Growing Pains - Mastin Labs Portra | 2016 Headshot Flashback
In the last few years, my work has changed immensely. I believe art is a lifeline and, as I recall these images, I can almost feel that chapter at its core. I started getting paid for photography my Sophomore year of high school. I knew nothing about any of it but I consistently put the work in. As my journey took more turns than others, I am grateful that I know exactly what I want out of my work, my business, and my relationship with my clients.
Social media had basically hit the ground running around the time I graduated high school. Instagram wasn’t super popular yet and still had some awful filters to match that time. As I jumped around and moved to new places on the west coast, I slowly discovered how Instagram was changing the world. All of a sudden, our world wasn’t so big and our limitations were eliminated; you could see across the world with a few swipes of your fingertips. It also showed how saturated each line of work was-- especially photography-- which only continued to grow and grow like a snowball. When I started photography there were maybe 10 well-known photographers in the Valley and I was quickly gaining traction in the photography world myself. When I was 22, I moved back to Portland and the comparison, the unrealistic competition, was a toxic problem that social media brought to the table. At the time, I also was working a full-time job and the emotional energy I had to expend to “keep up” with all my “competitors” was exhausting. Film was also becoming all the rage and started pushing digital photography to the sidelines, which then created another challenge to my business. I finally embraced that I needed to step up my game and rebrand myself. I took on a new business name-- which had previously been JewelCee Photography-- and started using new technologies to create a more professional experience for my clients. And Lord knows those tools helped me from losing my mind trying to remember everything in my head!
In the past I had always edited each of my photos individually and never used presets, because really I just didn’t understand the honesty in it. However, eventually, I jumped on the preset wagon. I chose Mastin Labs Portra Presets which made my images look like film, just like the images below (and hence the throwback). My business was steadily growing, but then I had a wild hair. I changed my editing from the Mastin Labs presets to a dark, grainy style-- one that’s popularity was short-lived. Looking back, I always believe that that style hurt my business. However, it was a growing pain I had to face as an artist and business owner…as I struggled keeping clients and staying true to myself.
It wasn’t until I faced a wedding that was impossible to edit in that dark style, that I found the colors that matched my soul and the vision I had for my art. Each day, season, year, I…struggle. I’m inspired, motivated, and honestly sometimes ready to leave this chapter behind. But my heart always changes and I’m reminded of my love for photography every time I get that dream client. For me, photography isn’t about running around to get the perfect shot, it’s about documenting: Creating a memory that will be cherished for a lifetime and become an heirloom of sorts. I will never be the photographer that spends half my day moving specks out of the background to make the shot perfect, that’s simply not how I approach photography. Do not get me wrong-- I value those photographers and I am inspired by and admire their work! But that is not my soul as an artist, and that is okay. The way I see it, it's my job to capture a shot that not only looks good, but also tells an honest story about the subjects. In that regard, I guess you could say I shoot like a film photographer with a digital camera.
The realization that neither approach to photography is “wrong” or “right” but that they’re simply different is what makes it so beautiful to be a part of a world where social media exists to showcase such a diverse artistic community. Social media itself has grown and changed and created the space for artists to not be competitors but a family-- a place where we can be encouraged by and support one another. Letting go of comparison was life-changing, and it also reminded me that not every prospective client or job is the perfect fit for me nor am I always the perfect fit for them. And that’s okay. Cheers to growing pains, looking back, and seeing how far you have come.