A month back I decided to quietly slip away from social media to facilitate a creative reset of sorts. There was no dramatic reason for it as such, but I know myself very well and I was beginning to feel that creatively something was a little off. I was spending more time on social media looking at what other people created, rather than spending the time offline creating for myself. I also noticed that the only time I was picking up my camera was if a product photography job came up. I’d become disconnected from my camera, my craft and my creative curiosity, and as a result I’d lost the spark for both my photography and my business. I’d also just celebrated the anniversary of the first year of my business, and in reflecting on all that I’d learned and achieved, I realised that something was missing. To be clear, I wouldn’t change a single thing I’ve done in my first year of business. I’ve never built a creative business from the ground up – and the reality is that I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. Something I now know to be true, is that when it comes to starting your own business you’re not going to know everything and there is no such time as a perfect time to succeed or fail, but when you fail, fail fast, learn from it and get back up again. Conversely, when you succeed – no matter how big or small the win – celebrate it.
THE FIRST AHA MOMENT
This reflection of my first year of business and realising that something was missing, coupled with the feeling that creatively something was a little off, prompted me to have a creative reset, and I decided that a break from Instagram & Facebook to rediscover my creativity was the perfect place to start. I stopped looking at social media on the Sunday and went to my part-time office job on the Monday feeling excited about the prospect of not endlessly scrolling through social media over my lunch break and I picked up an old Vogue magazine from the waiting room. Flipping through the pages was such a lovely departure from looking at a screen. The vibrant and striking colours on the pages and the articles that accompanied them were a visual feast. The words didn’t need to fit into the word limit outlined by a social media platform, and the fonts were varied in type, size and design. The images were all sorts of shapes and sizes, not just a 1:1 or 4:5 ratio. Photographers, designers, stylists and writers were acknowledged on these glossy magazine pages, and I found myself pouring over every page ever so slowly examining every image looking at composition without feeling the need to move on to the next image hurriedly – I was on my own timeframe, and flicking through the pages felt slow in a good way. This simple act of reading a magazine over lunch sparked my creative curiosity and I just knew I wanted to create something for myself and my business unlike anything I’d done previously. I wanted to learn more about visual patterns, I wanted to learn more about art, I wanted to learn more about my own individual creative style, and I wanted to learn how to apply it to my own photography and styling to make my view of the world unique. This was a creative exploration breadcrumb I hadn’t anticipated on stumbling across from simply reading a magazine over lunch, but when I did, I just knew that this was the start of my unlearning and relearning – and that excited me. If I was going to learn about visual patterns from scratch, I decided to go all in and relearn the craft of photography again. I wanted to become confident with my camera in any scenario, I wanted to reconnect with my creativity, I wanted to redefine my photographic style and be inspired again by the natural world and most importantly be inspired by myself and create on my own terms.
THE CURVE BALL, THE BOTTOM & GETTING BACK TO THE BASICS
By chance, just a few weeks before my social media break was even a thought in my mind, a friend of mine asked me to take photos for her brother’s wedding – cue immediate fear. I am a notorious introvert with those I don’t know well, and so the idea of taking photos of people has always instilled a sense of unease.
With product photography I can plan everything in pre-production, everything is shot inside with studio lights in one corner of my studio area, the products don’t move and there’s very little opportunity for error in such a controlled environment. Photographing people is a whole other beast. There are a whole plethora of reasons why your images may not turn out correctly – outdoor lighting is beyond your control with the chance of over or under exposure and people moving causing blur in your images if you don’t have your manual settings correct, and having a short period of time to get all of the shots knowing you won’t get the chance to retake them, are just a couple of examples.
Even though my fear ran high about photographing a wedding, I made the decision to accept the offer and push myself personally and professionally. I felt proud of myself for stepping outside my product photography square, but realised that I needed some practice beforehand, and so I offered to take photos of my best friend’s daughter’s first birthday party to get a gauge on where I needed to improve before the wedding. I can confirm those photos were the worst photos I have ever taken in my entire life. It had been pouring rain outside and so we were inside and it was dark and I wasn’t feeling particularly confident, but I quickly looked at my screen and the photos looked okay…and I mean barely just okay. I got home, uploaded the images and was so disappointed – every single photo inside was blurry, under-exposed, and compositionally looked like rubbish. I felt incredibly disappointed in myself.
When I first picked up my DSLR in Tasmania all of those years ago I taught myself how to shoot in manual, and somehow I’d lost that skill along the way and got lazy shooting in aperture priority, and here I was five years on making incredibly huge rookie errors. I was incredibly fortunate that my best friend was so understanding about the whole thing.
I continued to beat myself up about the photos for a while, and started panicking about the wedding, and started to question whether I was even a good photographer at all. My self-esteem and self-confidence was low and I just scrolled social media more and more looking at other photographers’ photos comparing myself to them and the slippery slope began to get even more slippery, and this also added to the feeling that something was off creatively. This epic photography fail from my friend’s daughter’s first birthday party would become another unexpected breadcrumb for me to follow. Instead of cancelling my commitment to shoot the wedding, I embraced the failure, and realised doing this type of photography would give me the starting point to learn and grow from. Bruce Lee once said that “learning is a constant process of discovery – a process without end”, and so I went back to the basics and relearned the art of photography…all over again.
THE TALENTED MR. KAY
I went in search of the basics on YouTube and came across a channel created by an incredible Australian photographer – Pat Kay. I’d never come across his work before, and I didn’t even look at his Instagram page (remembering at this point that my social media break was from Instagram and Facebook). He had a video called How To Get Super Sharp Photos Every Time With Any Camera and everything he said and the way he explained it just started to click for me (no pun intended). And with that I watched another one of his videos, and another, and another.
His video Transform Your Photography With These 4 Simple Daily Habits was another breadcrumb moment, and this gave me the focus and direction I needed moving forward to relearn my technical skills.
THE SECOND AHA MOMENT
In terms of my creative curiosity, I wanted to re-explore what I knew of my previous and current personal and photographic style. I went back through some notes I’d taken from a course I’d done created by another brilliant photography teacher – Lisa Michele Burns. I went on a journey down memory lane and reviewed my entire image gallery to look for something that would unlock the origins of my photographic style when I first picked up my DSLR in Tasmania all of those years ago. I went further and looked into my personal style. From there, I delved further and looked at music and art styles that have recurred throughout my adult life as well. I found the key to the creative door I had been looking for..my unique door.
My personal style is and always has been structured, minimal and simple with just a hint of unexpected accents of colour or texture. I enjoy listening to most styles of music, but jazz, classical, dance and electronic and alternative music inspires me, and artists like Florence & The Machine, Alt-J, Norah Jones, Rufus Du Sol and Ludovico Einaudi are often on repeat in my Spotify playlists. Cubism, minimalism, abstract, art deco, impressionism and sculpture are all art styles that inspire and influence my creative style consistently.
MY MAP & COMPASS POINTING ME TOWARD MY NORTH STAR
I’d come across a visual article in the Vogue magazine I wrote about earlier and it was about viewing a still life art painting and re-imagining it and recreating it through the photography medium. I decided this was going to be my point of difference and creative outlet with my product photography portfolio and I instantly felt excited. It would combine all of the things that I love – art, styling, photography, and my own subjective and creative re-imagining of the art image I chose to be inspired by. I still provide the usual product photography offerings of course – it’s my job as a photographer to bring brands and their products to life through the images I capture, but through my own creative point of difference, I also hope to inspire product based brands to re-imagine what their images could look like, and use their products and my creative direction to tell a story that hasn’t been told before. It’s also incredibly important for me to continue to feed my own creative mind and to ensure I’m building a portfolio that is uniquely Lens & Muse…..uniquely me.
The origins of my exploration of photography began in high school, but the desire to visually communicate with purpose was profoundly inspired by the Tasmanian landscape I’d spent (almost) three years exploring. In my reset I felt drawn to reconnect with landscape photography, and have enjoyed getting back into exploring and capturing moments and being inspired by the beauty, shapes and colours of the natural world and infusing my own unique style into each of my images.
FORREST GUMP WAS RIGHT
“My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.
I’m a firm believer in leaning into the ebbs and flows of the range of human emotions we experience – it is what it is to be human after all. However, I also believe – at least for me and my circumstances – that when things are off, or if I feel unmotivated or creatively blocked, that that is my mind’s signal to step back and get some perspective. Sometimes the best course of action is just to take a break and resume when ready, and other times it’s good to reset entirely and reimagine a new path forward. This reset brought to a place of unlearning, relearning and reimagining. I now have my why, and my foundations are set, and as you read this article, I’ve already begun this journey and I’m loving how it’s unfolding.
If you’ve made it this far – bravo! That truly was a long essay…but an essay that I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I loved writing it. If you would like to see more musings then don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest, or come and join me over on Instagram or Facebook for more behind the scenes. If you’d like to see more of my photography portfolio, be sure to check out my Portfolio.
Till next time,