WHY I HIRED A PHOTOGRAPHER AND WHY I THINK YOU SHOULD TOO
I'm a photographer, you've probably gathered that. I enjoy taking pictures and I love love love giving people something that let's them see how amazing they are. I think there is great value in photography and my business relies on other people also seeing the value in it. For all of my love and value toward photography you would think that I regularly invest in photography for myself but, well, I didn't.
I never had professional senior photos taken- my brother did them for me (thanks again, Jake). The only professional photos I had of myself until I was 22 were from weddings I was in. Oh, and my 1 graduation photo.
When I finally had my photo professionally taken it was because I become an intern for photographers. Those photos were a lot of fun and I absolutely loved the experience. Fast forward 6 years later.... I hadn't had any other professional photos taken. Why? The reason I told myself was that I couldn't afford it but the real reason was something much more difficult to overcome.
I didn't want anyone taking pictures of me. I didn't like the way I looked in photographs.
Anytime I saw a picture someone had taken of me I would just think, "eehhh no no no no no."
Over these last 6 years a lot of things have changed for me. I've learned to love myself a little bit more and be more kind in how I think about myself. I still struggle with self image, as I'm sure I always will, but it isn't as overwhelming as it once was. I still see the parts of myself that I don't like and want to change but instead of just thinking "no" I think "not yet." I'm just not there yet with some things but that's ok. I choose to look at photographs of myself and see what is positive: I am happy. I am pursuing something that I love. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends. I'm lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive and loving boyfriend. I like my job. I have a good life and I choose to see that in photographs of myself instead of just what I look like.
Last fall a photographer that I really admire (Melissa Marshall- you might remember her from my last post) hosted some fall sessions here in OKC and I decided to book one. This was a huge step for me. I knew that as a photographer + educator + blogger I needed professional photos of myself and Melissa was the photographer that I knew I wanted to work with.
Hiring Melissa was one of the best decisions I've made for myself and for my business. The shoot not only gave me photos of myself that I absolutely love (thanks, Melissa!) but it also helped me to understand what my clients must go through when deciding to hire a photographer.
The money we charge for shoots isn't insignificant. We call it an investment for a reason. I know all the reasons why photo shoots cost what they do- we have a lot of costs to cover for the work we do (if you want to learn more about this check out my post on it here). I get it. I really do. But...it was still a lot of money and it was hard to pay it.
I'm glad I had that experience so that I can better relate to clients when they get stuck on the price. Now I know exactly how it feels and what kind of things you have to shift around mentally to be able to do it. There's a lot of trust that goes into letting go of hundreds of dollars. In my case I trusted Melissa 100% because I've been following her work for years but often times our clients don't have that kind of relationship with us. Maybe they just found our work. Maybe they need time.
There are a lot of photographers (I've been guilty of this too) who are bothered by the fact that some people think that they are just too expensive. They want those people to understand that what they have to offer is worth what they're asking for it. I get it. I want that too. But I think that until we all experience that same kind of mental struggle that comes with hiring a creative to do a job that we can't see yet, we just need to give them some space. We need to do our very best to reassure them that we have their backs. We are going to pull through and deliver an amazing experience.
At the same time as trying to be understanding people's money struggles, we need to understand their personal struggles. I just admitted to not wanting to have my picture taken because of how I look and I know there are SO many others out there who have felt the exact same way. This can play a huge part in why clients might end up not liking the photos we take of them. Instead of getting hurt and upset, maybe we should take a minute to ask ourselves why they don't like the images. Maybe it is just that technically, we didn't do a very good job, but maybe it's because they aren't being kind to themselves.
What can we do about that? How can we make someone love themselves and see how beautiful they are? Well, simply put, we can't. We can't make someone love themselves or see their beauty, that is very personal and takes a lot of work from the individual. But what we can do is help to put them in the right frame of mind. We can start our communication with them by lifting them up and telling them how excited we are to get to photograph this time in their lives. We can take away all of their worries about what to do with their hands or where to stand or whether or not to smile. We can remind them throughout our interaction that the photographs we are taking are about who they are and not what they look like. We can spend time getting to know them so that we really bring out who they are and what they're about. We can be gentle and kind and patient and understanding when they have questions or concerns or just don't like something.
The advice I'm giving aren't things I'm always great at but I'm trying to learn to be better. I want to work with people who leave our time together feeling amazing and worthy and encouraged. I want them to feel comfortable and 100% themselves. I want them to love the experience I gave them and feel confident in the decision they've made to hire me.
Honestly, the thing that has helped me more than anything else to come to these conclusions about how I want to be as a photographer was hiring another photographer. I needed to be on the other side of the camera. Do that for yourself.
If you're a photographer, you need to hire a photographer. You need to know what it's like to hand over hundreds of dollars and trust the artist on the other end. You need to know what it feels like to sit awkwardly in front of their camera while they click away. You need to understand how intimidating it is to be in that position. So please, do yourself, and your future clients, a favor and go hire a photographer (and please, find one whose work speaks to you- not the one that is just closest to you).
Here are some of my favorite images from the shoot Melissa did for me... oh and hey, go check her out!