How 8 Famous Photographers Have Changed Over the Past Year

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All images used with permission from the respective photographers.

A year can change someone, especially if you’re a goal-driven photographer always trying to make progress. Every year, each photographers tries to make changes that move them forward, but some do better than others.

We talked eight of the top photographers in the world about how they progressed and what they did that made a difference.

Von Wongs photo

2014 has been a year that’s been filled with excitement. Beyond the new sponsorships and recognition from top tier companies such as Broncolor and Mamiya Leaf, I feel like I’ve grown as an individual with my personal projects to surprise a fan in Australia and break the all time record of funding (1.8 million) for GoFundMe with a video that I created to save a 4 year old little girl from a terminal disease. The work has grown, slowly but steadily, but the feeling that I have the power to make a difference doing what I love is something that’s truly developed this year and I can’t wait to see where I take things next year.

Benjamin Von Wong

2014? I am glad it is gone or going at least, but as with life sometimes the hardest lessons are the ones we need the most.

Running out of the tail end of 2013 I was neck deep in planning for the first ever Photography Show in the UK (planned for March 2014). I was into the planning stages for a few things so deep that Christmas came and went, New Year came and went, my birthday happened and then it was the Show in March. Life was a blur and nothing but stuff really happened. I was so busy with other things for the last part of 2013, I had not photographed anything, nor did I until near March after the Photography Show. It was one of those time where things happened around you but you are unaware of them, a blur. After the Show, came the drop, super busy to nothing. I had nothing to do but I was happy, confident and felt validated. This seemed to attract good things. I had time to chill out, time to reflect and time to be nice to people rather than in a rush. I had time to go for coffee rather than a quick phone call in the middle of shoots or dashing for a train. All of a sudden I had a string of great shoots including The Feeling whose music I adore. I did some traveling to Cyprus and Israel then some traveling in the UK too. I found myself in a relationship again and my photography was slipping into the background and becoming part of my life rather than my life. I guess this is the work-life balance. I was working less but having a better ratio of work and a better quality end result. I guess it is true that happy people work better. The time away from having to shoot was amazing….unknowingly I had a break away from the camera and it changed me. It seems we all need some downtime once in a while.

DKPJodi

When Chris and I were chatting over Facebook, he asked me, “How do you feel that you’ve progressed over the entire year since the beginning. In terms of art, marketing, knowledge, etc. Just in general? How have you become better?” ‘Hell, Chris, it’s late I am about to go to bed – that’s some heavy stuff’ was my first thought, the second was was very simple.

I have learned to shoot less.

I feel that due to the fact I have been photographing things less, when I have been shooting, I have been more focused and more on task, getting better results. I have been far more selective now with how I have worked and who I have been working with.

My quick answer back to Chris over Facebook was, “The work you turn down is more important sometimes than the work you do.” I guess I stand by this, but what I think I meant to say was, just stay on task, stay true to who you are, what you do and where you want to go. When it gets tough, don’t wander away from what you do. I think in some kind of retrospective way, due to all the time commitments I have had around the world and the time spent away form the camera let me focus my energy for when I was shooting.

How I have changed as a photographer though, that’s another thing. I am sure if I have, I am still me, still doing my thing but maybe a little more confidant to say what I want in the way I want them. I have been turning things away I don’t want to do and bringing more DKP to the table. The big one here was turning the Guns & Roses’ guitarist away for a shoot because the terms and conditions were not suited to my liking. The decision rolls around in my head from time to time. Would photographing him, after the travel and production costs, have been worth it ? How much is a photo of Slash in my portfolio really worth? I started to turn down low paying work that was getting me down and taking the fun away. I stopped the crappy jobs that sucked.

When people hire a photographer they are buying more than one thing. Mostly they are buying your time as a person. They are buying your thoughts, your energy and persona. If you are selling that cheap around the corner, how do you expect to be on top form when the jobs you want are coming in ? I made the effort to try and raise my game which meant cutting of the bottom. Stretching your brand to much is never a good thing.

At another specific point, I have tried to separate out my hobby from my work. Work is work and Dave time is Dave time. I wanted to find a way to better balance all this out. Personal projects are great for many reasons but that’s another story. In my case, I have decided to put time and effort (and money) into my Portrait Project. This was about reclaiming the fun back into photography and creating something for just me. Photographing the people that have been in my life or affected my life. People I admire or changed my life in some way. The technical elements are in the back seat for this project and for me it is a time to really work on the physiological elements of working with people and the nature of proper portraiture. Stuff like this could never done on clients time, but I have had to turn down work to find the time. This distinction of making money or making happiness is my point. I can use my camera to do either or both. Finding that balance is the thing that I think helped me this year.

The kicker to all of this is that peple want to work with happy people. Your work WILL be better if you are happy to shoot, and shooting the things you want to shoot in a way that you feel valued. This goes back to a point I made before that people hire photographers for a number of reasons and your skill with the camera is not always the most important element..

Take some time downtime, get things wrong, mess up, go traveling, get lost, get out of your zone, fall down and you will start to see how tough and how good you really are. If your view is a little cloudy, well, fuck it, open the windows and fly away. I promise you, you are better, stronger, smarter and more talented than you think you are. It’s just that sometimes we all let the dust settle and we need a shake down once in a while and a chance to put the world back together again.

The personal things that have happened around me this year and the people who known me personally might really of noticed this more but, yeah. I have been stubborn, selfish and tempestuous. I have been arrogant and at times less respectful of the help given to me. I have got a few things wrong this year and I have been bitten. Quite rightly in hindsight.

We are photographers. We document. We see. We observe. We create happiness and capture sadness. We are all human and many of us wear our hearts on selves. We are emotional people and react as such. We are not perfect and we need to look after our minds just much as we look after our wallets. That is what I have learnt this year.

 – David Kai Piper

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2014 has been a very exciting year, both as a follow up on and an improvement on 2013, which is ultimately what we all strive for. I have so much going on and have learnt so much that it’s probably best I only discuss a few here.

If you bear in mind that I work full time as a Head of Sales and Marketing in Hospitality and all the following is done in my free time, you will see I’ve kept myself very busy (and happy) this year. I have decided to keep my day job for now so I can really shoot what I want without compromising too much and also, sales and marketing really benefits my photography business.

1)     I have for the first time focused entirely on one consistent street photography series shot from Nov. 2013 to July 2014 culminating with the work, “The Great Londoners”, being shown in my yearly and biggest exhibition to date.

My 3rd solo show in 2 years, it has opened in October and closes end of January 2015, taking place at the excellent and very hip Hoxton Hotel in Holborn, London.

So with regards to this, I have learnt a lot and in particular how to manage my exhibition from A to Z and entirely free.

That way I am able to give back 100% of sales to charity. It’s Orbis.org, who work towards preventing avoidable blindness.

This is what I feel has been the most important:

o   Securing a prime location for three and half months, free of charge

o   Securing sponsorship from Olympus Cameras to cover my printing and framing costs

o   Getting the show featured in high profile publications (including the Evening Standard)

2)     I launched the Street Photography London collective, which is not for profit and aims at promoting the work of other London Street Photographers but also feature regular interviews with international street photographers.

Three of us won the public vote (30,000+ votes) and were Team Winner of the International Street Photography Awards’ “Street Photo of the Year” within 3 months of launching.

3)     I decided after 4 years that my website wasn’t performing well enough due to the limitations of the system I used. I therefore switched over to another platform in July and have since seen a big rise in traffic and conversion of enquiries, essential if you want to be commercially successful.

4)     Overall I have increased the number and quality of paid jobs I worked on compared to last year and next year the focus will be to continue that way. I’m getting repeat clients, a really good way to judge if I am or not heading the right direction.

5)     Finally, I work harder than ever on my photography as all the efforts in the world are worth nothing if you don’t produce great photography, so I keep pushing myself.

There’s a lot more happening but let’s keep some surprises!

So bring on 2015, I’m ready for the challenge and very excited!

Nicholas Goodden

Lisa photographing Two Jack-2

I always try to move forward in my photography towards a focused yearly goal, but this year I got a little lost along the way. This often happens with me because my heart is divided between photography and app development. It’s challenging to become a master of photography without focusing all your efforts into into it. I think this happens with a lot of part time photographers who have day jobs, family, and other major distractions in their lives. The good news is that photography is not a race or a competition, but a life-long pursuit. Your skills and artistic eye continue to evolve and you begin to see the world differently. You see light and colours you might have previously not noticed. I take comfort in these facts and try to shoot when I can and hone my skills every day. This year, I’m sure I will take a few long and winding paths on the way to my yearly goal, but I’m sure I will capture a few beautiful shots on the way.

Lisa Bettany

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I’m learning that the images I’m tired of making are the ones that my clients hire me for. To me, they are old and dated in style and flavor. To them, they are their own and personal. I’m trying to grow and evolve as a photographer. I had these high hopes of working on a brand new portfolio this year by shooting one portfolio piece a month for the next 24 months. I’d spend two years making a new book of portraits. Something fresh and new and personal for me. I should be 7 or 8 portraits into that book right now.

I haven’t shot one fucking picture for it.

I’m learning that being a working professional photographer isn’t always the right thing to do if you really want to do photography for the love of it. If you want to find your own vision and create for your self. I spend so much time creating work for others that I have no time or energy left for myself. Street photography is my one little escape and I’m thankful for that but it isn’t enough.

I have to build this new portrait book. I have to or I’m going to go insane.

Attached is my best picture of the year.

Zack Arias

kenneth_mojave

2014 has been a year of change for me in my headshot business. For the last 14 years I’ve been shooting actors day in and day out coming through my door these days are people from every walk of life.

A good headshot is no longer a want for people. It’s a need, and I think with our world being so visual these days everyone understands that now. We’ve got bigger screens in our pockets to look at imagery and a ton of different places that we need to have a solid profile shot displayed. This is definitely good news for those photographers that take headshots and my business has gone through a shift because of it. I would say I used to shoot 95% actors on a weekly basis and now it’s about 50/50 between actors and other individuals that want to enhance their digital identity. I’m building out a team of photographers on www.ph2pro.com to capture this shift and am working with about.me to mesh these photographers with people looking to enhance their online presence. If a photographer out there hasn’t added headshots to their portraiture business I suggest they start firing them up in 2015!

Peter Hurley

Video thumbnail for youtube video Lindsay Adler on TTL vs Manual Lighting - The Phoblographer

“I’ve learned that even when you find a style, it can evolve. Throughout the year, I kept looking back at my style and trying to discover where I fit in this wide world of fashion and beauty. What I’ve found is that a style can be a feeling, it can be an approach to imagery, and it can evolve. A style doesn’t mean I have to shoot the same light, with the same type of models, with the same lens every time. It means I need to have a consistent vision and consistently have the power to communicate with my audience. I’ve worked to find ways to make myself commercially applicable and desirable without betraying myself as an artist. This is no easy task, and while it is not completed I certainly have moved ahead as an artist and visual communicator.”

Lindsay Adler

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It’s funny, you know, last December I started to feel stagnant, both in my art and in my business, so I made a New Year’s resolution on a whim. For 2014, I vowed to seek out a new, frightening opportunity every week. It was my very own 52 week challenge. Whether it was art or business related it didn’t matter – it just had to be something I’d never done before, outside my comfort zone. It didn’t matter at all if I failed, but that was kind of the point. The more mistakes I make, the more growth I experience, so bring ‘em on.

For my photography, I began shooting photos with new techniques I’d never tried. I borrowed lenses to experiment and forced myself to shoot in locations and in conditions I never would’ve chosen otherwise. Dark? Rainy? Didn’t matter, make it work. I scheduled workshops in places where I’d never taught before and took on new speaking engagements I had previously pushed aside. In marketing, I forced myself to reach out to new vendors and publications. Once a week, every week, I did something I thought was a complete long shot.

As the year went on the challenges got bigger and bigger. In March I attended Fotofest for the first time (by far the most useful experience I’ve ever participated in), and then in April I moved to New York for a month to work with Lindsay Adler. If the opportunity for anything came up, I said yes, without hesitation, and by the time October rolled around, I had a very different view of what I was capable of. When another vendor in town asked if I wanted to do a Halloween inspired ballet shoot, I said yes, and we put the entire thing together, shot it, edited it and published it in just a few days.. Last January I would’ve thought it impossible to pull something like that off on such a short timeline, but since I’d been practicing what I perceived as impossible all year, it really wasn’t even an issue.

I’m absolutely keeping my same resolution for 2015. I’m a firm believer that if you want to move forward, you’re the one responsible for creating the opportunities to do so. You can’t just sit back and hope something falls into your lap. I’m excited to see where this project takes me next year. Another 52 weeks of being completely uncomfortable, and I can’t wait.

Jenna Martin

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I think what I’ve learned as a blogger this year is to focus on quality over quantity (1 in depth article once a week versus posting everyday), and also in terms of photography to ignore social media in general. I’ve spent more time meeting photographers in “real life”, and this has been the best way to get feedback and critique on my work. Lastly, not to rush my photography and take my time : I have 150 rolls of film (Kodak Portra 400) waiting to get processed which has been sitting for the last 10 months. I’m grateful for this peace of mind, and it makes me a lot less anxious and happier.

Eric Kim