesome thing, but I also now recognize that I can get stuck in that groove without even knowing it.
Although I do cherish the artistic freedom I’m given in much of my work, being on specific assignments or working with new and sometimes unexpected clients can push—or, in a more positive light, encourage—me to stretch past my creative comfort zones and shoot images that not only please the client, but excite me. Expanding my photographic creativity not only helps to redefine my photography career, but it also reignites my passion.