A Thing I Learned – Trust Your Instinct

I had some feedback on my blog recently and it went a little something like this:

I love your work (in relation to weddings) but there aren’t enough weddings posted and there’s a lot of other stuff that detracts from your wedding photography business.

They have a point but I’ll be re-writing the ‘about me’ section on this blog as a result of this feedback, to make it clear that this little blog isn’t just about my business. It’s also a little bit personal.

I like to off-load the contents of my brain from time to time, as well as documenting my life through photography and documenting my journey as a photographer through the odd personal post.

With that in mind I’m going to start writing a bit more often, rather than just posting my work.

Today I’d like to talk about working when your creativity isn’t flowing.

I did a photoshoot last week. It went ok. I got some good images but it didn’t put a fire in my belly like some other shoots I’ve done.

I guess not every job will excite me in the same way and that’s something I’ll need to accept but the specific circumstances of this shoot meant that I couldn’t be true to my own creative style and that’s what left me feeling a bit dejected by the outcome.

It was an engagement shoot and we had planned to shoot in the couple’s large garden but then it rained. We did manage to get a few good outside shots but then we had to move the whole thing indoors and whilst their house was lovely, it wasn’t the right sort of back drop for the way I work.

Studio photography is about as far away from what I’m about as it’s possible to be. I like to get my subjects to interact with their environment and use a variety of backdrops and settings when I’m shooting. Although I do plan each shoot, when I get going I like to work in a spontaneous way and it just wasn’t possible to do that in this situation.

In the setting of their house the best place to shoot was against a backdrop of a huge window with a voile curtain which resulted in back lit shots that felt quite sterile and studio-like.

As a result, I’ve ended up with a set of images that I think my couple will be happy with but I feel disappointed with myself because I wasn’t true to myself creatively.

My style: people behaving naturally and interacting with a real environment. Like this old man in a pub reading his Sunday papers over a pint.

I’ve read a lot of interviews with various established photographers where they’ve said one of the biggest lessons they’ve learned in relation to their businesses is that you have to say no when you get that gut feeling that tells you a job isn’t necessarily going to be right for you.

When you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to say yes to everything for the money and experience. It’s also tempting to proceed with a shoot that’s planned because you don’t want to let people down.

In hindsight, I think that if you know something isn’t quite going to work for you it’s always better to postpone until the circumstances mean you can give your clients something they’ll be happy with that’s also true to your style and aesthetic.

In summary, what I learned this week is to listen to my instinct and go with my gut, rather than just making the best of a not-quite-right situation. If I take jobs that excite me and allow me to work in the way that I know I work best, that passion will come through in the pictures that I take.


4 thoughts on “A Thing I Learned – Trust Your Instinct

  1. I enjoy all your posts, so am glad you re going to write more. With regards to ‘bread and butter work’ that is less inspiring at the outset, I think that it’s important to challenge yourself, but not to the extent that you start to lose the love for it. Taking risks is the way forward! 🙂 x

  2. Trusting your instincts is something that we all have to learn to do as we grow older too – not just in work but in your personal life … like when someone asks you to do something but you don’t agree with it, or it will eat into time that you’d set aside to do something else. I’m really bad at saying no and its something that I’m still working on. Re the couple’s engagement shoot that you weren’t happy with – if your instincts are telling you that its not right, then maybe you could explain to them that there are some perfectly good shots but you didn’t capture the emotion that you wanted to and if they would like you to do another (possibly shorter) shoot then you could do that on a nice day when you can get outside? If that was my photographer I’d be seriously impressed and touched that they wanted to work so hard to get the perfect shots for me, it would make me feel very positive about the wedding shots and I’d probably recommend them to everyone I know.

    • I think that’s a great idea, Shirley. As I said in the post, I think they’ll probably be happy with the shots but I’m not happy with them so I will offer to do a mini-re-shoot on that basis, just so that I can get be satisfied with my own work. Thanks for taking the time to comment. x

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