I’m sure a lot of you know what it feels like to plateau with your work. I know that I go through the same thing and it’s incredibly frustrating because as a creative I always want to be getting better. The best mindset to have in dealing with this is something that Jonathan Canlas says. He approaches each and every shoot with the goal that it’s going to be the best work he has ever produced. I can’t imagine a better way to approach a creative field than that and I try to apply that to everything I do as a photographer.
It just isn’t that easy all of the time though is it? Sometimes you hit points in the creative journey where you want to give up or just put whatever you’re doing down for a while in hopes that you will refocus and have a better vision of what you want to create. What in the world do you do then? Obviously giving up isn’t an option but sometimes standing back and getting some perspective is a great option but what if you don’t want to put what you’re doing down?You have to challenge yourself. You have to find the borders of your comfort zone and push beyond them. The thing that’s awesome about pushing yourself past your comfort zone is that in a lot of cases that’s where you will make the best work you’ve ever made.
The following exercise is something that I do to push past my creative boundaries. It’s simple, doesn’t take a lot of time and has also helped improve our time as a family because it forces me to put the camera down and be present with Abbee, Noah and Patience in whatever we are doing. We believe in this so much that our entire About Us Video is based on this exact idea. If you have a family and have trouble with being behind the camera too much this is the perfect exercise because it will force you to put your camera away.I call it the one roll project and it is exactly what it sounds like. I take one roll of film and an old 35mm camera with us during family outings. Once I shoot that one roll of film my time behind the camera is done. The challenge with it is to create something that is worth displaying as a story. It’s easy to pull that off when you have nearly unlimited frames to use but when you have a maximum of 36 photos you have to be very conscious and calculated with the photos you decide to take.
Here’s my challenge to you in those times of artistic frustration. Simplify what you do and find a way to limit yourself while also challenging yourself to create something cohesive and complete. It definitely isn’t easy but it is incredibly rewarding when you do it right. If you don’t shoot film? Challenge yourself with your digital camera. Limit yourself to the exact same number of photos and don’t delete anything. When you get to that limit put the camera away and remember that if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you hoped that your next session will always be your best work.All of the photos in this post are from one roll of film during a day when my son Noah and I walked around downtown Bellingham. They’re all really simple and I wanted to capture him being himself, crazy faces and all. More than that though, I wanted to spend time with him exploring the city we live and work in. By only using one roll of film I wasn’t attached to the back of my camera the entire time. I was spending time asking him questions, watching him be silly and enjoying his company. The fact that I was able to use this time challenge myself artistically was just a bonus.
If you don’t shoot film but want to give it a try feel free to send us an email at email@example.com and mention the film guide. We have a free guide to shooting film that we would love to share with you. Film has had a huge effect on the way we now approach photography and we love to help people get started with it. All photos were taken with a Nikon F3 on Agfa Vista Plus 400 and scanned by PhotoVision.
Life is busy no matter who we talk to. In creative fields there are countless people working their normal 9-5 jobs while they try to build their businesses and it’s hard to find any time for themselves. Even the people who are full time with their businesses run into time being an issue. There are just too many things to do to run a business and there is rarely enough time in the day.
A little over a week ago we had the honor of speaking about our first year being full time to group of around 40 photographers at a photography conference called Photo Lush in Bellingham. During our speech one of the talking points was about outsourcing and how it was really important for our business as we started to get more busy and we were trying to balance our business with my full time job, the Air National Guard and having a family. During our talk we had a lot of ground to cover so we didn’t get to go as deep into our outsourcing process as we would have liked and I figured it would be a great thing to write a blog about.
We already outsource a lot of things that used to be done at home only 50 years ago. As our technology has progressed the education level required to maintain the items we use in our daily lives has hit a point where we are no longer capable of maintaining them. Cars are a great example! How many people still take the time to change their own oil? How many of us are even capable of repairing small problems with our cars? I’m guessing not very many of us. House projects are another big one. Last winter we were having issues with our furnace turning on when the thermostat was triggering it to turn on. We had to call someone out because the thermostat was too complicated for me to fix. Even if I knew how to fix it I probably couldn’t have though because it was something completely separate and I never would have known it was an issue. In all of these situations we are outsourcing a task to someone because we don’t know how to do it, know someone who can do it better or realize our time is more valuable doing other things than spending hours trying to take care of tasks that take a professional very little time.
A huge turning point in our business came in the thick of us working way too many hours and being spread as thin as we could possibly be spread. We hit a point where there was almost no choice but to outsource some of our business tasks. It doesn’t have to get to this point though. If you can take a little bit of time to see where your time is best spent and then find the right people to outsource the things you are either not excited to do or aren’t good at doing in the first place you will free yourself up to do the tasks that you are best at. For us that meant we needed to get rid of a few big things so we could give ourselves the time to do the things that would bring us the most business while also giving ourselves more time with our family.
We didn’t outsource our taxes first but it’s first on the list. Hire an accountant! We tried to do our own taxes for several years and it was like banging our heads against the wall. As a small business owner it is a nightmare to try to navigate tax code and it’s easy to spend way too much time figuring it out. It will also minimize the number of mistakes you will make. The people who do this for a living know exactly how everything needs to be filed. Even more importantly, if you don’t have an accountant doing your taxes you are more than likely throwing money away because they will know the small details in tax code that can save you money. Seriously, hire an accountant! I wish we would have done it the moment we started our business and it will literally pay for itself.
Outsource your editing. I know that there are a lot of people out there that really enjoy editing and if you’re one of them I think you should stick with it. I’m not one of those people. Editing is exhausting and I realized that there were a lot of other things I could be doing that would help us bring in more business.
There is a bit of a rule to this though. Well, it’s my rule but I think it’s a good one. If you’re going to outsource your editing please make sure you’re sending your work to someone who is more skilled than you are. I see a lot of people sending out there editing to some of the big names in editing only to get it back once the editing is done and still have to make changes to every photo. There are a so many companies offering editing services now that it just doesn’t make any sense to me that people are sending their work out, paying for it and then still have to work on it. Find an option that fits the style you are known for.
The other part of this is that you need to feel comfortable communicating with the person you are sending your photos to. If you want a style that’s light and airy but you get back photos that aren’t done this way you need to communicate that. We have been sending our work out to Weditoo for almost three years and I am in constant communication with them. That’s the reason we are able to get our photos back and not need to make any changes to them. We have built a working relationship with them where I can tell them the look I want or how I want my profile to change and they can tell me why I may not be getting it based on how I’m shooting and give me recommendations on how to adjust how I’m doing things. It’s been a great working relationship!
Outsource your graphic design! When we first started we typed our business name, Patience Ivory Photography at the time, into a Word file and went through all of the fonts on our computer until we found a cool one. It wasn’t exactly a well thought out process. Sure it worked for a while but it wasn’t the best fit for what our business was.
We also spent hours and hours for months trying to figure out building a website. It was a huge waste of time and is probably one of the reasons our business growth in the first few years was so slow.
Just like we are passionate about photography, graphic designers are passionate about graphic design. They love figuring out the design of a logo and brand based on what that business stands for. When we finally decided to move our business in a different direction and go with Joe and Patience as a business name that was accurate for what we do we also decided to hire Caava Design to design our logo and build a custom website. The process was awesome! It dug deep into the style of brands that we liked and ultimately resulted in the logo we are using now. Of all of the money we have spent for our business, the money spent on building our brand has had the biggest return. We have to give credit to not only the Caava Design process but also to the fact that they love what they do. Seriously, it’s worth every single penny!
If you aren’t sure where to start with outsourcing, take a little bit to sit down and figure out what tasks you don’t like doing. There are always going to be things that suck away time at a rate that gets out of control quickly. Those are the things you should consider. Taxes, editing, graphic design, culling, etc. We know people who have hired someone to do office work like emailing for an hour or two per day because they know that they are either not very good at that side of the business or because they have to much other work. You might have to dig deep and it might not be an easy decision to let go of a little bit of control but if it means your business can operate more efficiently or that you get more time with your family it’s worth giving it a serious thought.
Thank you so much for reading! We hope you have a great day!
If you want to check out the other posts in this series you can get to them with these links…
This week we are talking about taking risks and it couldn’t be coming at a better time since we just signed a lease for a studio a few weeks ago. I’ll just let you all know up front that this is also a very therapeutic post for me because a decision as big as signing a lease and committing thousands of dollars to something that we have never had as an expense is something that was incredibly difficult for me. I just hope you know that while I hope this helps you as much as possible I also hope it helps me just as much.
First, I do want to say that I’m extremely excited about having a dedicated place of employment now. I mean this completely seriously! The place we moved into is incredible!
One of the biggest challenges for me with our decision to go full time with our photography business was learning to be comfortable with the risks we had to take in in order to make this dream of ours a reality. The earlier posts on Personal Fear and Financial Fear dealt with my fear in going full time but didn’t break our decision down into the step by step positives and negatives of what it would look like when we were making that decision.
I think it’s very, very important to take your heart out of these matters and to make educated, well thought out decisions. I completely understand that it isn’t possible to completely separate yourself emotionally from making life altering decisions but it has really helped me to look at how my big decisions would look from someone else’s, non-attached point of view.
This is what our process of weighing big decisions looks like.
These are the positives of sticking with my job at Pepsi and allowing photography to remain as a side job.
Having a steady income. How many of us make our decisions based on a steady income? There really isn’t anything wrong with this. A steady income is what provides a roof over our heads and food on the table. It’s something that I was really tied to and for good reason. As the sole provider in my household the steady income I was making was what provided all of the basic necessities of life for my young family.
It felt comfortable. Knowing that I was being taken care of and that the company I worked for cared about me and the work I was doing was really important for me. Over time with just about any job it’s easy to become comfortable with where you are with your employment.
I had a good reputation and was being offered opportunities to advance. After working for Pepsi for 8 years I had built a reputation of being a hard worker who was dedicated to doing my job as best as I could. I had also been offered several advancement opportunities during the last few years of working there. Knowing that my bosses trusted me and wanted to see move into higher responsibility roles within the company was a huge positive for me. It meant that I had the ability to give my family a more comfortable life.
Next are the negatives of continuing to do what I was doing by working for Pepsi full time while our business remained as a side job.
It felt comfortable. I realize you just read that being comfortable was a positive but there’s no reason that things can’t be a positive on one hand and a negative on the other. This is the perfect example. Sometimes when you get out of your comfort zone you are able to realize you are capable of doing things you didn’t think were possible.
I knew our photography business had a lot of potential but there was no way I was going to see how far it could go without putting myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to provide based solely on our business. On the outside and through social media I’m sure that things look perfect but to be honest, we have spent hours and hours praying that we would have the courage to continue and the wisdom to learn from our mistakes. We have lost a lot of sleep and had some pretty rough times as a couple. It definitely hasn’t been comfortable but it’s been in this discomfort that we have been able to work through our problems and build our business.
The lack of time with my family while I worked three jobs. I guess this one doesn’t really need a lot of explaining. There were days where I would work from 4 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, go home to change clothes and immediately leave for a session and then leave for my military duty when we finished taking photos. I barely saw my family. Out of all of the negatives in doing what I was doing, this one was at the top of the list.
There was little room for our business to grow. Just like maxing out my working time and losing time with the family, the same thing was happening with our business. It was in a position where we didn’t have any more time available to allow the business to continue to grow. We had maxed out it’s potential and our business was still trying to grow despite our huge time limitations.
I was exhausted. Even when we found time to spend as a family if we had an afternoon free I was so worn out that I didn’t want to do much. As a dad to a 4 and 6 year old this just wasn’t an option. My work schedule had put me in a position that I wasn’t only sacrificing time with my kids by being away but also when I was home with them.
Based on all of these positives and negatives and the huge push from our family we decided the risk was worth it. If we continued down the path we were on something was eventually going to break and while there’s always a chance for things to become really difficult in running our business and relying on it full time it seemed like the risk was worth it. Not only that but the timing was really great.
The next big risk we have taken is the decision to move into an office space that’s separated from our home. A year ago I didn’t even think this was going to be something we would consider but after seeing what running a full time, support our family from home business and the struggles with it that we faced it was time to take the idea of a studio seriously.
So, on to the positives and negatives with the positives being first.
Distraction free workplace. This is the biggest positive to having a place away from our house to work. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t get distracted from their work when they are at home. There are always dishes to do, laundry to do, kids wanting to play, sweeping, vacuuming… the list could go on and on. Our home is one huge distraction for us and it got worse when we decided to give the bedroom we were using as an office to our son Noah since our daughter is getting to the age where she needs her own room. Distraction free is a huge deal to us and an office space was the best option to give us undistracted working time.
More drive to complete projects due to us paying for the space. Here’s another big one. Financial pressure can give you a lot of motivation to complete big projects and we have a lot of big projects to complete. The fact that we have to now book an extra session every month to pay for our space while also taking home the same amount of money is a huge motivator.
Separates us from the market norm. In our first 6 years of business we have spent a lot of time in coffee shops! A LOT OF TIME! The problem with that is that we all spend a lot of time in coffee shops with potential clients and occasionally we run into each other as one of us leaves and one of us arrives to meet with the same potential client.
Time will tell on how this theory works out but we have the feeling that inviting people into a place that is branded for our business and has a unique look that is very specific to us will pay off in a big way. Like I said though, time will tell.
Availability of an indoor shooting space in the PNW. We didn’t get a big office but it definitely has the potential to be used as a shooting space in emergency, rainy day situations. If we don’t have any other options we will be able to do smaller sessions with couples or small families which is going to be amazing!
We can separate our home life from our business life. Our struggles with separating our home and business life have been incredibly hard to deal with. It seems like I would sit down at the computer to check our email, check our Facebook, edit a few images, whatever… When all of our business related stuff was at the house it was always calling at me. There is never an end to the work that can be done and having a way to step away and live in a way where we can work undistracted and enjoy our home life undistracted is a really, really good thing!
And the negatives…
It’s a big added expense. This is a huge one for me! The added expense of paying for an office, paying for the internet at the office and paying for the lights to be on at the office is terrifying. If having this space doesn’t motivate us to take advantage of the positives it’s just making us more poor.
We now have to drive to work. See ya later working in my sweats. Now we get to look the part and dress like responsible business people. I always hear from people how much they love working from home because it’s so comfortable.
We work next to restaurants and coffee shops which makes it easier to spend money. Our new office is one door away from one of the best pizza places in town. We walk by every day with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our hand and have to to smell that amazing pizza. The temptation is a killer but saving money is a much bigger deal to us than eating that amazing pizza. I am definitely concerned that the ease of going somewhere to eat and the quality of restaurants available within walking distance could damage our ability to save.
With this business decision there are a lot of positives but they are only applicable if we take advantage of them. It will be easy to continue doing what we’re doing but the fact that things were so hard working at home should give us the motivation to work even harder now that we can limit distractions and give ourselves the financial motivation to follow through. I hope our process in making these big business decisions will be helpful. Like I said before, it helps me a lot to take my heart out of the matter and make fact based decisions as much as possible.
Thank you so much for reading! We hope you have a great day!
If you want to check out the other posts in this series you can get to them with these links…
We all have moments in our business journey that are extremely discouraging. Things happen that make us question our direction and make us wonder if the grass might be greener somewhere else.
Patience and I had one of these moments last week. I woke up early in the morning on Wednesday to work on a blog post for a recent wedding we shot and our website was gone. When I tired to go to our website all I could get was a dreaded “Error 404” message that our website could not be found and I was getting it on our login page as well. It was gone…
To say this was only a small setback when I first saw this message and when I got off the phone with our hosting company after being told it couldn’t be put back up without doing several things I had no idea how to do would have been a gross miscalculation. I was freaking out and not just a little bit. It was the freaking out and getting a migraine for two days kind of freaking out. We are in our peak booking season right now and we didn’t have a website to show people our work. 90% of our inquiries come straight from our website and we had no website. It was a terrible feeling and I had no idea what to do.
Setbacks happen and sometimes they feel huge but if there is one thing I can say about it after just coming out of what felt like a pretty big one it is that setbacks can be used as great learning opportunities. We went into this website debacle not knowing how to do very much with our website but five days of panic is a lot of time that can be used to learn how to pull yourself out of your bad situation and grow from the setbacks you face. A week ago I didn’t know how to do a lot of things with our site but I can confidently say that if we ever face this again I will know how to fix it and I will be able to fix it a lot faster than I was able to fix it this last time.
No matter what the situation is, you can view it from a chance to learn and grow standpoint and you can come out of it stronger. Did you have a family who was unhappy with their session? You can learn from it and do a better job in the future. Did wedding photos not turn out the way you hoped they would turn out? Break down what went wrong, learn from it and come out stronger on the other end. As business owners we will always face setbacks but if you approach them with an attitude of learning and growing your business will get stronger and stronger. If we can do it, you can do it.
Thank you so much for reading! We will be getting back to our regularly scheduled Monday First Year posts now that our website is back to normal.