In the beginning, when I first discovered photography, my creative soul was at its most happiest point. I loved everything about this new-found passion. All I wanted to do was go out and make shoots happen for myself and that's exactly what I did, non-stop. I shot anyone and everyone who'd let me. People would let me into their homes, give me a time and a space in which to create exactly how I wanted to create, I'd give them their image files, they were happy, and I was happy. It was so blissfully simple. And guess what- a large majority of it was for free.
Fast-forward a few years.
My photography has gained a decent social media following. I've raised my prices substantially more than once. People are coming to Utah from all around the country to attend my FILM WITH SAM workshop. There are those who've coined me "a photographer's photographer." I've gotten to meet a lot of amazing clients, work with well-known brands, and have co-founded a large photography conference.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that, somewhere along the way, a bit of all that may have gone to my head. It feels good to feel wanted and valued and respected.
But can I tell you something? I've never felt more confused, disheartened, and sadly inadequate in terms of my photography than I have over the last few weeks. Deeply unhappy and anxiety-ridden to the point of seriously entertaining the notion of quitting. And I'm NOT a quitter.
And then I watched this Creative Live interview with Seth Godin last night in the midst of a full breaking-point ugly cry.
I didn't even finish watching before I realized my answer- how to reclaim the joy of photography and get back to my WHY.
For the past year or so, I've slowly but surely allowed myself to forget why I even do photography in the first place. Instead, I've become almost completely consumed with the "numbers"- ALL the numbers. How many followers do I have? How many followers does she/he have in comparison? How many likes? How many comments? What's my COB and COG? How much do I want to make each session? How often do I want to work? How many workshop attendees do I have and how many more spots do I still need to fill? How do I increase my following? How do I increase my follower engagement? On and on and on.
And that's not even mentioning the "should's." All sorts of should's. Should's that come from within and should's that come from everyone else: "I should be charging at least $XXX per session." "I should be making $XXX per session." "I should value my work more highly and price myself accordingly." "I should do this and should never do that." Should. Should. Should.
But here's the thing that I finally remembered last night: NONE OF THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS TO ME AT ALL.
NONE OF IT.
I didn't get into photography to make buckets of money. I fell in love with photography because I had just had my first baby and stopped working and creating and knew I had to find something to do to get me out of the house, interacting with other people, and creating some form of art in order to feel like a whole, real, alive human. Money and fame and respect never once entered into that equation. Any and all income I brought and still bring in through my own, personal photography work is extra. Sure, it's nice to have extra cash flow- but it's NOT necessary.
So why have I allowed something that's completely unnecessary to creep in, take control, and dictate everything? It's killing my spirit and I hate it. So guess what? I'm taking it completely out of the equation. We're going ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE BEGINNING- BACK TO MY "WHY."
I'm DONE with attaching some monetary value to my work that has to be met and paid before I even think about picking up a camera. I'm done with the numbers. Done with the should's. And here's what I'm going to do instead:
NO SESSION FEES.
Because I'm a 100% film shooter, all I want is my cost of film to be covered. Past that, I DON'T CARE WHAT I MAKE PER SESSION AND I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU HOW FREEING THAT FEELS.
The only things I care about is being able to get out of the house, connecting with people, trying to give to others, and having a time and space in which to create. That's all. And I'm ready to make that ALL that matters.
Now let's talk for a minute about how this is actually going to operate in the real world.
I only want to shoot 3, maybe 4, sessions a month. That's just enough to fill my creative cup/whole person cup while still giving most my time to my family. So I'm going to take the liberty of being semi-selective in who I give sessions to. I want to give sessions to people who TRULY WANT me, specifically, as a photographer- people who know and VALUE my voice and creativity and vision. What I do isn't for everyone and that's just fine. I don't need everyone to like me. But for those who GET IT, I'm thrilled to give them images (full-resolution files) of their family seen through my camera in exchange for their willingness, enthusiasm, and trust. And THAT'S where the only kind of "exchange" that matters to me will occur.
So yes, simply cover my film costs of $200 and if you want to pay me on top of that, great. If not, great. That's completely up to you and there are NO expectations or pressure from me. Seriously. It doesn't have to feel weird or awkward or like I'm going to judge you or think you're rude or cheap or ANYTHING. I'm stripping this whole thing down to the very CORE of why I do what I do and I promise there are no strings attached.
In an effort to keep things as simple as possible, all I'm asking for those interested in booking a session, is to email me a short description of your family, a semi-recent photo, and just a little about why you want ME to photograph you. That's it.
Is this weird? Yes.
Crazy? I'm done caring.
This is my photography, my passion, and my "why." I'm the only one who gets a say in the rules I make around it and I'm ready to start breaking some "rules" so I can give myself happiness, give service to others, and give unfettered and unburdened life to my art.