My personal work allows me to experiment with new techniques and styles, to explore my own interests and passions, and to push the boundaries of my craft. Without the opportunity to shoot personal work, I would find it difficult to stay motivated and engaged in my profession as a paid commercial photographer. Why?
Well quite often my work has strict constraints and repetitive processes imposed by clients, and the range of commercial projects that I undertake. While my job is rewarding and challenging, it can also be limiting and uninspiring at times. This is where my personal work comes in. Aside from it helping me develop new skills and ideas which are transferable, shooting for myself fuels my own passion for photography. The ability to photograph what ever I want and build meaningful bodies of work balances out the constant call to create imagery for profit.
Commercial work at the end of the day is to pay my bills so that I can live a life on my own terms. Having the ability to make work away from the overheads engages my creative side. It activates my ability to DO WHAT EVER I WANT. In the car driving to the studio today, I was thinking that without my own work I would most likely quit the profession as it can feel very over whelming at times, especially when some months are tight and you are selling your soul to make ends meet.
When I feel this way I focus on the basics. I work to pay my monthly costs (that are minimal on purpose) and then focus on personal work to chill out and have fun. For some photographers, personal work is not just a complement to their commercial work – it’s a prerequisite. For me it’s more of a cathartic process to express myself and fall in love with photography over and over again. For the past two weeks for example I’ve been involved with a large commercial job creating imagery for a local golf club to use in their annual publication. I’ve had early starts and late finishes. Awful weather. Fabulous weather. Blazing hot sun. Freezing cold winds. Management who don’t care much. Unwilling subjects. Plus a steep learning curve and lots of time invested in learning about the poetry of golf itself…. like hours and hours.
Ultimately, my personal work is essential for me to grow and evolve as a photographer and artist. Yes it took close to a decade to get to this point and two distinct bodies of wrk and processes, but I can help you fast track! Whether you’re a commercial photographer or a fine art photographer, shooting for yourself can help you stay motivated and engaged, and keep your work fresh and exciting. Without it, you may find that your passion for photography begins to wane, and that you are no longer able to produce the kind of work that truly speaks to you for either genre. Therefore I highly suggest you start to put some time aside and look at the separation of your paid and personal work. Please don’t expect results over night, and keep in mind that it is all about effort and consistency. If anything, exploring personal narratives with a camera will be a fascinating process and learning experience. What do you like to photograph for YOU? What in life do YOU love to spend time doing? Start there.
Read more about my mentoring and tuition here.