When you love what you do for a living, there is often a fine line between pleasure and career. When I first started taking photos, it was merely on a lark and for my own simple pleasure. In 2011, Connecticut was hit by three blizzards in a month. Being snowbound in my home, I decided to break out my little-used camera and take some photos of the snow covered trees and the icicles which hung from my roof. Never in a million years did I think photography would become part of my business service offerings.
In fact, prior to 2011 a number of people told me I was a horrible photographer – I often cut off my subjects head, I didn’t pay attention to cropping, or background etc. But in that winter of blizzards, something happened. I began to care about what I was shooting, and as such, I made concentrated efforts to capture what I saw with an artistic eye. I worked on post production with an obsession. My art history background had taught me a lot about content and composition and people responded in wonderful ways to my end products. The next thing I knew I was photographing every day and getting my work accepted in a variety of magazines and publications.
But, I seriously fought against turning my new found love into a business. Photography was something I wanted to do for myself. A hobby. An artistic expression. It was, for me, visual storytelling. Over the years, I loved sharing what I saw with a camera lens with friends and fans. I discovered I really liked being paid for my passion as well. But how does one keep the fires burning and the creative juices flowing when a passion becomes a business?
It takes a bit of mindfulness and some decision making. For instance, street photography is a passion of mine. But it really doesn’t sell. Nor do photos of my cats. Photos of flowers, my crystal ball images, event photography – these things sell. Does it mean that I’m going to stop taking photos on the street or photos of my cat? Hell no. Does it mean that I’m only going to photograph what I love? Not that either. But I have discovered what images are likely to sell, which are for public consumption, and which images are for my own love of the art.
There is another aspect of all the divvying up of subject matter for marketability, and that is the photography which could be shown in a gallery or show. A whole different animal this is, and for you it might be your painting or your sculpture. These are the works which are few and far between which are as my art editor says are “show worthy”. For me these are those images which are perhaps a little edgy or something simply captured in a new or unique way. These items are in a category of their own and are targeted to a gallery’s particular tastes and audience. Keep in mind, the gallery is not just providing you an opening or a space to display your ego. The gallery’s business is to sell work. Therefore, the work you produce needs to cater to that audience. It might not necessarily be your favorite subject matter.
No matter what your medium, your method, or your audience … Feed your passion. Be mindful about who you are making for and why. Shake hands with your muse and try something new. If you are a painter, try photography. A photographer, try writing. A sculptor, switch from stone or wood, to found objects. Mix it up. And most importantly, remember to retain the fun and delight from your happy accidents.