For aspiring photographers or models, any words of advice?
For aspiring photographers or models, any words of advice?
Admittedly some of my favourite work doesn't always involve doing photography directly. I'm really interested in tech and I love helping make technology better. I was heavily involved with a plug in that Corel made for Photoshop, called Corel Particleshop. A lot of the suggestions I made in a boardroom and in emails, are part of a users daily interaction with the plug in, and that makes me feel really good. I currently work very closely with Capture One as one of their ambassadors, and have consulted with Adobe and other hardware and software companies around the world. If I could keep consulting a few months a year for different tech companies, I'd be really excited! Being creative is admittedly a pretty selfish experience, so finding ways to put that experience to use to help others helps make things feel less shallow.
Otherwise, on the photo front, I like a mix! I really enjoy the higher profile stuff, celebrity and big commercial gigs, as well as the smaller, intimate portraits, or even the very, very rare pet or family session. Diversity is key for me, I have to keep changing things up.
I'd love to get out and shoot Titans of Mavericks again. I'm super afraid of deep water and the ocean in general, but it was so fun and I love the images so much, to get another swing at that again one day would just be totally rad. You can read more about my experience here, if you'd like! https://www.reneerobynphotography.com/Blog/Shooting-Mavericks
I'm working on become a better matte painter and character designer, I'm a few years off from being any commercial use to anyone, but I would love to experiment with that in the future. I enjoy it, but I need to get faster and get my rules of color, composition, leading lines, and perspective locked in better. Long way to go yet, but I suppose if there's no short, middle, or long term goals, what's the point??
What does evolution look like?
Hmm, how to not be generic here. There's the easy stuff like "keep your chin up!", "stay true to yourself", "try lots of things", and "don't compare yourself to others!" but usually those answers kinda raise a little bile in my throat. They're not wrong, but I see them on almost every interview from anyone ever, and it's very easy exit on advice.
I think dissolving the illusion that doing it for a living means you're running through the daisies every day, loving every second of your career making only what you really like to. That's the unicorn we all chase, but very few actually get it. It's not impossible! But, like everything, you're going to learn compromise. Being a professional doesn't solve your life problems, it means you're an entrepreneur if you're freelance, so becoming a great business person is hand in hand with being a functional, useful artist with a product that has a use to others.
Being creative, as I stated above, is a pretty selfish experience, and it's awesome for that. But choosing to make it a profession, means you have to get out of the way and you become a water or waitress of pixels. You have a product that you want others to pay for.
I've had a lot of people in my workshops that are amaaaaazing artists. They're phenomenal, far better than I am, but they can't make it work professionally because they lack the skills to run a business. If you're in that camp, then get your butt into some courses that will teach you book keeping, how to make a rate that feels fair to you and your clients, how to streamline your systems because time = money.
If your goals are to create for yourself because you absolutely love it and nothing else, I think that's the best, and most honest way to be a creative. Chase that unicorn, some of us get it, most of us don't. That's ok :) But if you know early on that you want to learn to do this for a living, then while you're taking classes on retouching, composition, or posing, you should also be educating your business brain. They're hand in hand in this world, one is not better than the other.
Get your ego out of the way. We make pixels. We aren't evolving science to save the lives of newborn babies, or finding life on other planets. The most successful people I've met on the planet (and there have been a lot) are more often than not extremely humble and very, very hard working.
Remember: The more you know, the more you understand how little you actually know. It's a good thing.
What’s the reality vs what’s projected online?
I started out like everyone else. 2 years in I thought I knew so much, I actually told a photographer I looked up to once (I apologized for my ignorance later), "How can I learn from this person, when I probably know everything that they do?" I think back on my younger self, and I want to throw her stupid ass through a wall. However, I run into this a lot on the forums, and it gives me empathy for when people say those words to me. I don't take it personally, that's just their level of experience. They'll get through it, and if they don't, they're only holding themselves back.
Evolution is learning to grow with some form of grace and grit, and everyone's story is unique. My evolution was that I shot up in my career very quickly, and much faster than I was prepared to handle early on. It took me a lot of years to grow the skills to catch up. Luckily, I survived my ignorance, but I easily could have not.
I started out taking pictures of flowers, and grew through the digital art realms, and now I find myself interested in photography with minimal retouching again. It feels like just a big circular process, that very gradually grows wider and wider. I revisit all the old themes and try them again, just to see how things have changed.
I recently went through my entire website and re-edited 300+ images. Not all of them made the cut, but it was a great way to see how my taste and skill had evolved with retouching. It was amazingly therapeutic, to revisit old work and give it fresh paint. I recommend this to anyone who has been doing it a long time. I found it to be a nice way to honour the person who was, and who the person is now as a creative.
How do you deal with doubt and insecurities?
I've always tried to be honest about what it's actually like vs online projection, and everyone's Behind the Scenes footage looks different from everyone else's. Travelling 10 months a year is brutal. It's a test of mental and physical endurance all year long, but it's what is required for me to do the work that I do for now. I have a gigantic personal stock library that I use daily, and as a result of constant use, I'm also perpetually running out. I like to shoot my own work so it's exactly what I need, and I don't have to try and cipher out what the stock photographers settings or focal points were. I know them because I shot it for a very specific look.
But reality is, most of my life I'm sitting in a country that I may or may not understand the language, running a business from my computer. As I mentioned above, it's the difference between being an artist, just making what I want, and running a business and having clients to serve. I like it. I like making artwork for people, it gives me challenges.
Finding balance is always an ever evolving thing. I know some days I have to be awake for 3 days to complete a project, and I know on the flip side of that I'll have to schedule 3 days where I can just sleep and go outside. Younger me sucked at that, older me is starting to figure it out.
I like to share the image below with people, because that's kinda what it feels like day to day. Some days my reality is amazing, but most days it's just the grind, like everyone else on the planet. :)
I used to have a huge case of imposter syndrome. I almost shut down my business over it, a few times. I say used to, because through a mix of therapy and a lot of effort to self awareness, I finally broke through it. It took a long time though.
What had to be realized was what I really wanted. Did I want to keep holding myself back because it felt comfortable? Feeling like I was undeserving, that everyone was better than I was, that people only said nice to things to me because they were my friends. Worse yet, was the incredible fear of having a personality that others thought was egotistical. It was putting my self validation in everyone else around me, but me. In the world of social media, that's easy to do.
Having a business actually helped that shift in my head. I realized that I'm here to help other people, and I've spent the last 20+ years working my butt off every day. This self doubt stuff was just childish and tearing me down, in a world that does plenty of that on it's own. Trying to keep a business afloat in a world that is really evolving to expire me in a few years, I needed a cheerleader, and it had to come from within me. I couldn't rely on anyone else to make me feel good, because people can sometimes let you down. How I feel about myself can't come from the outside, and that's really, really hard to do for some of us.
I still get doubts, I still have my insecurities, but I also know that I have my back, when the rest of the world has to look after their own. The crippling fear and isolation isn't what it once was, and I know I can get through it.
I'm on borrowed time, and life has taught me first hand how quickly things can change. When the lights go out, I want to make sure that I didn't waste too much time making me feel bad because it felt like the right thing to do. I owe myself honesty, not lies of grandeur or despicable failure.