This is a recurring theme, and one I have played over a number of times, but bear with me. Driving to work this morning I remember thinking, as I was merging into traffic, that sometimes you have to back off a bit in order to get into the fast lane. The lane you are merging into is jammed with people barely going the speed limit. Because the next lane over is doing about the same thing, you can’t get over to the lane where the traffic is actually moving at a reasonable speed and not full of trucks. Instead of jamming on the gas to try to force an opening, it sometimes works better to just keep it a little slow, let the people in the next lane over get past until an opening catches up, then make the move into that lane and eventually into the lane you want to be in. A few miles down the road you have settled in nicely, the people in the other lanes are changing frantically in an attempt to gain a spot or two, and you are right where you knew all along you wanted to be.
This concept has parallels with my photography. Going into this year, I decided to set some pretty serious goals for the business side of my photography. In order to get where I want to be, I had to get certain things done or it was never going to happen. Knowing that I only have so many hours in a week to devote to it, I had to prioritize. I’ve been saying for a long time that what separates me the most from people who do this full time is that (a) they are independently wealthy or (b) they spend a lot more time on the business side of things, which they typically do while I am at my day job trying to earn a living.
Like so many people, when I made the switch to digital about three years ago, I was unprepared for the huge shift in time commitment that would go along with it. The money commitment was hard enough, but the time needed to review, edit, process and catalog images is huge, and I quickly fell behind to the point where I had 20,000 digital images in my collection but no way to know what was any good and where the good ones were or how to find them. By necessity I developed a workflow that I was comfortable with, but that was late last year and I had three years worth of work to catch up on.
I realized that if I kept shooting the number of images I have been shooting since I went digital, there was no possible way I was going to (a) catalog and keyword all my images, (b) expand my submissions of stock images to magazines, (c) update my website, (d) buy a printer and learn how to use it and (e) lots of other nagging things too numerous to mention. After some thinking, I concluded that the best solution was going to be to scale back the amount of shooting I was doing. Less shooting = fewer photos = less time processing = more time for the priorities. With just a few exceptions, I have been limiting my shooting to magazine assignments and places where I have a specific theme or subject I am looking for. While I could certainly stand to have a few hundred more spring images in my inventory, that can wait until next year. In the mean time I have rediscovered last year’s spring images, which in a lot of ways is better than taking new ones, because I already had some good ones and they haven’t cost me anything but time.
The best news is that it is just now the end of April, and I have captioned and keyworded all my images (not to a great level of detail but at least to the point where I can find them), submitted a number of images to new publications, completed an overhaul of my website and purchased a printer. So far I have only managed to crank out a few crappy looking pieces of paper with ink on them, but if that’s how I spend my time the next eight months I might just figure it out. In the mean time I can put a stock submission together in about an hour, process images from an assignment and turn them around in a couple of evenings, and have a few hours a week to pretend I am a normal person. I’m cruising along in the lane I want to be in, waiting for my exit to come up, and when it does, I’ll be back out there in the middle of Cades Cove or somewhere trying to add to my photo collection.
Beats the heck out of being a Photoshop zombie.