Lessons Learned

Fog over Mississippi, NOLA. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Learning from Mistakes and Unfortunate Situations

No matter how much we try to avoid them, we all make them–mistakes, that is. No matter how experienced we are–in life, that is–sometimes we can still find ourselves in unexpected, unpleasant situations, mostly when we consider ourselves among friends and have our guard down or at least lowered.

Most of us try to learn from mistakes or from situations we could not have avoided. As we go through life–and, as creatives, through our creative lives–we learn how to avoid mistakes or unfortunate happenings most of the time, at least.

Waterfront. Lensbaby Velvet Photography by Alina Oswald.
Waterfront. Lensbaby Velvet Photography by Alina Oswald.

“Clients” come up with all sorts of “ideas.” As creatives, as photographers, we’ve heard them all. Almost. Here are a few samples:

“But I want only one picture.”

“Can I have the RAW files?”

“Don’t publish the images, they’re mine.”

“I just need you for a half-hour wedding photo shoot.”

“It shouldn’t take you longer than twenty minutes if you know what you’re doing.”

“Delete all images. I don’t want you [the photographer] to have any copies. I’m a private person.”

Facing the Storm. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Facing the Storm. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Also, and this is, in particular, true when photographing people you know socially, people tend to take advantage of your time, and of your work. Because the photo shoot takes place outside their work hours, they consider it a ‘just for fun’ new thing to do; hence, they tend to take advantage, while putting you and your work down, just because they can. They keep you longer than originally planned, they come up with new ideas for their images on the spot, they take plenty of breaks because they’re tired, and so on. These are the ones who can hurt your feelings the most because you don’t expect this kind of behavior from someone you consider somewhere between acquaintance and friend.

V is for Velvet. Lensbaby Velvet Photography by Alina Oswald.
V is for Velvet. Lensbaby Velvet Photography by Alina Oswald.

So, what should you do to try to avoid these kinds of unfortunate circumstances, especially when you want to remain on speaking terms with that someone who’s trying to take advantage of you and your work?

Don’t beat yourself up! It’s not always your fault. Oftentimes, people tend to interpret kindness as weakness and, therefore, take advantage and hurt your feelings. On top of it, it’s more difficult to stand your ground and not give in to people you know, but it’s worth the try.

Trust your gut! Especially if it’s a “for fun” photo shoot with friends, talk to them before the photo shoot. Talk about the photo shoot–poses, outfits, what they would want to get from the photo shoot, what you want to get out of it (it’s a test shoot and both parties should be able to ‘get’ something out of it. If something doesn’t quite feel right, walk away. Find a reasonable excuse the get out of it. Be aware that even if everything seems fine during the pre-shoot conversation, plans can still change during the photo shoot. Take control of the situation. The first instinct, for most of us, is to adjust and adapt and go with the flow, but not if it means that we’re taken advantage of in the process. Because it will not stop there, if often doesn’t. After the shoot, there will be even more demands, etc. So, take control of the situation, gently, but before it’s too late.

Zigzagging Through Life
Zigzagging through life. Photo by Alina Oswald.

In general, when deciding to do a test shoot or work with a client, first try to read the signs. Sometimes the signs are there, the red flags right in your eyes. Other times they are not there, to begin with or we cannot see them or refuse to see them because of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Remember that there will always be unpleasant surprises along the way. Learn to become aware of them ahead of time, if possible, and to accept that they do happen. Learn to take them as lessons along your creative way, and move on.

As always, thanks for stopping by,

Alina Oswald

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