Being a minimalist photographer in a maximalist industry

In the past six months I’ve thought about how excess things, experiences and relationships affect us – in our personal lives. I’ve used minimalism as a tool to make our home a relaxing, inviting space.

But through that process I became aware of the fact that the industry I work in is quite maximalist. No wonder I feel challenged when I try to focus only on the things that bring value to my work.

Applying minimalism to our photography work does not mean that we have to function on bare bones with as little gear as possible, never travel to conferences, or purchase classes – it’s more about being able to differentiate the essential tools from excess things.

Why do we feel the need to acquire more?

We want to keep up with everyone else. We might see a slew of photographers in groups post about the newest camera body, and think we need that new shiny thing to keep up with everyone else in the industry.

We might have a belief that we need external things to make us better – shiny object syndrome. We often think that we’re missing just that one thing in order to take our photography to the next level. Just that one lens, just that one course, just that one software.

Fear of missing out. We worry that there is something out there that we are missing out on.

We are gatherers. If we have some empty space or a clear surface, we feel the pull to fill it up because we have the space.

There are a few different areas where it is easy to get sucked into the maximalist state of mind:

Equipment and software

The newest camera body, the sharpest lens, the shiniest laptop… The more things you collect, the more things you will notice are “missing”.

The consuming never stops, unless we get intentional about it.

How can you be a minimalist about your photography equipment?

  1. Think about which items you really need for your photography. If you are a birth photographer, you won’t need a giant zoom lens. If you are a portrait photographer, what are the best two lenses for your purposes? If you only shoot outdoor sessions with plenty of natural light, do you really need that new low-light-capable camera body?
  2. Steer clear of resources that include advertisement for photography equipment.
  3. Think about what you can create with the equipment you have right now – push yourself to learn some new techniques with your current gear.
  4. If you really do need a piece of equipment to be able to do something new and it brings value to your work, bring it on.

When you are clear about what you really need, you are less tempted to keep growing your collection – and you’ll be more satisfied with the gear you have or acquire.

Education

With the ever-growing mountain of photography resources, online classes, workshops, courses, books, Ebooks, webinars, podcasts, conferences, and blogs, it is easy to spend a lot of time (and money) educating yourself instead of actually implementing what you’ve learned so far.

I had a chunk of downloadables from different webinars or opt-ins in a folder labeled “unread” for the longest time – I couldn’t even remember what was in there. I also kept a lot of material that doesn’t even relate to what I’ve been doing the past few years – but that I held onto “just in case” for that “someday”.

Not only do all these things take up space or time, but education that doesn’t relate to our situation simply clutters up our mind with the quiet whisper of “You still haven’t gotten to this…”

The truth is, we will never be done learning. But we have to pace ourselves.

How can you be a minimalist about your photography (and photography business) education?

  1. Only participate in/listen to/buy education that relates to things you want to be learning and implementing right now.
  2. Learn from people you truly admire.

When you get clear on which education brings you value, you will free up your cluttered mind and money for other things.

Social media, marketing and strategies

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the phrases like “Well you SHOULD be on Periscope” or “You SHOULD go to networking events” or “You SHOULD do IPS”.

We are bombarded with the noise of all these things we should be doing to make our photography or business a success.

What nobody seems to tell you is, if you’re doing all these shoulds – but they don’t align with your vision, values, or personality – you’re doing yourself more harm than good.

How can you be a minimalist about your strategies?

  1. Figure out how you like to show up in the world. Maybe you’re connecting with people really well through Instagram, or maybe you love networking with people at local events.
  2. Figure out what works best for you and your ideal clients, whether it’s around marketing or business strategies.
  3. Don’t be a member of all the photography groups “just because” – make sure that you are being intentional about which groups you join. You can also turn off notifications and news feed visibility for individual groups, if you want to stay in them but don’t want to be bombarded by posts every day.

When you do what suits you best, you’ll show up in a genuine way.

Clients and photography

When money is tight, it is hard to not accept any kind of session that comes your way – I get it. But if we aren’t picky about the type of clients we work for/what type of photography we do, we end up getting more and more work that might not be consistent with what it is we want to put out there. This easily turns into resentment towards the work we do.

How can you be a minimalist about your clients and photography?

  1. Only show the kind of work that you want to shoot on your website and social media.
  2. Work with clients that appreciate the work you do, and who don’t dictate what the pictures should be like.
  3. Charge the kind of pricing that takes price shoppers out of the equation – the people that hire you will truly value your art.
  4. Only offer a few key products that you love. If a client has a very custom request, you can always figure that out case by case.

It is hard to say “no” – but! Once you feel really good about the work that you do and clear out the work you want no part in, you will feel so much more inspired to keep going. 

Time management

We often spread ourselves too thin, especially if we own a photography business.

How you can use minimalism to help with time management:

1. Only work on a specific type of tasks each day.

For example, Monday and Wednesday might be culling and post-processing days. Tuesday might be blogging and social media scheduling day – and so on. Staying with one type of task for a longer period of time declutters your brain and frees it up to focus better.

2. Don’t start up multiple projects during the same season

If you have multiple projects going on, you make little progress on each of them. If you walk a mile in one direction, you get towards your goal faster than if you take a few steps in multiple directions.

If you absolutely need to work on multiple projects in the same season, I would suggest having assigned time for each of them (maybe one project per day of the week?), so that you are making steady progress on all of them – instead of getting too overwhelmed to pick what to work on.

3. Minimize distractions

Turn off the sounds on your phone.

Work in an environment where you can focus well.

Work during a time of day when you feel most focused and energized.

Decide on a day when you tackle things like laundry and errands – those pesky tasks that suddenly seem crucial when you’re supposed to work on other things.

Keep a distractions list – have a notepad next to you while you work so that whenever a “must do” task pops up, you simply write it down to remember it, and then keep working on your original task. Tackle your distractions list at the end of your work sprint.

Final thoughts – the joy of missing out

The amazing thing about having less things to manage is that we aren’t really missing out on anything at all!

Clearing out the stuff that isn’t essential or beneficial to us means that we have more time and money to spend on the things that truly matter to us – the things that bring us joy.

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JENNA CHRISTINA PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Documentary newborn and family photographer serving San francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and surrounding areas

 

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