This is a guest post from photographer Trudy Hamilton
Women photographers bring unique perspective and experience to the art of photography. Though some of the most popular historical figures of photography are male, women were still there creating, exploring and sharing the stories of themselves and others. It’s truly inspiring to me whenever a woman, who is truly passionate about the craft and disciplined enough to learn what she needs to learn joins the virtual photography community, ready to share her insights and talent with the world.
Being new to photography in any capacity can be a little intimidating, especially in the age of social media where everything is seen, commented on and judged. However, women should be encouraged to keep creating. Some of the tips below have helped me and other women photographers I have spoken to over the years.
1) Believe In Your Work – Certainly this also applies to male photographers. However, from my time in the photography world, I can say with certainty that many women appear to have much more self-esteem trouble than men when it comes to their work. We do create within a male-dominated industry, but only by statistics. Men do not inherently have more talent at this craft. And both men and women can be equally passionate and dedicated to the hard work needed to become a great photographer. Believe in the work you create as it is a representation of you. The more you believe in yourself, the more you can believe in your work.
2) It’s Not About Competition – Learn from others but compete with yourself. If you become constantly worried about what another person is creating, the stress can dampen your own style and most importantly your vision that you should be developing. Without vision you cannot create with a true sense of artistic purpose. Look at the work of others to be inspired, not to replicate it. Believe me, you’ll have a greater peace of mind and truly enjoy the time you self-explore to create what truly makes you happy and work that you can be proud of.
3) Accept That It’s Difficult – “Art is the product of emotional labor. If it’s easy and risk free, it’s unlikely that it’s art.” ~ Seth Godin. It’s a lifelong path that is all about the journey not the destination. It’s a hard craft to “master” and I don’t think that should be the true goal. It’s not about dominating the craft, it’s about learning the craft and using it as an expressive emotional medium. Don’t get upset about making mistakes and doing something “wrong.” Learn from the mistakes and seek to be better than yesterday.
4) Get Honest Feedback – Though the opinions of friends and family are relevant, sometimes they are skewed towards extreme love for your work or extreme hate for your work depending on your relationship with them. You need less hyperbole and more constructive criticism regarding you work. There are ways to receive constructive criticism on your work and it truly matters for your artistic development.
5) Look For Support – You need an emotionally supportive team, whether it’s friends, family and/or other photographers. You need people who don’t think that because photography doesn’t occur in a cubicle it’s stupid or that art is stupid, in general. Unfortunately, some people have those views. Thus, you need people who value what you bring to this craft and are your emotional cheerleaders that will implore you to be better everyday.
6) You Matter – You have to take care of yourself. Setting reasonable deadlines are important. I have a few women photographers friends who allow people to contact them anytime for any work and will edit anything on demand and lose sleep. Of course there are times where you have deadlines and sleep and health may get thrown out of the window. However, this cannot be every single day. It just can’t. I watched a dear photography comrade do this to herself, editing for most of the day everyday and continued that ritual for months on end. She ended up ill. If you are sick or worse, end up in the hospital, it becomes even more difficult to create. Personally, I am trying to take my own advice in this area.
7) It’s Ok To Be A Hobbyist – I decided that photography wouldn’t only be my passion, it would be my profession as well. Thus, every single thought, idea and action I take is consistently on the path to learn more about business and strengthen that area so that this will be what I do, forever. It’s what I want for my life–to be a full time photographer and to have reasonable success within the next several years. However, you don’t have to want that. You are not less of a photographer because you are an enthusiastic amateur or passionate hobbyist. If you have a full-time job doing something else, especially one that you love, that does not change the way you create or how much you love photography. I know many people who work in other areas of the arts, education and even business who love their jobs and are true linchpins. “You can be an artist who works with numbers, business models and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication not substances.” “Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter, the intent does.” “Art cannot merely be commerce. It must also be a gift.” All of these wise statements said by Seth Godin applies. Unfortunately, there are people in the photography industry that think that the tax forms they file as a full timer determines their true passion and one greater than yours. Many people love photography but decide to work in other industries and pursue photography from the point of passion, not passion and profession. It’s their choice to do so and your choice to do so as well. You love photography. And that is all that matters.
Be encouraged. Be confident. Go shoot!
Trudy Hamilton is a passionate portrait and lifestyle photographer and blogger, now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She enjoys telling stories of beauty and personality, conveyed through light. She’s also very enthusiastic about cultural photojournalism and food photography. You can reach her on Facebook and Twitter.