Do you remember the first time you thought about becoming a Professional Photographer? How old were you? Was it your first and only career? Was it a second career? Did you have thoughts of what a professional photographer would do, where they would work, etc.?
Perceptions vs Reality. What is the difference?
• Perception is defined as “the way you think about or understand someone or something”. Ask five different people and you will probably get 5 different perceptions of the same thing. Reality can be defined as “the truth and or the actual existence of something”.
• Various external factors can impact an individual’s perception while reality exists and cannot be controlled by anyone or anything.
It is also interesting that each person’s own perception is their reality. Anyone who wants to be successful working with clients learns that fact early in their career.Your PPA Board of Directors must recognize and often deal with misguided perceptions. This is true in any association or company. We understand the ‘perceptions are reality’ concept. This is why as leaders, we try very hard to be realistic, especially when change is necessary for growth. It is human nature to assume that when changes are made to something as important as certification or image competition, that these changes will make it easier for the current and new members. But sometimes it may seem like the reality is not easier, just different.
It is like a parent telling their teenagers how much harder they had it when they were kids…
One of our most talented portrait photographers, William Branson III M.Photog., CR., F-ASP shared his early perceptions with me. William said, “When I first attended the conventions and programs, I would sit in the back of programs by myself as I had not yet made any friends. I was petrified by all the people and intimidated by the speakers. After a few more years, and after gaining some wonderful friends I started meeting the speakers. I realized that they are all regular people like me, they just had more experience than I did. They endured the same business issues that I had but had more experience to deal with them.”William’s story is very much like my own. I looked up to those speakers and judges never thinking they all started out like everyone else. Even after many years of speaking and judging print competition myself, I must admit that the first time I met William Branson, I was intimidated, not because he did anything to cause that, just because my perception of him was not reality. I think back to when he visited my studio. Prior to him arriving, I wanted to redo the whole place and reinvent my work. It is the friendship that I have with William and other photographers that continually inspires me to be the best that I can be. And I encourage every one of you to introduce yourself and get to know many members of our organization.
Beth Genengels, CPP is close to earning her Master of Photography degree. I first met Beth at an Imaging USA a few years back. She was so excited to be there and I could tell she would be the type of photographer that would jump in and get involved. She is highly motivated and talented and open to all avenues of learning.I asked about her recently about her perception of the first time she attended IUSA and then meeting IPC (International Photographic Competition) approved jurors and speakers.She said, “I think when you are new in the industry, you are star struck by IPC jurors, Board of Directors and speakers. That’s a good thing though. It gave me something to strive for and people to look up to. They have dedicated a great deal of effort, education and time into being where they are. The reality, for me, was in getting to know these members more directly. In addition, knowing that I have dedicated myself to the pursuit of education and knowledge put me on a similar path, and like-minded people are fun to get to know. The IPC mentor booth is a GREAT resource. It gave me 15 minutes to sit down with an extraordinary artist and receive some real feedback. Moreover, it gave me a connection that I could go back to when I needed some help. Take Kimberly Smith, M.Photog.M.Artist.CR.,CPP for example. She was my IPC mentor in 2018. She told me to reach out to her afterward and helped me along the way. Even more amazing was that she was glued to the screen when my images came up and rooted for me!
There are still some members that make me feel awestruck because I hold them in such high regard. One in particular struck up a conversation with me last year in Atlanta, proving that my perception is truly in my head alone.”I was in college when I first thought that maybe I could have a career in photography. Of course, I pictured (no pun intended) myself creating fine art, having Gallery showings and my work displayed in museums. The reality though was that I needed to earn money along the way to pay for all the film and fibre based papers. So I studied and started photographing weddings. I had the perception that fine art photographers and wedding and portrait photographers were not part of the same profession. Thankfully, I joined PPA very early in my photographic career and learned how to be both a fine art portrait and a wedding photographer.Remember, that we are all here to grow. If there is someone that you aspire to emulate, if you want to improve your images, your business acumen or just find others that understand what it is like to be a creative and run a business, do not let your perceptions keep you from meeting them and asking questions along the way. You just might find a mentor or a new friend.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.