Back to my roots

“It’s not working,” I thought to myself right about the end of last year after a busy year of photography. I had shot more weddings and events than all the previous years combined. I had gone from a hand full of photographs to thousands of pictures that are consuming every available Gigabyte I could get my hands on. You could imagine myself as an old man with a very cluttered office space filled with all kind of obsolete hard drives. I had come far from where I had began, but I was no where I needed to be; I was veering off course. Don’t get me wrong, photography is a big part of my life, but I had become overwhelmed and unhappy with my progress.

What had started as an hobby had grown very quickly in to a  demanding profession, and I was unprepared. Between my day time job working at United Airlines and editing hundreds of pictures late in to the night, I had little time for anything else.  Gone were the days when I could update my blog, watch Game of Thrones endlessly, play video games, listen to music and sleep in all day.  I felt as though I was back in my college days where ample sleep and having some resemblance of a life had little relevance while working tirelessly towards deadlines meant the difference between a passing grade or failure. I had become sensitive to the photography business, and I had stopped paying attention everything else. Once a client called (which happened quite often last year), I was always eager and excited to answer it and agree to all terms regardless of the budget of my clients. What I didn’t know was that I was digging myself a well without a ladder, and my enthusiasm and appreciation for photography began to wane. I was not only circumventing myself by taking on so much work, but I was a disservice to my clients by over extending myself. At times, I had gone two days without sleeping while I worked from midnight to sunrise. I was so tired at times, it felt as though there was sand in my eyes.

What the hell was I doing? This was supposed to be fun. I was left with two options. I either had to rekindle my enthusiasm for photography or give up professional photography entirely. And if I wasn’t going to give up, I had to revisit the reasons I enjoyed photography in the first place. Fortunately, the reasons were partly due to curiosity. The very first camera I owned was an old manual Pentax SLR film camera which I had bought in San Francisco nearly a decade and a half ago. It was a summer afternoon in San Francisco, and I was out to buy a used camera. I had taken a stroll into the city and found my way into one of the camera shops lining up the main entrance of Chinatown. No sooner did I enter the store,  two very keen Arab men greeted me. They tried their best to persuade me to purchase their most expensive digital cameras, but I had my eyes fixated on the cheap old Pentax camera. It was as simple and as bareboned as any manual film camera could get.  There was no auto focus and no light metering. You even had to manually wind back the film using a tiny lever above the camera. Regardless, it felt right at home in my hands and the price was below my budget. No sooner had I bought the camera, I began taking pictures. The beauty of shooting on film unlike the instant gratification you get today from Digital cameras is the low expectation and the element of surprise. You are never really sure about the results of negative film until you make prints, and there were times when I was blown away by the quality of my work. This element of surprise fostered my curiosity and sent me on a journey to explore my talents and seek more gratification from photography.

My solution to my problem was simple. In order to rekindle my love for photography. I had to raise the bar financially, and I had to avoid my rudimentary  approach to shooting weddings and events. . What gives if the client likes the pictures, but I know I haven’t lived up to my own expectations? I took a hard look at my clients and sought out a business plan. I went about changing the price structure and tailoring the price to suit my clients needs without jeopardizing my commitment and enthusiasm to my clients and the job. Moreover, I now require areas of flexibility  during the event which allows room for greater creativity without the added pressure of time constraints or limitations. No longer will I need to struggle between my day job and editing photos at night. However, these changes are new, and I have no idea how far these changes will take me, but at the very least,  I feel more enthusiastic and look forward to fostering my curiosity and enjoying more gratification with every work.