10 Things Freelancers (Photographers & Filmmakers) Should Do in 2017

Marathon swimming, East River, New York City

Be optimistic – I’m going to start with the hardest one of all, because it’s really difficult to be optimistic these days. But I find that if I can maintain a positive attitude and turn my thoughts to what is possible, I actually open myself up to more opportunities in my life, instead of creating more roadblocks.

Be open to possibilities. – Be more flexible in how you perceive things and who you are. Change is always happening, but it’s usually gradual. Most people don’t take notice until “change” forces their hand to act. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive so embrace “change” as an ever-present fact of life that creates opportunities for those who are open to seeing them.

Collaborate – Photographers are very independent creatures and collaboration is not part of their norm. As the “photography” business continues to change, photographers will find that collaborating with other artists will make their own businesses stronger. There is so much more to running a business than there used to be. While social media marketing has opened up numerous possibilities, it can also be overwhelming to a solo photographer. You can’t do it all. Work with people who can bring out each other’s strong suits.

Diversify – I’m not quite so sure why so many photographers are so rigid in how they define who they are and what they do. Having a “style” is great, but the trick is to not to be so narrowly defined by that style, so that when styles change, you don’t find yourself obsolete by your own design. It’s kind of like being type cast, where your audience or your clients can only see you in one way. Diversifying might be creating a whole new niche of your business. I recently created a business niche that is more geared toward the retail market. We create high end “Ken Burns” style family biography videos to preserve a family’s legacy with personal interviews with ones loved ones combined with old photos and home movies.

Concentrate on “the story”– I had the opportunity to speak with a lot of still photographers and filmmakers this past year and I began to notice a difference in the conversations I was having with each. Most times, filmmakers would be telling me a story, whereas still photographers would be telling me how they executed a photograph, or essentially telling me the “back story” of the creation of the image. It’s all interesting but “the story” is the bottom line – if that doesn’t come through to the viewer – the rest doesn’t matter – including how it was executed.

Be authentic – be true to yourself. That means that you have to trust your gut instead of second guessing it. This is hard, especially when things don’t always work out the way you had hoped. Step away from the “noise” and listen to the voice inside.

Fail more. – Rejection is a tough pill to swallow but it usually means that you are either pushing yourself to try new things, you are too far ahead of your time or it just wasn’t meant to be. If you look at successful people you’ll see that most have had failures and rejections in their lives but they stuck with it – instead of letting failure defeat them.

Self-Initiate more projects. – I don’t like to call non-commissioned work, “personal projects”. That co notates that there is no monetary value, and these days just the opposite could be true. With more and more lopsided contracts being presented to photographers for commissioned work a photographer has a better chance to make more money and keep ownership of their work by creating self-initiated projects. But they need to be prepared to work hard. We’ve been working on a project entitled “Like A Woman” where we shoot environmental portraits and a short video about women who are working in traditionally male professions. It is a subject I know all too well after working in the career of photography and now filmmaking my entire adult life.

Forget about the past and learn from mistakes. – You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and then, move on. Look toward the future but make sure you take time to enjoy the “now”.

In the scheme of things, you’re just one small speck in the universe. – I think we all get way too stressed about things that really don’t matter and we let those things control our life. When we become more conscious of that, we really begin to live life.

The Power of Nostalgia

I’m not one to “look back” much, but I watched a story today on the news magazine show Sunday Morning about nostalgia that got me thinking about the past. Apparently, according to the “experts” who were interviewed on the show, being nostalgic

Gang of friends. I'm on top step.

and looking back into our past isn’t such a bad thing for us to do.

But being nostalgic wasn’t always looked at as being “good” for us. In fact in the 17th and 18th centuries, nostalgia was considered a medical disease and as recent as the 20th century, it was classified as a psychiatric disorder.

Nowadays, many psychologists think it’s healthy for us to look back at our past and recognize that we have overcome hardships and setbacks in our lives and in doing so we gain the inner strength we need to move forward. With time comes perspective and with that comes a certain resolve.

Advertisers have capitalized on the power of nostalgia for years. They pitch and promote new products by connecting them to people’s fond memories of the past or how they perceive the past to have been. Pepperidge Farm commercials were intended to provoke memories of home baked goodies from our childhood and associate them with their products. Or as the fictional character Don Draper from Mad Men said when referring to the power of nostalgia “ It takes us to a place where we ache to go again – it’s delicate but profound”.

So as we close out another year and in fact the first decade of the new century, take a few moments to think about the past. I think most of us will realize that all the obstacles that seemed insurmountable at the time, ended up being necessary for all the other things to happen in our lives. Just like George Bailey in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” found out when he had been given a glimpse into how things would have been different had he never been born – he really did have a wonderful life. He just needed to look back and take notice.

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