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Things I’d Tell My Younger Self As A Photographer

I contributed to a post on PhotoShelter along with 4 other lifestyle photographers who shared career lessons and advice. The photo industry has changed greatly since I first started, and for as proud as I am for sticking to something that I set out to do, I still have some unfinished business in photography. With that in mind, here are (4) tips I would have told my younger self. 

Jay Watson, self portrait. Punta Burros Mexico
Self portrait. Punta Burros Mexico

From Photoshelter:

“Lessons Learned: Top Lifestyle Photographers Share What They’d Tell Their Younger Selves”

1. Don’t hang on to the same old gear for too long. The photo world is obsessed with new tech and new gear. However it never inspired me, and it was never a catalyst behind my love of making images. For years I was too devoted to the ethos of “making due with what you have.” It forced me to save money, but I was also being lazy. Knowing there is always something new and better, I ignored adding some basic tools that could have helped me visually, and I overlooked modern conveniences that could have made life easier as a photographer. Instead of regretting the gear I did purchase, I regret some of the things I didn’t purchase sooner. Be smart about saving or reusing versus updating and replacing. It’s a balance.

2. Invest in Apple stock. Kicking myself. 

3. Be the director. When I started out I would shoot nearly any idea a client asked because well… they were the client. At one point in my career I noticed the shift from me asking clients what was next on the shot list, to them asking me what’s next? This was a turning point in my career. It coincided with bigger jobs, more input, more rewarding assignments, more trust from the people around me, and more fun. I still hustle, but I’m more vocal about saying which ideas are not worth pursuing. Be the fly on the wall to understand your visual options and the personalities involved with the job. Be a director to make things happen and to allow the best ideas to come forward.

4. Don’t put too much faith in the advice from the photo industry. Sometimes the advice is good, but it could be specific to a field that doesn’t apply to you. We work in different regions with diverse clients, visual styles, deadlines, and usage needs. We are hardly ever in the same exact situations. So store the advice that applies to you and ignore the negativity. There are no reps, agents, or art directors with bottled magic. At some point in time we have stop looking to others for the answers, and we have to be responsible for ourselves. If you think you know what to do — it’s time to start doing it.

See Photoshelter’s full post: “Lesson’s Learned by 4 Lifestyle Photographers

It’s easy to have regrets, or to think how I could have done things differently. On the other hand, it’s also nice to acknowledge there are a few things that I would do exactly the same way. – JW


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