life

How I became a professional (paid) photographer in 5 steps

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So one day I decided I was done working as a designer and I decided I would finally live my dream and become a full-time photographer. Here is how I did it, and how it can help you do it as well :

I didn’t study photography : I studied graphic design, and everyone reaction is « ooohw but that’s the saaaame! » and I say yep it’s close, I do have a strong visual culture, and it certainly helps. But I had no idea of how to put the rights settings on my camera, I never retouched an image in Photoshop (though I was a superstar at removing getty and shutter stock copyrights logos thank to my many interships in advertising agency -_- ) and above all the HUGE pain in the ass scary part was to learn LIGHT, especially STUDIO LIGHTS

1 - GET CURIOUS

So just before I quit my designer job (this is another story) I was spending half of my time looking at photography blogs. And my constant question was HOW DID THEY DO IT 
Because when I was photographing something, clearly it just did not look like the same, no matter the love I was putting in it. I did not understand what was their secret behind the mood I was loving in their images WHAT WAS THEIR SECRET 

Especially looking at photographs done with studio lights and speed lights, these one gave me such a headache I WANTED TO KNOW HOW IT WAS DONE

I still ask myself this question now when I see something I love, and most of the time I understand right away how it’s done. On the negative side, knowing all the behind the scene, the magic is kinda gone now, everything has a price :) 

so from this obsession I started to look for information
I was tricked by the beauty of the photographs by Joey L : and because he is a chill guy he had a blog and it gave me a good starting point to understand his work and his vision. then I came across the strobist website : so for those who don’t know strobism off camera flash david hobby
speedlights . 

2 - ONLINE RESSOURCES

I did not want to go back to school and understiood I could find everything online to set me up! (remember it was 5/6 years ago, it was not as obvious as it is right now!) 
I would watch some videos in the morning and practice in the afternoon

My favorite ones (at that time but they are all still awesome) I am not sponsored, I just love them :) 
 
- Creative Live for just almost everything
- The Strobist for learning to use off-camera speedlights as awesome studio lights
- Phlearn for Photoshop (but beautiful Photoshop, not kitschy ugly stuff)
- Sue Bryce for Photography and the business aspect of it


3 - MACGYVER STUDIO LIGHTS FOR CHEAP

So I was watching all these videos talking about soft boxes, beauty dish, reflectors. For me it was out of the question to buy something I did not know how to use, I did not even understand why I needed these stuff so I decided to build them from scratch. Basically I had every single modifier on the market as a cardboard version!

Here a few examples :) 

Light modifiers :
- A diffusion panel with plastic plumbing pipes and the cheapest Ikea white curtains as a diffuser
- A soft box with cardboard and a survival blanket glued inside + curtains for diffusion
- Damn it I swear I did not understand why people were using reflectors so much! Same here, cardboard as a base. I had a white side with paper, the other side was survival blanket, and I even made a golden side! 
- A ring light with a stripe of LED lights (cheap LED lights are AWESOME) 
- A snoot? EASY! Cardboard and gaffer tape of course! 

Cardboard reflectors and my beloved homemade softbox <3

Cardboard reflectors and my beloved homemade softbox <3

Backdrops :
- A white wall (that often means moving the furnitures a lot!)
- I painted fabric (that was given to me) to have different colors
- I also used a pair of black sheet (that someone gave to me as well!) and I taped it directly to the wall ahah (not my best idea, don’t do it, OR be ready to paint your wall after :) ) 

I finally bought a Photek soft lighter soft box after 3 years, and I got my proper paper backdrops just a year ago (and a friend gave them to me ahem, though I could not live without them anymore) 

I got my first paid shoots with this and i NEVER EVER EVER had anyone tell me « oh but this is not a real soft box! people don’t know, people don’t care, they all came to me because they loved my photographs looked, not the way my « studio » looked :) 

Photographed in 2014 with my homemade cardboard softbox and black sheets as a background

Photographed in 2014 with my homemade cardboard softbox and black sheets as a background

4 - TRY STUFF AND EXPERIMENT

I had no idea what I wanted to do especially : as you know there are many types of photographers : you can do landscapes, portraits, fashion, culinary, ANYTHING 

Most of the time I reproduced a cool technique I saw some other photographer teaching, and little by little after a few months, I realized I was attracted more and more by the same kind of result. I kinda found my style like this! 


5 - INVOLVE OTHER PEOPLE 

I would team up with a friend some days and we would be very nerdy and try lighting and stuff. Basically it sounded exactly like this : « Hey what do you think it does if I press this button? OoooooH AWESOME! » 
Also I photographed ALL my friends. When I didn’t have any friend available I photographed myself, and that’s the main reason I started to do self portrays. 

And when the friends of my friends saw their pictures on Facebook, they started to contact me and that was it : 

I GOT PAID TO PHOTOGRAPH PEOPLE!  (YAY!

Why perfection is a pain in the ass

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What if we decided to let go of this massive struggle that is the quest for perfection? 

I decided it would be a perfect subject to start this blog! As you can see, the website is just not ready, I don’t have a logo, I don’t even have the good domain name! But my friend challenged my to write and publish one article everyday in march, so I don’t really have a choice : honoring my word is more important than anything else. So let’s do this, even if it’s faaaaar from being perfect :) 

So why is perfection such a problem in our lives? 
I discovered there is even a fancy greek word for this : 
ATELOPHOBIA (so now you can look like a pretentious know-it-all at parties, yep don’t thank me!) Which means literally the fear of imperfection : it’s is the fear of not being good enough. Sounds familiar? It looks not like much said like this but it leads to a lot of real troubles : anxiety, depression, and even suicide in the worst cases. 

I know that the quest for perfection can make our life like hell : we feel like we are not good enough, that we are not ready yet to publish this artwork, that we are to fat to deserve to be loved, too old to learn this new skills. We are just not ready. To the point we don’t even start anywhere. It becomes this massive block. I don’t need to remember you that almost all the signals from the world we are living in are remembering us on a daily basis how imperfect we are. For some of us it’s our parents, it’s our grades from school, it’s the influencers on social medias, the thin young girls on magazines, the advertising trying to sell you stuff, anything, just pick your favorite one! 

I can’t tell you how many people told me « I really want you to photograph me but I will come when I loose 5 kilos! ». (kinda 10 pounds) These people usually never come for a photoshoot : they are waiting to be the perfect version of themselves which will never exist, because there is always going to be something they don’t like. It’s the eternal internal fight between seeking what you don’t have, or realizing what you already have and be grateful for it. 

So as a result, we procrastinate, we think we are looking for perfection where in fact we waste our time not doing the stuff we love and not living the life we want. We are looking for the perfect conditions (which will never exist of course)

As a creator, we are first in line when it comes to this damn fear of imperfection : it’s hard to know if our idea is good, if it worth the time and energy to create it, sometimes it is so hard to know when our creation is just over (I swear I could spend 18 more hours on retouching any picture!). Sometimes we never finish what we start, sometimes we finish but never share it to the world, sometimes we never let go. And most of the time we don’t even start this new piece or this new project, because we are so afraid to fail that this fear is paralyzing us. We’d rather do nothing than doing something incorrectly.

Ahah as I am writing  and realizing that I am so guilty of this! There is not a moment I don’t get terrified before a creative photoshoot, I fear I will suck, that I will waste the time of my model, that I won’t be able to deliver what I imagined. 


Are we doomed forever? What tangible things can we do to release a bit of pressure : 

The best advice I can give is to set yourself a deadline : 
But a real one, with real grown-up consequences. It’s easy to respect deadlines when you have clients and a project to deliver, but when it comes to personal project and creation, it is another whole procrastination story. For example, because my friend is helping me in the process of creating this blog, I just don’t want to disappoint her : she told me I would have to write one article every day, so I am doing it. And trust me, if it was just for me, I would be sleeping right now or watching Netflix (or both at the same time!!) But I have to write this before the end of the day!! So I am grateful to have her supporting me here, because this would’t exist! 

So the second one is : find yourself someone you are accountable for :

A coach, a mentor, someone who will support you and encourage you to go to the right direction. From personal experience I wouldn’t recommend a close friend or family, because it’s hard to get an objective feedback on what we are doing when feelings are involved. And most of the time people that are not working in a creative industry won’t have any idea what to say to you to help you. I remember my mum would always be silent and say something like “oh. it looks “real” - what do you mean real? -mmh like it looks like a real photography from a magazine - NO KIDDING THIS IS MY JOB FOR LIKE TEN YEARS DAMNIT!” (I never said I was the most patient perfect person ever :D ) . Surround yourself by a positive tribe of people who are respecting your vision, who are understanding it and encouraging you work. 
For the challenge of one article a day, I am actually not by myself : we are three entrepreneurs doing it (the others have to publish one video a day, not easy either!!) We share a group on Facebook, and I find this HIGHLY motivating. We are pushing each other, we share our struggles, and whatever happens I know there are at least two people who are expecting to read my work everyday! I just don’t want to disappoint them, and I don’t feel alone in this adventure anymore :) 

I would say the last one is to be more mindful, and to challenge our vision of perfection :

Is spending 6 more months on this really help us reach our goals? I am happy to accept how imperfect this website is at the moment, it has plenty of time to grow, it will change and evolve with me. I acknowledge the fact that my english is not perfect, but it’s alright, it does not matter : what matters is that I finally have a place to share my experiences with all of you, and that maybe it will help you somewhere in your life. This is more important to me than having a perfect logo (and that’s a passionate designer saying this!!) I acknowledge my fear of failing, I am not especially pushing it away, and it is here for sure, but I don’t let it take control of my life. “oh hey it’s you again! Yep I see you, and yep I am listening to you, and yep I understand why you are afraid but nope you are not in charge!”.

I am letting you on one of my favorite quote ever ever EVER from Chuck Palahniuk (the guy who wrote Fight Club <3 )


“The air will always be to filled with something. Your body too sore or tired. Your father too drunk. Your wife too cold. You will always have some excuse not to live your life.”


― Chuck Palahniuk, Haunted

Do you recognize yourself this article? Do you think perfection is blocking you from starting something? What would you do if failing was totally alright? I am really curious and would love to know your experience hehe :) 

LOVE TO ALL ET PLEIN DE BISOUS!

Pauline