I have a little book entitled “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” by Paul Arden. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a little inspiration and encouragement. It can be read in one sitting over a coffee in your favourite coffee shop, and it will make you feel GOOD.
For me, the most memorable lesson from the book is that you should always treat the job you’re working on as though it were the commission of your life! Don’t live in a world where the next job will be the perfect one. Besides being a great way of pushing yourself to excel and produce the best possible work, this ensures that you are always in the best position to take advantage of any luck that may come your way.
As an example of this, I was once given a commission by a client who needed some very plain and functional photography of an interior space. I could have photographed it by just ‘going through the motions’ and getting the job done, but instead, I opted to give my all to the contract and was determined to produce something I could be proud of and which would exceed the client’s expectations. As a result of this approach, the client came back to me, but this time with a commission to create a collection of fascinating character portraits. Ultimately these images have taken pride of place in my portfolio.
I say all this to say that I believe the test of a good photographer is their ability to see something beautiful in even the most mundane. When I find myself dispirited during a shoot, I will often snap myself out of it by making a game out of the challenge of finding something special and unexpected in it, remembering that the proof of whether I’ve succeeded or not will be laid bare for my client to see when they receive the finished images.
As a photographer, you should never judge a shoot merely on the raw content of what you are being asked to photograph. Every shoot is a valuable opportunity to challenge yourself as a photographer and to impress a client enough that they should want to return and/or recommend your services to others. From my experience, this is the path which holds the guarantee of being able to do what you love for a living.