Monday, 8 August 2016

Do what you love to do. And then do it some more.

46th Thought

I'm a photographer in my spare time. I love it. It's my passion. I took it up around ten years ago having initially discovered the love as a child, but because back then you needed film, a dark room and skills that were costly to obtain, and we had no money it wasn't something I could pursue. So, photography was put on hold.

With the onset of digital photography, the rediscovering of that love was wonderful. I bought a second hand Canon DSLR and took photos of everything. Absolutely everything.

Taking photographs sounds like it's a bit of a simple, no thought behind it, quick thing. Point and shoot. And that's it. But it isn't. There is a whole process. And for each photographer there will be different aspects that light each of our fires. For me it's the 8 hour walks, the hunt for the things that catch your personal eye. The waiting for the right light, the honing in and out and roundabout to ensure you get the best angles. The composition.

And then when at home, there is the analysis of each shot you took (often in the hundreds) to eliminate the ones that didn't come out as you would have liked, the gazing at each one to try to reconnect to what it was that you connected to in the first place when taking the shot to see if what you shot does indeed maintain that initial connection.

And Photoshop. Ah Photoshop! I do love to post edit. I can be as creative and artistic as I like with Photoshop....

Then, I discovered Microstock sites such as Fotolia, Shutterstock, iStock, Getty Images etc. I could actually make some money at doing what I love to do! Wow! How cool is that!

And so I started to upload my shots to these sites and there was definitely an excitement to be had when a few of them were accepted! I kept uploading more and a few more were accepted. My portfolios on each site slowly grew. My acceptance rate was low, between 20 and 30% of all shots I uploaded were accepted. It didn't matter - I loved photography, the passion kept me at it anyway.

Eventually I found myself going out with my camera and being much more selective about what I was shooting. Now, my first thoughts when out and about and seeing things with my internal camera eye was 'will this be accepted and sold on the microstock sites?' I shot things that I could isolate and show with a pure white background, I cooked food and arranged it on plates in ways that would be appealing to foodie's eyes, I took photos of things I normally wouldn't have such as bank facades, people posing in deliberate stances, consumer and corporate appealing shots.

And quite quickly I lost the love and the passion. They left me because I was no longer connecting to them. They were unable to join me on my walks or when I was being creative for the love of being creative. Money and profit, commercialism and consumerism had entered the equation and overlayed what had driven me to keep at it.

The whole process that had been the very thing that energised me to walk for miles and miles, that had me leaping out of bed at odd hours of the morning to catch specific light, that moved me to seek out the things that caught the inner soul of myself became a chore, became tedious, became empty. I eventually stopped taking photos altogether.

A couple of years went by and my camera and lenses gathered dust, my flickr account stagnated and I tried other creative outlets with some success, but it just wasn't the same. I don't remember what caused me to pick up my camera again, but a couple of years ago I did just that. I went out and simply enjoyed the day itself. I walked and walked. I took photos of things that I liked. I deliberately ignored any thoughts whispering 'Take a photo of that - that would be sellable. Look there, that  would be accepted on all the microstock sites'. No. I shot ONLY what I connected to with my body, my mind and my soul. And the love and the passion were right there with me. They had never gone away, they just had no chance of being felt when my criteria for taking a shot didn't include them. When money, profit and commercialism become the first principle of why you do something, then love and passion can't have a look in.

So, I no longer narrow my creativity and potential by constraining it within the limits of what is required by those who would use my shots to sell things, to attract people to buy from them, to illustrate a product or a service that they are looking to flog. Now I go out for my long walks with my camera simply because I love doing that. I spend time being with me, my thoughts, my inner self, my soul and spirit. It's a moving meditation that allows me to go right inside myself whilst I see and take note of all that is outside of myself.

I still upload my photos to microstock sites anyway. However, now, I don't care if they get accepted or not. Bonus is, my acceptance rate is more like 60% to 70% rather than the 20% to 30% it was when I was trying so hard.

I learned a massive lesson. When you love and have a passion for something, when enthusiasm causes you to be and do in a urged and driven way, if you then take what you love and reduce it to something lesser, reduce it to 'market value' then the love very soon withers and goes into hiding. Do whatever you do because you love it. And then do it some more.

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