It’s been an interesting time since opening my studio. I’ve gone through some goals, nailed some, altered some, need to refocus on some. I’ve gotten too busy, I’ve had slow times, you know how it goes… But there’s one thing that keeps happening to me time and time again. And I believe the universe tries to point you to different paths, if you listen.
Last month, I attended Imaging USA in San Antonio. This is a HUGE conference where I was one of 11,000 photographers who signed up to get a week’s worth of education in shooting, business, networking, you name it. I met some AMAZING people. Some were just like me, some were astounding, some were a series of “aha moments” as I listened to them. Some of the information came from speakers and teachers in classes and some of the information came from conversations with new friends and conversations over meals or drinks or merely sitting side by side waiting on our next adventure. I bonded with people quickly, as we all had a common thread of learning about our craft. I made friends that I know will STAY friends for a long, long time. It was such a beautiful week. I was inspired, I was excited and I was simply HAPPY.
I came home and immediately met a few new photographers. One? Spent their time telling me how much THEY knew. Smirking at me with a pity face when I’d speak and they’d interrupt with “well, I’m sure that’s fine for YOU, but….” and so I listened to them. I listened to the condescending way they spoke.
I met some that speak only of the negative. “This photographer does this…or that…” and they judged. Sometimes judging someone who’d shot a job they’d have LOVED to shoot. They complained about their business. They complained about their customers.
Then I had a few that I didn’t know, that reached out to me saying, “can I come to your studio? Can you show me HOW you do what you do?” “Please help me.” I loved it. I welcomed them. I told them all I knew, I learned what they knew. I listened to what they said as they left my studio and there was a common theme. Which, when wrapped up as a nice gift along with the other people I’d listened to, was very eye opening.
It actually showed me something and taught me something. Be kind. Listen. Every person wants to be heard. Every person wants to feel like you value them. This is true with whomever you are taking a photograph and every person from whom you are learning and every person with whom you are conversing. It’s actually one of the best business models.
As I listened to Sue Bryce and Lindsay Adler and Gary Box and Tony Corbell speak. This was a lesson as the “learner”. They all made you feel heard. As I listened to the people who spoke from insecurity and not compassion, and I didn’t feel heard, I didn’t like it. I took away nothing. They people that came to me WANTING to be heard, we got much more accomplished when we heard each other. When a client comes to me, I have to HEAR THEM, or I miss capturing them as they truly wanted. Sometimes, they don’t know. They simply want to feel amazing. I hear that.
When my daughter came to me wanting maternity photos, this was the case. She isn’t a photographer, she just wanted a great experience. She wanted to feel “beautiful” in a sliver of time where she doesn’t feel that way daily. It’s no different than the rest of us, really. As she had hair and makeup done, as she had her shoot, her little girl watched her beautiful mommy feel AMAZING for a day. She wanted that, too. A bit of powder in the hair and makeup room, letting her stand in while her mommy changed clothes, had that baby girl feeling heard and amazing, too. Her little brother? Well, he wanted in on the action, too. He wanted to look STRONG. So, it was incorporated.
My takeaway from the past month? We all have something to offer. From wanting to feel strong, to wanting to feel pretty, to wanting to feel helpful or even just wanting to have someone say, “I get ya. Me, too…” There is the desire. So when I put this all together, I see this: We must all keep listening. We must all keep learning. We need to empower each other, because, in the end. It’s our biggest gift. As an artist, it’s not always my photograph. It’s the experience of getting the photograph. It’s that person, seeing themselves in a positive way, of having a print that reflects THAT and also, a beautiful memory of the photographic experience. Listen. Learn. NEVER get so wrapped up in “yourself” that the other person isn’t heard, because, well, then you’ve missed it.
On this note, I will share with you the experience of doing my daughter’s maternity session. Our experience, our laughter, our beautiful day that offered more memories from the day than merely just the photograph.