Last month I taught two workshops, Creativity and Travel Photography, for the Santa Fe Workshops. I love teaching (and working as a Mentor also), although I don’t have time to teach more than two or three a year. I had two remarkable groups and they inspired me as much as, I hope, I inspired them. You can see their final shows here and here (week 2).
At the end of the first week one of the members of the class handed me a piece of paper with two questions and asked if I would answer them. They were brilliant, although I remember fumbling through the answers. However yesterday, just hours before I was leaving for a flight to Sri Lanka, I found the paper on my desk. Since the luggage was loaded in my car; I decided to think about my answers a bit more coherently. I got most of the way through them, then it was off to the airport. Now I’m on the 15 hour flight from LA to Bangkok, (then to Colombo) and am finishing the post.
What are 10 Things you are glad that you knew when you decided to become a professional travel photographer? So, in no particular order, here they are:
- Because of my experience as a river guide, rock climber and Outward Bound instructor I learned the difference between perceived risk and actual risk. A very valuable distinction to have when one is traveling in foreign countries.
- Also because of my previous experience as a guide and instructor, I knew not to projection my thoughts, feelings, or interpretations on anyone else. I learned that there is no way to really know what someone is thinking, unless you ask or give them space to answer, verbally or non-verbally. Presume nothing; expect everything.
- I knew that I had some great traits for a traveler: I can handle alcohol; I can sleep anywhere; I have an “iron stomach”; I have a bad sense of smell; and I remain very calm in times of stress or uncertainty. All very useful for the solo traveler
- It was very clear that I was “born to roam”. I didn’t care about getting married and having a family; I just wanted to travel. And, I was passionate about photography.
- I knew that there is no such thing as luck. Luck is everywhere; it is just a matter of taking advantage of it.
- I am glad that I had brilliant teachers who taught me to think creativity and write coherently. I am also glad I learned how to type.
- I am glad I began photographing with black and white film and taught myself the fundamentals of working in a darkroom.
- I am also glad I used fixed focal length lenses and was forced to move to fill a frame.
- Although I was not a painter, I admired and studied artists from historic to contemporary. I understood the power of color, and why the color wheel was important in art.
- I knew that it was never going to be an easy field in which to make a living. And, that it was best to keep my overhead very low.
What are 10 Things you wish you had known when you decided to become a professional travel photographer? Again, in no particular order, but notice that most have to do with business:
- That photography is 80% about business, not photography. I really should have hung out with MBA students and not river guides and rock climbers (for potential boyfriends).
- Just about everything that had to do with photography since I am self-taught—which means that the teacher knew very little.
- It took me awhile to figure out that it was useless to try and photograph what I saw, since slide film can only render about four stops of contrast range, while my eyes could see about 16 stops. Really, I was just using reality to express my perception of it.
- That there is a difference between marketing and business and you have to be great at both.
- That many clients do not understand that photographers need to make a decent living also (especially non-profit organizations) and are always asking for free images. And, that it was never a good idea to give into these requests without some kind of compensation.
- That one should buy a house young to build up credit and equity. Invest in yourself but also in other ways.
- Those credit cards are essential, but evil.
- That I should never have carried such heavy cameras bags or pack packs.
- That computers would eventually rule my life (well, maybe it good that I didn’t know that actually)
- That no matter how recognized I would become in photography, the phone would never ring on its own. I would have to hustle and reinvent myself all the time.
And now you ask…
What would I like to know now? How to clone myself since I have to keep hustling!