It Starts With Art

I was always an artist but only recently became a photographer. All throughout high school and college I sketched, painted, drew and kept travel journals. Then as an architect for about a decade I wasn’t getting the creative satisfaction desired. I was only really interested in photography once I discovered the work of people like Jose Villa and Max Wanger. Their photography was minimal, playful, and colorful. Their work looked like paintings to me, and I was instantly hooked!

After making the switch to photography, desperate to learn everything and do well in business, I loaded up on classes from places like CreativeLive and FStoppers not to mention following every single local DC photographer on social media. I said “yes” to every client. As a result the work got scattered.

My portfolio looked like every other newbie photographer. And while I was happy to be able to do what I love and really enjoyed trying different styles of photography… I wasn’t creating a cohesive artistic voice for myself.

I also wasn’t enjoying my passion.

There are so many photographers, and aspiring photographers that the only way to stand out is to create a distinct artistic voice. Once you have honed that voice, or even as you are in the process of honing it… then you can blast it to the world. Until you feel like you are 100% satisfied with your art and it’s consistent, keep honing.

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A few ways to “hone”:

1. When looking at others’ work (on Instagram for example) leave comments about what specifically you love about the photos. Is it the mood? The lighting? The poses? What do you like about them? Go into detail to help understand your own feelings about the photography.

2. When looking at work you don’t like ask yourself what don’t you like about it? What would you do differently? You may be surprised at what you come up with. For me it’s almost always the items that feel unnatural that stand out – colors, poses, clothing and general background distractions.

3. The best way to “hone” your artistic voice is to set up your own personal projects. When you are the creative director of your shoot then you need to pick the model, clothes, hair, makeup, setting, location, etc. Find collaborators to help you achieve this vision, but ultimately it’s entirely up to you to make it fit your vision.

4. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and ask strangers to model for you. I’ve picked up  people at coffee shops before to use for personal work – especially when switching to film. Most people take it as a huge compliment to be asked to model.

5. When you are “slow” and don’t have a ton of paying work take it as a sign and opportunity to do these personal projects. You have to stay consistently busy to keep the momentum of growth building.

6. Finally, curate. You don’t have to share every single project you do. Sometimes they fall flat. Just because you took the photo doesn’t mean it has to be shared. As the art director of your  brand, you have to be bold enough to slash your work from your portfolio.

Mentoring Sessions

I’ve held off on offering any teaching, mentoring or workshops for a while because of the same reason everyone holds off on them, wondering who am I to teach? But then the words from Sean Wes, a podcast that I regularly listen to,  have been floating in my head. In this podcast he talks about why you shouldn’t wait to teach because “Teaching is a way of learning”. There is so much more to that 1.5 hour long podcast, you should listen to it.

Another reason why I am going to start sharing more teaching posts is because I did my first one-on-one mentoring session last week and I realized that I have a lot to say. We barely covered everything in 2 hours, and I could have kept going for a lot longer. In my own education I have have relied heavily on other photographers sharing their knowledge, and I continue to do workshops and mentoring sessions myself so it only seemed appropriate for me to share my little nuggets whenever possible.

Finally  I’ve also been getting requests for information about photography, assisting positions, and general “coffee dates” from aspiring photographers and while I would love to respond to every single request – I know some of them get lost in the cracks. I didn’t start out in photography that long ago, so I do remember what it’s like to reach out and never hear back.

So if there is a topic that you would like to hear about or if you’d like to schedule your own mentoring session, reach out to me at bonnie@bonniesen.com.

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