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Thread: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

  1. #1

    Default From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi guys, i'm not so much a writer nor am i a high end photographer. But i'd like to just share a little something i wrote based on my reflections on how things had been for me since i came into the industry. So pardon my bad english and i hope you enjoy my little piece.

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    From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    What drove me to write about this post today “From being a photographer to being human again” is the recent events in my life which triggered the mental thoughts on how in these days, there are so many people coming into the wedding photography industry, and at the same time alot of seasoned wedding photographers are starting to “lose heart” in their passion. And it doesnt qite help because even close friends of mine are feeling this same feeling i have as well. For one i have been depressed from time to time, worrying about the business aspect of the photography business and thinking of how to be a better photographer and marketeer to propell the business forward. It took up so my of my mental and emotional space that it had triggered the feeling of self pity and unwillingness to even move at some point of time. And i knew that if this continued, it would be less then 5 years before i am done for being a wedding photographer.

    Sounds serious? Yes! because it is. To turn a 1st, hobby into a passion then 2nd into a means of livelihood is a huge deal for me. Espcially since i had chosen to jump into this straight out of school and army. The risk involved is tremendous, bearing in mind that i had no prior business experience (well i graduated as a film maker). So how much more lucky can i get to have the mind to know the area i need to fix first is my business management. It has been about a year since coffeestainsphotography started out. And it has taken me the last 4 years to pick up wedding photography and to learn the ropes of how wedding photography “should be”, with the help of many many good masters and very respectable photographers. I owe what i am today to these people and i cannot be anymore lucky to be one of the few to have had the chance to work under and alongside with many of these photographers.

    But being lucky is one thing. The business aspect has been draining me so much over the past months that it had made me contemplate a career change to something more stable, something that brings in a monthly wage, something that can put food on the table in months when business is bad. It has been draining to the point when i would lose heart to want to shoot.

    It was only so that a recent conversation (with a fellow photographer whom i hold in high regards) that struck me on what was the real issue at hand.

    This friend, was sharing with me about his problems coping with losing heart, and at the same time being the good man he is, tried to help with ours as well. A few things he mentioned were “to be sucessful, you first need to be aggressive”, “You need to channel your negative energy to become positive energy to make good for your work”, “I am glad to see that you guys still have the heart and passion in what you do”. The last statement was what really jolted me out of my daze. Because here is a man with so much more experience then me, taught me so much, and now telling me that i still have heart to shoot even though i am going through so much down time and slowly losing heart. Strangely and ironically, it made me realise that the reason why i had became solely a photographer and not a human anymore. (for those who dun understand, do read this article )

    I forgot what it felt like to love a shot the moment the shutter clicked. And all these was because i was just so caught up on making the business work out that i forgot the initial reason to why i even chose the path to be a photographer. And this stress and pressure i exerted on myself made me feel tired and less passionate about every shot i made. So after realising that it suddenly changed my whole perspective on things again and it made me realise how much i had neglected the real human aspect of my craft. And in my own little opinion that summed up the meaning of the words “the moment it clicks”. It means the moment when your eyes see something that triggers a reaction in your mind and more importantly in your heart, you push the button to capture it on film.

    So i like to urge those who are thinking about doing photography full time to think through it long and hard. Because as much as we are producing photos that our clients.couples.friends love, there is also the business aspect of it that will wear you down, work you out and take your passion. And when you get there. Then what?

    For now, all i know is, i love my work, i love my new found friends (who are mostly my couples these days) and i love everything about the moment the shutter clicks. So in my own little simple words, “to be agressive you first need passion, to have passion you need to have heart and to have heart you need to learn to refocus yourself”, only then you might learn to be not just a great photographer, but also a great human being. =)


  2. #2

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi Chris, thanks for sharing...

    I have a very good job.. and i recently joined the very saturated wedding photography industry (part time). I really enjoy the fact that i have a stable job which give me a regular income, at the same time spent one weekend per month to shoot a wedding...

    It gives me some bonus money for me to buy more equipments
    get paid for what i like to do.. is like a dream..

    I would like to turn pro one day, but i am worried that my income will drop (most likely), but i am more worried that making this a job will kill my passion for photography...

    Anyway, i am happy now, and would like to keep it this way...

  3. #3

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Lim View Post
    Hi guys, i'm not so much a writer nor am i a high end photographer. But i'd like to just share a little something i wrote based on my reflections on how things had been for me since i came into the industry. So pardon my bad english and i hope you enjoy my little piece.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    What drove me to write about this post today “From being a photographer to being human again” is the recent events in my life which triggered the mental thoughts on how in these days, there are so many people coming into the wedding photography industry, and at the same time alot of seasoned wedding photographers are starting to “lose heart” in their passion. And it doesnt qite help because even close friends of mine are feeling this same feeling i have as well. For one i have been depressed from time to time, worrying about the business aspect of the photography business and thinking of how to be a better photographer and marketeer to propell the business forward. It took up so my of my mental and emotional space that it had triggered the feeling of self pity and unwillingness to even move at some point of time. And i knew that if this continued, it would be less then 5 years before i am done for being a wedding photographer.

    Sounds serious? Yes! because it is. To turn a 1st, hobby into a passion then 2nd into a means of livelihood is a huge deal for me. Espcially since i had chosen to jump into this straight out of school and army. The risk involved is tremendous, bearing in mind that i had no prior business experience (well i graduated as a film maker). So how much more lucky can i get to have the mind to know the area i need to fix first is my business management. It has been about a year since coffeestainsphotography started out. And it has taken me the last 4 years to pick up wedding photography and to learn the ropes of how wedding photography “should be”, with the help of many many good masters and very respectable photographers. I owe what i am today to these people and i cannot be anymore lucky to be one of the few to have had the chance to work under and alongside with many of these photographers.

    But being lucky is one thing. The business aspect has been draining me so much over the past months that it had made me contemplate a career change to something more stable, something that brings in a monthly wage, something that can put food on the table in months when business is bad. It has been draining to the point when i would lose heart to want to shoot.

    It was only so that a recent conversation (with a fellow photographer whom i hold in high regards) that struck me on what was the real issue at hand.

    This friend, was sharing with me about his problems coping with losing heart, and at the same time being the good man he is, tried to help with ours as well. A few things he mentioned were “to be sucessful, you first need to be aggressive”, “You need to channel your negative energy to become positive energy to make good for your work”, “I am glad to see that you guys still have the heart and passion in what you do”. The last statement was what really jolted me out of my daze. Because here is a man with so much more experience then me, taught me so much, and now telling me that i still have heart to shoot even though i am going through so much down time and slowly losing heart. Strangely and ironically, it made me realise that the reason why i had became solely a photographer and not a human anymore. (for those who dun understand, do read this article )

    I forgot what it felt like to love a shot the moment the shutter clicked. And all these was because i was just so caught up on making the business work out that i forgot the initial reason to why i even chose the path to be a photographer. And this stress and pressure i exerted on myself made me feel tired and less passionate about every shot i made. So after realising that it suddenly changed my whole perspective on things again and it made me realise how much i had neglected the real human aspect of my craft. And in my own little opinion that summed up the meaning of the words “the moment it clicks”. It means the moment when your eyes see something that triggers a reaction in your mind and more importantly in your heart, you push the button to capture it on film.

    So i like to urge those who are thinking about doing photography full time to think through it long and hard. Because as much as we are producing photos that our clients.couples.friends love, there is also the business aspect of it that will wear you down, work you out and take your passion. And when you get there. Then what?

    For now, all i know is, i love my work, i love my new found friends (who are mostly my couples these days) and i love everything about the moment the shutter clicks. So in my own little simple words, “to be agressive you first need passion, to have passion you need to have heart and to have heart you need to learn to refocus yourself”, only then you might learn to be not just a great photographer, but also a great human being. =)


    Tks for sharing. I have the same sentiment as you. Friends are few, foes are many. With the right mind and a passionate heart, you will (and hopefully peers around us) succeed. I went into this industry with many sacrifices knowing the challenges ahead. Without passion and the determination to make it work, we can easily give in to dispair.

    You are 10 years younger than me (haha, I'm a late starter), take heart that you have the guidance and support from alot of masters here. There will be a point in time when you "get there" and when someone new to the industry came forward for your guidance, be there with a good listening ear and warm encourgament to give him or her the well deserved boost.

    Let's win together!


  4. #4

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi Chris,

    I'm glad to know that there are still pro photographers out there who will take a step backwards from their "biz", and do some self-reflection...

    doing this can enable one not to lose heart, forcus, and the passion in photography..

    i'm a noob in photography, but i am glad to see your this article....

    hope your this article can help other photographers who may be in your situation at some point of their career, and may you rekindle that passion you initially had, and capture the best photos you can capture!


  5. #5
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    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Some of us in this industry would have encounter some sort of mid-career crisis, and sometimes it just take some unpleasant incidents to make you lose heart in what you're doing.

    And yes, like it or not, you can't run away from the biz aspect of things... when I first started doing wedding photography full time, some of the things that made me "sian 0.5" were the the bargain hunters that I was getting; I had couples who didn't want to pay for the OT that was agreed on, one even accused me of being late for the job (thankfully I happened to have photos to proved otherwise); I was just a robot, run around to fulfill my role as the 'cameraman' who will shoot other things such as their pet dog/cats, their garden, one even asked me to shoot the interior of their house because they wanted to use it for magazine... to put it simply, they pay you $$ and expects you to shoot anything and everything according to their whimps and fancy, since "digital photography doesn't use film and is free" right

    This was when I made radical changes to my biz and the key hurdle came down to this - how do I attract the RIGHT clientele? To me, the right clients are those that look at my work, not my price tag; the right client are those who let me have full artistic license in what I'm doing.

    Finding the right clientele is like finding friends who are like-minded, and when clients are on the same page as you, you'll stop looking at it as "just another job".

    I've gone one big round here, but to cut the long story short, self reflection is a good sign that you're still in the quest of finding new meaning in this profession

  6. #6

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Thanks for the concern and input guys, feel free to add on if you have anything too yeah?

  7. #7
    Member nivlaOof's Avatar
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    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Chris.... this article really reflects the problem one could face in the wedding photography industry... guess u wont be the only one feeling this way.... but its very encouraging that u see light at the end of the tunnel....

    i have been looking at your work since you started out way back long ago... you have created a very distinct style of your own and definitely one of the better photographer around..

    keeping it going.... u are a talented photographer...

  8. #8

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Quote Originally Posted by canturn View Post
    Some of us in this industry would have encounter some sort of mid-career crisis, and sometimes it just take some unpleasant incidents to make you lose heart in what you're doing.

    And yes, like it or not, you can't run away from the biz aspect of things... when I first started doing wedding photography full time, some of the things that made me "sian 0.5" were the the bargain hunters that I was getting; I had couples who didn't want to pay for the OT that was agreed on, one even accused me of being late for the job (thankfully I happened to have photos to proved otherwise); I was just a robot, run around to fulfill my role as the 'cameraman' who will shoot other things such as their pet dog/cats, their garden, one even asked me to shoot the interior of their house because they wanted to use it for magazine... to put it simply, they pay you $$ and expects you to shoot anything and everything according to their whimps and fancy, since "digital photography doesn't use film and is free" right

    This was when I made radical changes to my biz and the key hurdle came down to this - how do I attract the RIGHT clientele? To me, the right clients are those that look at my work, not my price tag; the right client are those who let me have full artistic license in what I'm doing.

    Finding the right clientele is like finding friends who are like-minded, and when clients are on the same page as you, you'll stop looking at it as "just another job".

    I've gone one big round here, but to cut the long story short, self reflection is a good sign that you're still in the quest of finding new meaning in this profession
    Canturn, same sentiment alike

    especially on the targeted client part.

  9. #9

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Bro,
    Nikon D700~D2Hs~20-35F2.8~50F1.4~85F1.4D~180F2.8D~SB800

  10. #10
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    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi Chris,

    I think your photographs carries the rich feelings as your words. I love them.............. Please continue to press the shutter when something you see strikes your heart............

  11. #11

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Really good stuff seen in ur website.....go go go man!

  12. #12

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for sharing such a soul baring post. I'm not an aspiring photographer (just picked it up recently) and probably never will be, but i identified myself with some of what you wrote. It is admirable, how you're pursuing your dreams and hanging on, staying focused despite feeling drained. That calls for a lot of strength, faith, positivity and tenacity. It is no secret that I like passionate people, for i believe without passion, we are dead, emotionally. Chin up bro, believe in the people who believe in you.

  13. #13
    Member henryong's Avatar
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    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi There

    Not a guru here but would like to offer my humble thought on this.

    What has been shared is in my opinion the ups and downs of being self-employed. It happens to many business owners across probably all sorts of industries. You are never alone. I am not a pro but I am running my own business which at times can be very demanding both physically and mentally. But what to do? SInce we have chosen this glorious path which few would dare, I think we should give ourselves a pad for being brave and dare to face uncertainties. We are captain of our own lives and we shape the outcome. Stress and despair are part and parcel of every entrepreneur's journey.

    In view of this wedding biz, perhaps one can go back and examine a very basic concept of business in a competitive environment;.. price and differentiation. Dell is for price leadership while Apple is for differentiation. Are you Dell or Apple?

  14. #14
    Member henryong's Avatar
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    Once you know if you are Dell or Apple, devise a series of activities to market your services. I know of a very good golf instructor who is above average in coaching but far worse off than many in marketing himself. You can see that his passion is in coaching but when the business aspect of it comes in, he loses out big time. Why? He can't sell. And when he eventually manage to do sell, he somehow struggles with the lowered 'sales man' esteem and disparity arises in relation to his 'professional' status. Problem. He has to change hat time and time again.

  15. #15

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    =) thanks for your input guys, and for your compliments too

    I guess what ever i described really goes the same for any area of business you go into.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Lim View Post
    I guess what ever i described really goes the same for any area of business you go into.

    Well, it depends on the position that you take.

    If you're producing the run-off-the-mill sort of photos, yes, then photography is just like any other donut, bubble tea, or pork floss bun business... run it like a pasar malam, you get pasar malam client. So long your photos look nice, can pass off as journalistic style photos, got bokeh, the cheaper the better.

    On the other hand, you can look at yourself as an artist being commissioned to produce a series of wedding photos for a couple, then the ball game is changed. Plus, you can afford to be selective with your clients too. People who knows what they want will pay big money for things that are unique, not gimmicky things that everyone else is doing... There's an obvious reason why people pay a lot of dollars for a piece of fine art work with limited run, when they could have gone down to Ikea and grabbed those replicas for a song.

    The dollar is important in any biz, but it shouldn't be a baggage...not for an artist. And no, you do not necessarily have to be a poor artist

  17. #17
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    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hey Chris,

    真金不怕溶爐火. Real gold is not afraid of fire.

    Thanks for all your advises given to me either here or via msn! Just to let you know that you are one of my inspiration too!

  18. #18

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi Chris

    I don't really know how it feels as I am a beginner in photography. I don't even know what I really love to shoot or specialise in! But have been seeing alot of pictures in the wedding section as a few of my friends are getting married so I see it as a chance to take once in a lifetime photos (of course they will hire a pro but I just wanna brush up my skills so free labour) =)

    I took business in poly but found it very dry, so am taking communications in SIM now. But i do understand that when mixing passion with work, a lot of people get burned out easily...Perhaps that is why there are people who hire managers to manage the business or rope in family members while they take care of their passion (like family managing the restaurant while the boss is cooking in the kitchen)..

    But I truly admire all the photographers here in Clubsnap, even more so the wedding photographers as I am new, I can't comment on the technical aspects of the photos, but I really feel the emotion and happiness captured within the wedding photos...So to all who feel that they are getting bogged down by the business aspect, remember that you are an inspiration to all beginners including me =)

  19. #19

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Thanks for the comments guys. Appreciated.

  20. #20

    Default Re: From Being a Photographer to being Human Again

    Hi Chris,

    Your sharing is interesting but I can't figure out where your general thought is heading. Hope you don't mind I list them down here:

    1. You started by spewing out the problems you faced by choosing to be a wedding photographer (which incidentally has been lamented to death here before by many wed photogs). But the part where you said you forgot what it felt like "to love a shot the moment the shutter clicked" seemed abruptly introduced and irrelevant to the general discussion before it.

    Anyway, you also did not elaborate how that realization of the "human aspect of the craft" changed the way you behaved or reacted to your profession. Does it mean this "realization" makes you take better pictures? Or does it make you less weary than before? What do you mean by the "human aspect of the craft" is also not well-defined. Could it mean that in the past, you were blindly taking pictures, but now you make a more conscious effort of it?

    You then stated: "It means the moment when your eyes see something that triggers a reaction in your mind and more importantly in your heart, you push the button to capture it on film."

    Isn't this stating the obvious? If photographers don't do that, what are they photographing or how are they going to capture good images in the first place?

    2. The last but one paragraph on asking wannabe full-time photographers to think through long and hard is totally off tangent from your earlier discussion. It seems you have presented 2 conflicting points. I can understand if the general trend of discussion has been that you are feeling down in the trade and want to quit cos it's tough. And so this post is to discourage other fellow photographers from taking what seems to be a popular path.

    Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be congruent with the paragraph where you mentioned you have found meaning to the phrase "the moment it clicks". So I wonder: Are you still interested in the trade, or still discouraged by it? (Your last paragraph suggests you are still in it, as expected.)

    Rather than discouraging other photographers, what good advice can you offer to help them sustain themselves in the trade? Perhaps you could share your own personal experiences here. It will be helpful to many out there.

    Using your own words and question of "What now?", so after all the stress tiring you and the difficulties you have faced running the business, "WHAT is it NOW" for you?

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