Why Do You Do It?

June 3, 2014


Ethan Sees

Photography, at its heart, is a service industry. We have an incredible opportunity in our role as photographers to serve folks in a unique way, that few others ever get the opportunity to do. However, when it's the wee hours in the morning, and we're sitting in front of the screen, blurry eyed and tired, it's hard to remember that. At 1:30 in the morning, when the rest of the house is in peaceful slumber, it's easy to forget “why we do what we do” and the significant, vital, precious role we have been given to bless others with our gifts and talents. When we forget why it is we do this thing called photography, we risk becoming weary, bitter, or burned out.

It is crucial that we keep our focus on “why we do what we do,” and yet so often in this industry, we waste time, talent, and energy on things that are opinion and unimportant in the scheme of life, causing us to lose focus. When we do focus on the wrong things in life and business, it skews our vision and blurs our reasoning, just as focusing on the wrong thing, in camera, causes skewed and blurry pictures.

So what are some of the things that weigh us down and redirect our focus, and distract us from why we are doing what we do? Here are just a few I can think of but there are many more. You are probably thinking of some right now.

Is the Shoot and Share model better than the Shoot and Sell model?

Is one photographer ruining the industry, or perhaps is one behind the times?

Who stole whose ideas- and if so, who did it first?

How can I be a rock star, and what am I willing to do to become one?

How many monthly sessions do I need in order to feel validated by my peers?

How do I give the appearance of having “arrived” in this industry?

The right look, the right brand. Being edgy, popular.

What is the best software, the best equipment, the best workflow, and how are you going to make it big without that stuff?

Presets versus no presets in Lightroom. Smart or cheating?

Pricing: what's too high, what's reasonable, and what does so-and-so charge?

While all of those are important, they are certainly not paramount. They are not THE most important thing. None of the things I listed are reasons “we do what we do,” so why do we spend so much time focused on those things? Why do we give them so much of our time and energy?

I know, as artists, we are saturated in a world of comparison and measurement, but if we could just lay that aside and focus instead on “why we do what we do,” it wouldn't matter how we measured up and we'd stop comparing ourselves to others. We wouldn't spend our days asserting our opinions and striving to convince others we are the standard by which they should measure themselves. If we could lay aside the stuff that doesn't matter, we could maintain focus on “why we do what we do,” and be free to do it… and to do it well.

[pullquote]When we are obsessed with competition and who is doing it the “right” way or the “wrong” way, we use up all of our time and creative energy defending our positions. [/pullquote] How much better it would be to use all of our creative energy and time on doing that thing we've been called to do, serving others by creating lasting memories for people. We can make a difference in someone's life when we let go of all of the things that distract us and wear us out. When we quit debating and fighting with one another, and focus most on serving our clients, it can be life changing for them, and for us.

The amount of contribution we make in another's life is not measured by comparison with others. The pictures you take may not win any contests or gain you recognition in the industry, but the images you take mean more to your clients than almost any other earthly possession! Think about what your images mean to your clients, even if they are never recognized by the industry. Let's focus on that!

Photographs are among people's most treasured possessions. It's the first thing they turn to when they've lost a loved one. Trust me, I know, as a mother who tragically lost her grown son. It's what they grab in a fire or flood above almost all other possessions. The impulse to save our recorded memories proves what a powerful force the role of a photographer plays in our life history.

It is the photographer that captures our most precious moments, memories, faces, and emotions we never want to forget. We get to participate in telling the narrative of another's life.

Photography is a language. Our pictures express, joy and sorrow, love and tenderness, wonder and sympathy. Every human emotion can be seen in the images we take. Our images elicit feelings in our clients that they are unable to express with words. Life happens in moving pictures, and it happens fast. Photography lets us stop the motion and make it still, just for a moment, and capture images that speak directly to the heart in a way words never could. Let's focus on that!

Time changes things and our minds forget how things were yesterday. Nothing stays the same. Sometimes life gets hard, and it can temporarily wash away the color of our lives. While waiting in the grey, waiting for the color to return, we can remember yesterday's colors as we go through our photos. The memories they conjure help lead us back to color; give us hope of future color. Let's focus on that!

Photographs take us back and move us forward. That is “why we do what we do.” Let's focus on these things, because they are the things that matter.

What's your why?

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