When you’re in the business of shooting portraits, weddings, events, or any sort of subject where someone else has to be a part of it, you quickly learn that your photography isn’t necessarily always just your own. That bride whose wedding you’re capturing: your photos are going to be the ones that YOU are responsible for making look the best.
It’s your job after all
Do it for years and years, you’ll eventually develop a blessing and a curse: hatred of your own photography.
Now before I go on, I want you to note that it isn’t necessarily a bad hatred. There is hatred of your own photography in relation to knowing that you can do better, and there is also hatred of your own photography in relation to the fact that of the batch of images that you gathered, some of them are just not strong. This hatred is a combination of both–and is effectively a sign of a photographer that is hard on themselves, strives to do their best, and knows how far they can push their potential. These types of hatred can further fuel your desires to become a better photographer if you just believe in yourself and keep trying.
The other hatred has to do with genuine dislike of your work to the point where you give up. But everyone has to start somewhere and human beings were innately designed to adapt and improve themselves. For our ancestors, giving up wasn’t an option.
Returning to the issue of photography though, a couple of years ago I was paid to shoot a wedding where the Bride, Groom, and parents loved the images and couldn’t stop raving about them. But I received a single horrid email from a bridesmaid (more like an essay that put 1,001 Arabian Nights to shame) stating that I hadn’t shot a single photo of her that she could use for her Match.com profile.
Granted, it wasn’t her wedding. And she didn’t pay for the images.
At the end of reading the email, I needed a nice glass of bourbon, but it got me thinking more seriously about how I could channel that negative energy into something positive to build myself. And so I thought to myself how I could have done a better job of making her look better.
The skill of culling through thousands of images and picking selections already came from being a photojournalist, paparazzo, and a wedding photographer. But at that point, my photography became about an effort to create images that my subjects could be proud of and love. It involved working a whole lot with the subject, clear communication, learning about posing, working with their specific body and lighting to make it look the best, and making sure that the person left with a smile.
Photography, when working with a specific person or persons, is a two way street that is a collaborative effort to create a piece of art. It’s about creating images–not just shooting them.
And with that, I became harsher on my own work.
I’d step into Lightroom and cull through my initial set of images.
Then from the images that I culled, I did minor edits and culled as I went along.
Then from the third set, I continued to do edits and culled even more.
And then even more editing was done with fine tuning to make the images the best that they could possibly be. In the end, I came way delivering products that everyone loved. Brides gushed over them, models used and shared them in their portfolios and social media profiles, singles used them on their dating profiles, and the circle went on.
The photos became part of my vision to create images that made people and products look good. Nothing less was accepted. Yes, the internet is full of trolls that will sit there and mock and try to bring you down. But you need to accept it and move on.
By developing a hatred of your own work, finding ways to improve and refine the photos, you’ll eventually become the photographer that everyone else wants to be.