Recently I was asked by a University in Europe to answer some questions for a class project they were doing on photographers for an article they are writing. I have split the questions into 3 sections and will be displaying them on the blog and Facebook in the hopes that these answers can help anyone else who might have questions...hope you enjoy!!!
Part 2 of 3
6. Do the opinions of other people influence or change what you create?
NO. When I first started other people's opinions affected me greatly as I was so eager to please as many artists are...after all we do want people to like our stuff right? About 1 year into my photography journey I grew tired of hearing everybody's advice so I gently told friends and family to keep their opinions to themselves. I don't shoot for anyone else other than me. My pictures are exactly the way I want them to look like. I don't cater my imagery for another person's taste or desire because then it wouldn't be my imagery, it would be theirs! When I do have a project and I'm working with an art director for example I will of course collaborate on the theme, concepts, etc. But that shoot will still have my look on it. Once artists stop seeking the approval of others they are truly free. Some people think it's arrogance, I think it's confidence. It takes a lot of guts to put your stuff out there for the whole world to see. Be confident in what you do and if you aren't happy with the way it looks than you need to seek to improve yourself....but do it for yourself, not for the approval of others. The funny thing is that you will find that there are others who love what you do, whatever the genre might be. So if you keep plugging away you will stay true to yourself and find a very loyal following of people who love your work.
7. If you have experienced creative blocks, how have you overcome them?
The best way to overcome a creative block is to bust right through it. If you are a creator you are inspired by different elements in your life. When I'm shooting if I've had a very short creative block it's been overcome by continuing to shoot until I found my inspiration. Another technique is to go shoot something entirely different than what you normally do. People think it's funny that I can be shooting a wedding one week and lions in Africa the next. Me changing stuff up is honestly one reason why I can say I've never had a block in my career.
8. What distinguishes you from other creative people in your genre?
I think what distinguishes me is that fact that I combine so many different elements of photography into what I do. Whether it's weddings, portraits, landscapes, or wildlife I combine these elements into all the work. People have often described my wedding work as landscapes with weddings in them. That's because I am at heart a landscape photographer who tried wedding photography after I was volunteered by my wife to shoot a wedding for a family friend and ended up really liking it! I would just say that some photographers say their work is "different and unique" when truly it isn't. What they don't realize is that saying you're unique when you aren't actually hurts your brand. My photography has also been described as painting like which is true to what I like. The biggest compliment is when someone tells me they go through a gallery of images (like at a competition) and can tell it's one of my images without even looking at the names. I love the fact that people can recognize my imagery for it's look and feel.
9. Is there a certain place you go for inspiration? Please describe.
God, my family, wife and kids. I often tell my wedding clients that the reason I love shooting weddings is because I love my wife so much. When I shoot nature and wildlife I feel a true connection with God and feel honored to show the world what He has created, to people all over the world. When I'm particularly down I get outdoors and find something beautiful that God has created for me and all of us. Within a little while I'm starting to feel better and inspired.
10. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
Preparation. Lack of preparation can kill creativity. That doesn't mean that creativity can't be spontaneous because it can. But as a professional photographer when you have deadlines and other people you are meeting and shooting if you aren't prepared you will be in trouble. My best shoots occur when I leave plenty of time available for the shoot, when I've scouted the location the day before to find the optimal lighting situations, and when I've had great pre-shoot phone calls with the models/clients prior to the shoot to go over expectations. If I do a good job at these things than the creativity just flows. For example when I was shooting wildlife in Africa I would map out at night where I was going to shoot the sunrise in the morning. That way I wasn't running around like crazy in the morning trying to find the right spot while the light was changing and I was missing something. Preparation breeds creativity.