Last Sunday, I came in from being gone all day and felt like throwing in the towel. I felt like giving up. My business is slow, wedding clients had canceled at the last minute, and the overwhelming feeling of failure was surrounding me. I do brilliant work, and I work very hard to make sure my clients are extremely happy with the results. Thus far, I've only had happy customers. I have never had a dissatisfied client.
Even though I know my work is good, I felt like failure was surrounding me. You can be the best photographer in the world, but if people don't know about you, you'll never be successful. Even though I am just a sole proprietor and I don't have any employees, it is still tough running a business. You have to be part number cruncher, part lawyer, part marketer, and part mediator. Photography skills are unfortunately a small part of the photography business.
We all scroll through our facebook, twitter, and instagram feeds and enjoy other peoples work. It is easy to forget that those photographers have to eat, they have to pay for camera gear, lighting, and the like. I really do appreciate feedback on social media, but like so many other photographers, I'm in the red this year and “likes” don't pay the bills. I'm not a millionaire or anything remotely close. I'm just a guy that loves photography and struggles to make a bare living at it. It is not an easy gig.
How is it not an easy gig? There's not that much labor involved, right? For every hour I spend shooting, I spend three to four hours editing and organizing. Then there is the camera gear. That can't cost more than a couple hundred dollars, right? I wish that was the case! I have invested tens of thousands of dollars on cameras, lenses, strobes, light stands, modifiers, and backgrounds. I use a Sony A7ii for most of my work. The camera body alone without any lenses is $1,599.99. Just one lens, the Sony 70-200mm f/4, cost me $1,499.99. In order to provide the client with the best possible product, I believe a photographer needs to invest in the best gear he or she can afford.
As I wrote, last Sunday I almost gave up on the business. I almost closed down. I wanted to give up. I went to sleep that night feeling terrible. I am not a person that is easily defeated, but I felt as though I was fighting a losing battle.
That night, I had a weird dream. I was driving through a desert at night and came across an old pickup with the hood up at the side of the gravel road . There was an elderly Native American man leaning over the bed of the truck. I asked if he needed any help. As I approached he smiled and pointed at the barely visible flat tire.
As I loosened the lug nuts and proceeded to remove the flat tire, he started asking me questions about life, love, and whatnot. Somehow we got on the subject of giving up on things and people. He looked at me with his weary eyes glinting in the moonlight with a serous countenance. “What about your family, friends, and associates?” He asked.
“What about them?” I perplexingly inquired.
“If you give up, will not they give up?”
“I doubt that”, I quipped.
“You are far more important to those around you than you realize, Lightfoot. If you had not stopped and helped me, I might have given up and died out here in the desert", he replied while staring down at me with a smile.
It was then I realized who I was talking to and woke up Monday morning refreshed and ready to conquer the world. You may think that this was just a silly dream and a figment of my imagination. That may well be true, but it does serve as a metaphor to never give up. We all need each other. I have never let illness, loss, or anything else stop me. I'm not going to give up. I will continue working hard to be the best damn photographer and exceed my own high goals.
Society has many walls we have to climb. The things we do in bad times define us during the good times. Make the most of every day and never ever give up. Being a photographer in today’s digital world is not as easy as it once was, but that doesn't mean you should give up. As long as you are willing to work for what you believe in, you will get to where you want to go. Keep fighting.
Lake Lure SunsetThis was taken at dusk in Lake Lure, North Carolina.