Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. {a retrospect of this year & what i've learned. }

I can't say every photographer has learned what I have or had to. There might be some uber awesome photographers that know how to get it done and deal. but what kind of person would I be if I just ignored this year and said it was amazing and nothing went wrong. I'd be a liar. And I don't like to lie. So here's my 2011 as a photographer on the "learn"... a real honest truthful look at what i do and why i wanted to do. SO MUCH.

This year I learned ALOT. And I'd love to say it was all good and fluffy and nothing bad happened. But what kind of real person would I be if I hadn't had to learn from a few things this year. and boy did I learn. I'll be entering 2012 with all new outlook and new set of goals. I will be going into my 3rd (real) year of photographer. I consider 2009 the big "learning" year (thus i don't count it). In 2009 I got a "real" camera, a DSLR. a D3000 to be exact, and that was even towards the end of the year. At that point "photography business" was a just a tiny dream in a my huge head of dreams.

In 2010 my daughter was born. Which not only made me really wake up to photography but it kinda gave me a good shake. Except every shake I got was at no cost. I was mostly working for free or pocket change. It was a good year. I got slapped around by a few photographers. Some of their words included: "make the images sharper" , "learn back focus" , "learn to use flash" , "ur a NOOB" , "don't over processes (ie. over edit)" , "don't think you'll get anywhere fast" , "I hate new photographers" and let's not forget my favourite and this did change the way I shoot, "focus on the eye nearest too you - your images will always look sharp and you won't deathly confuse the people looking at your image ".

I'm one of those "sensitive" people. Yeah - the one that doesn't like to disappoint people. I can fairly say that though I'm creative and it maybe my only skill - but my lack of business "toughness" and "strength" is ridiculous. I'll admit it and I was given a wake up on that.

So when I entered end of 2010 - beg. 2011 I had some skill and I had my art eye working for me. But I had no idea what I needed to do to get me to where I wanted to be ( i can't say i'm even there now but i'm a bit closer ). I knew what I wanted - clients that understood my photography, liked me and valued my work. the bigger question, how was I going to get those customers with NO real portfolio. this was incredibly frustrating. I spent most of the time asking friends and family if they'd come out and I'd give them the photos. I had some people agree but for the most part, everyone had lives. I wasn't part of a close community so i sucked it up and started with plan B...

I spent a good part of the very beginning of 2011 looking for a 2nd shooter option/job. I figured if i could get my foot in the door that way, i could meet people, get some sort of portfolio and still survive a bit as a newbie. just cause I was in my 2nd year meant nothing. I was still as fresh as my kid was and no photographer wanted anything to do with me. I sorta resent this now coming into 2012 with a much bigger portfolio and clientel. I found a lot of photographers to be rude and just plane weird to me. and for someone who puts disappointing people and people's reactions high in their emotions, you can probably guess - i was a bit of mess because of it. im still working on this...

my family has constantly questioned me on my guarded behaviour and my art teachers often handed me my projects back with an A+ but S for effort. I was a satisfactory worker - why? cause i wanted to do it my way but for once, i was trying to get people to like me and take me in. let me follow them around and i had no idea why they didn't want me to!! a part of me still doesn't know. it's a bit sore. if i poke at that subject. to be asked today by another photographer how i shoot or why, i would tell them. i know i'm doing nothing that's a big secret to anyone and really, neither is anyone else. i just wanted to feel like someone cared. but really - that's your competition and though i don't hold my competition at a hate level like some do - they def didn't want me to know what they were doing!

I took Matters into my own hands. This was Plan C...
and this was my thought process. i'll do it myself. and for once, i was right. after going through my options, why hadn't i just gone back to my original way of doing things. myself. but if you really want to know why i had been afraid it's because i had read over and over that i should spend the next 3 years as a second shooter doing nothing but following around someone and being a go-for (that's my jessica - just kidding jess...) - then a nice (ok not nice) photographer told me something 'you're not second shooter material'. at first i didn't know what that meant. i didn't know if i should take offence or not... i took it as a sign though and from that point on... i decided i wasn't going to second shoot for anyone, unless they asked me. i wasn't going to beg anyone. i was gonna do it for myself and somewhere, some client would see what i was capable of (dancing.. just kidding)

in fact if you want my only camera "secrets" here (that i think others really don't want others to know) here it is... I back button focus, I over expose a bit, I like natural reflectors, I shoot RAW and I enjoy a nice low, cool sunset (though this is a rare here).

There. that's all i do. I don't even know if anyone cares. I would be hoping at this point people are paying me to shoot them for my style. but what is really the big point to this blog - it's what i've learned this year. (let's do it point form. i like points)

1) You need to be Strong
2) You need to believe in yourself, even when other's don't.
3) You need to stand up for yourself when necessary - this year i've let a lot of situations and people run me over *cough* other photographers. mostly because i don't want to hurt anyone. this is not a reality. let's move to the next point...
4) Grab life by the horns. lol you can't be afraid of what they'll think or say, all that matters is that you're doing what you think is right and good.
5) You gotta let stuff GO. in business you should not take every nasty or uneducated word to heart. (i do this, i really try not too)
6) Price point. People that love you, will pay you. this will weed out the one's that only see a deal. i'm not walmart. i'm bellamart!
7) Be honest. this is why all my work is online. why im online. this is my work, this is what i do. please look it over :) So my other point -> put it all out there, nothing to hide, nothing your client won't love
8) Clients that love you, are almost like friends. it just fits. this is usually a gut feeling on my part when i meet someone. this year i have met many that i feel i could be close friends with and they have turned out to be some of the best clients! <3
9) I was CHEAP this year. I like being able to offer everyone, of every price point, the chance to have my photos. It's something i loved being able to do this year but in a way it has crippled me. gotten to the bottom of my heart and ripped a piece out. I was a very free and creative person, at points this year i was terrified. that has scared me. i just want happy feelings and the only issue i want to worry about is weather, my batteries & which lens i'm gonna put on next lol being cheaper don't get you free and happy...
and 10) You have to love what you do and stand behind it every second. You can't hesitate or second guess yourself. then you get in some real poop.

So here I am, going into december. a full year of realization, learning and things i will do again and things i won't. im sure next year will come with it's bill of learning, i just hope i've learned enough to be able to handle a busier year and stand on my own - free & happy.

i could be the best photographer in the world but if i suck at being a business person, i will suffer. that's apparent now. you need to have it all. you need to believe - more than you ever have in anything. even when people are saying things, calling you down and fighting your every move - you need to know you're standing by what you do and doing what you have to. i never thought taking photos would be such a freaking trip. but i guess any sarcastic rendition on being a wedding photographer could have told me that. i still read those and want to slap the photographers. we LOVE weddings. when we're at weddings we enjoy every minute. jessica is constantly coming up to me 'did u see that!? did you get that??? omg i love it!' - i wouldn't want to change that feeling for the world.

so here it is. the honest truth on how i have to get me some business strength and pull it together. "cause all i want to do is take photos and meet amazing people" enjoy amazing moments. take a photo that someone will cherish forever. i think even when i'm in the depth of battling myself in business, i forget why i love it and then i look at the photos and remember... 

"if you're going to hire me as your photographer know that i put my heart and soul into every photo and every time i choose to push the shutter button. i'm just thinking about you and if you'll love it as much as i do."

- Bella 


  1. You rock it. Just be you ... I learned alot and AM still learning everyday. Find your happy place :) I'm behind you.

  2. Hello BonBon! SO impressed with all that you have said and have no doubt that you will continue to learn so much as you continue on the exciting path you have chosen for your career! What impresses me and has impressed me is that you are not only great at what you do but that you tirelessly work to capture the true essence of each occasion you are trying to capture on film! You have the gift not only to express yourself through your art form but to also serve others in creating an image of precious moments shared that is unique and special to them! Love you... xoxo

  3. You made me tear up! You are amazing at what you do and I'm so happy we got to see a bit of what makes you tick. Always love you and I have a good feeling about 2012. It's your time Bella! You are one amazing photographer and one priceless woman!

  4. I love what you said about just being yourself and believing in yourself. I hired you a long time ago to take my photos. I still catch myself standing and staring at them, their so beautiful. I'm glad your positive going into the next year, I wish you all the best.

  5. After reading this I think you have grown stronger and developed into a fantastic photograher! Your style is quite evident and you will attract "your clients" in 2012. All the best!
    PS. I think when that photographer said "you're not second shooter material", you should take it as a compliment, you're a leader and don't need to be someone's gopher!
    As a photographer too, I don't always think you need to second shoot for others for years to gain the experience, if you are comfortable and believe you can shoot a wedding as main - you do it!


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