I’m Not a Photographer
I know, it surprised me too. For many years I thought I was.
I have a passion for photography, I love to learn and my focus was on trying to be the best photographer I could be. I’d sign up to courses, subscriptions, and to well established photographers channels on YouTube, all in the name of improving my skills with the camera. To be fair I did learn a lot along the way, and it definitely set a foundation on which I’d continue to build upon. However, I lacked confidence in my own abilities, and still do. That said, I know my way around a camera more than most. I have a natural talent when it comes to speed in using technology, whether it’s a camera or some other device I have at my fingertips, and I ALWAYS work in manual. And I mean always, there are zero exceptions.
Walking backwards out of a church with a bride and groom walking down the aisle whilst I manually control the shutter, aperture, ISO, flash settings and changing focus points as I move, knowing that I have exactly 1.75 seconds to change ALL of these settings again as we exit the church in to daylight so the image isn’t pure white, but in fact absolutely perfect. I somehow just know the exact settings to enter and as I step from darkness in to sunlight I’ve changed the shutter, the aperture, the ISO, flash and focal points without even a pause. I’ve no idea what gives me this ability, and I know many other photographers who’ll admit that they simply can’t do things this quickly or accurately.
Even so I still don’t think I’m great at what I do. I always know I can do better, and for me, this is what keeps me humble. In fact just telling you what I’m good at took all my efforts because I absolutely hate talking about myself and what my strengths are.
The truth is I’m an expert with the functions of a camera. My constant curiosity to learn gets the better of me and this is the result. I’m a perfectionist which means I’ll never be the best in my own mind, but I live in the comfort that this alone will allow me to keep learning. I don’t want to be the best, ever, I just want to keep improving to be better.
I was lucky to have stumbled across Peter McKinnon, a well established and respected photographer based in Canada. I only found out about him from one of YouTube’s ‘recommended’ lists, which made a change from the recommended cat videos that I’d never once watched and wondered why YouTube was trying to force me in to this territory. It was sheer luck but something that, over time, changed my outlook on everything.
The videos I began watching were as you might expect; relating to what types of cameras, lenses and other kit he considers to be essential when photographing a wedding. I listened, learnt and put everything in to practise. I’d work for free just to test out the newly acquired skills. I didn’t realise it at the time that I was already doing something important. It wasn’t about the learning, but the fact I was giving my time for free in order to better myself. Peter taught me this. He stressed that sometimes you have to work for free to build what, or who you want to be, and this sticks with me.
I had friends and family telling me the opposite, that I was worth more and should be charging for my services. So who was right? I always respect the advice I receive, no matter where it comes from. It’s a sign that people care. On the contrary, some advice is given because you’re seen as a threat. I’ve experienced this first hand and it’s not a nice place to be in, but that says more about the other person than it does me.
I listen to my gut and more often than not it’s right. But the more I watched Peter the more I realised that he was teaching me about attitude and to do what is right by others. He chose to share his knowledge and skill for free because he wanted to see the best in everybody. I already had this inside of me, I just didn’t realise it at the time.
So let’s get personal for a minute. I’m very creative and always have been. I never think I’m good enough, and I always do everything I can for others. Some of you may feel the same. In return I battle depression, anxiety, and a need for acceptance. These three things play a huge part in what I do everyday. I’ve medicated, travelled, and forced myself to do new things in the hope I could eliminate these negative aspects of my life. None of these things worked, and if anything it probably just made things worse.
Throw in to the mix that I’ve been the family member who is relied upon to fix problems. Big problems, too, ones that are emotionally draining. Like a parent being diagnosed with cancer whilst I battled my own demons along with sleep deprivation, long shifts, 140 mile round trips to and from work including night shifts and more. This was before I ran my own business. Further add in some financial worries, wondering if I could actually afford to feed myself on a day let alone for a month. All of which affected my own relationships.
I’ve made mistakes, and some big ones at that. I’ve been to hell and back. The stress I’ve been through is immense but I’ve pushed on. I care for others before I care for myself, and I’m ok with that. But what does that mean for me? Well I get to be the good in the world. I always give and never expect anything in return. The return I get is friends who are sincere and care about me, and would do anything for me, which is something money can’t buy. The support I’ve had from friends over the years has been overwhelming.
Most won’t truly know how difficult it’s been for me but for those who do, thank you for standing by me through the difficult times, it really hasn’t gone unnoticed and I’ll forever feel endebted to you. It’s helped me to continue working through full days, from the moment I get up to the moment I sleep, regularly clocking up 80-100 hours a week, only taking breaks to eat and even then I sometimes eat and work at the same time.
I did everything I could to build the business I wanted, yet there was something missing. Something cruicial; my identity. I dare say I’m not the only photographer (or person, even) who feels the same. I’ve constantly compared my work with other successful photographers. I wanted to find a style that I felt suited me. I wanted to find the best (Lightroom Photo Editing Software) presets so I could click a button and turn a dull, RAW photo in to a style that I felt was me. Each year I’d find new presets and use them as a basis for my photo editing. I’d still edit all my images individually, taking a lot of time and care over making it ‘perfect’, but something inside me was missing, and at that point I still didn’t know what it was. It’s been bothering me for so many years and I can’t tell you how it feels knowing that everything you put in to the business represents you as a person. You feel every single positive and negative comment and it can make your day great or absolutely ruin you.
This all changed when I received a public review from Karine & Nick. I shot their wedding photography at The Crown Hotel in Harrogate, North Yorkshire last Summer. We did two engagement shoots because the first one involved us trying to survive through the cold, icy paths of Valley Gardens in Harrogate, and decided that we’d come back in a few months time when it was warmer and safer. They loved their photos but it’s not why I do these shoots.
I read their review and realised that there was almost no mention of photography, and that’s when it hit me; I’m not a photographer. I actually cried. I was fighting for the wrong thing for all these years and now it’s just hit me square in the face.
We highly recommend Ryan at Riff Raff Photography!
From the day we first met Ryan we couldn't have been more comfortable with our choice of photographer. We met for a casual chat about our plans and the process from there onwards couldn't have been any more enjoyable and stress-free.
Rather than becoming another worry, Ryan became perhaps the most helpful part of the team! On the big day he was probably up and ready before we were. Throughout the day he did the most impressive Mrs Doubtfire act of being with both bride and groom separately and both at once!
On your wedding day you will be at your happiest but can also be at your most nervous and vulnerable. At times you feel like you just need that someone who knows exactly how you're feeling and exactly how to help. We could never have imagined that our photographer could have provided such support but he really did just that as well taking incredible photos throughout!
We've just received our album and are over the moon.
Thank you Ryan!
Nick and Karine Powell
This single review made me realise how important I am as a person. It’s not about having the latest camera equipment, it’s not about having extensive knowledge and being able to be technically perfect when capturing photos. It’s about being someone who’s there for others in their time of need. It’s about being sincere with every interaction I make, it’s about using my skills and knowledge when offering support and help at every opportunity to be the person who helps others through their difficult and uncertain times. It’s about going above and beyond without even a second thought. It’s about telling others how great they are, because they deserve to hear it. I did all of this without realising because it’s who I am inside, which was simply and elegantly pointed out by this one review.
I shared it on my private Facebook profile to show my gratitude and was met with a series of private messages and public comments from friends and colleagues going as far back as 14 years ago telling me how I’ve helped them in life. How kind I am and anyone who books me would be lucky to have me to share their big day. Then I received two more reviews, telling me the same thing. Everything changed in an instant.
I’m Still Not a Photographer
My latest work is below and represents me. Today, I will confidently say that I’m not a photographer. If you like my photos, then my job title simply won’t matter. And if you book me to capture your wedding, you’ll get the photos you want plus everything I’ve said in this blog. You’ll get me as a person, someone who genuinely cares about you. Someone who’ll work endless hours to give you the best I can. To me, you are not simply another wedding, you’re another opportunity for me to help make your day better than you can imagine. Someone who is your friend. You’ll get my care and sincerity, and if all of this isn’t for you, then we’re simply not a match, and that’s ok.