I once read a very impressive article that gave a great analogy for being a small business owner: essentially you’re a crazy person trying to ride on the back of an angry lion. (Go ahead and picture an African lion; it makes the ride seem a bit more appealing with his majestic mane, and as long as we’re using our imaginations, picture him in front of a sunset on a beach.) Only the best make the ride successfully; the rest fall off and are eaten alive by the very lion they were trying to ride (Now picture this majestic lion gulping down a photographer… as the sun sets, the only thing left on the sand is a lonely camera in the fading light.) *** Cue tiny sad violin.***
Reading that article, I nodded my head empathetically at their analogy of throwing a lion into the mix of small business practices. “It's like a man riding a lion. People think, 'This guy's brave.' And he's thinking, 'How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?" The tricky part of small business ownership is to avoid being eaten by the very thing that you threw your heart, hard work, tears, stress, money, and time into.
In portrait photography, I felt like I was the (wo)man riding the lion at the end of the classic 8-second ride. I was fighting to stay on (there are only 100 or so other portrait photographers in Steamboat to compete with, both professional, and John Smith who has a fancy camera and stamps watermarks on his iphone images. ((sidenote, there are actually some really impressive iphone photographers out there!)) The real problem was that my heart wasn’t in it. I got tired of holding onto the portrait/wedding/engagement lion, snapping portraits, looking into the eyes of naturally beautiful women who ask for their wrinkles to be photoshopped out for their engagement shoots and fit young men asking if I can just ‘muscle them up’ a touch and lose a few pounds. My heart is in photography, and the beauty of the photos is LOST on those who can’t find beauty in themselves. Photography was making me sad.
It might just be that I’m a Millennial Searcher, and focused on finding happiness. Not just my own, but for other people. If I could make people happy with my photography, I would be happy. I began taking inspiration from my own life. In this stunning, gorgeous valley that I call my home, my own happiness comes from my outdoor activities; river guiding, hiking, climbing, Search and Rescue, biking, etc. I also quickly noticed that when I photograph those same activities, people don’t critique themselves as much. I rarely hear “I look fat” when someone looks back at my image of them rock climbing. They say “Wow, look how high up I am!” When they see photos of their snowmobile tour, they say “There was so much snow, and that sled was so hard to dig out when I got stuck!” When they see a photo of themselves on horseback with dirt all over their faces, they say “I look like a real cowboy.” THAT is what I want to hear. THAT is what I want to share with my clients. I want you, my client, to look at your life and be impressed with yourself and with what you have done with your life. Ignore the wrinkles, ignore the fat; those are just part of being human. What differentiates you from the rest of humanity is not your look, but your action, your passion, and the adventure you bring into your life.
So, for the past 6 months I’ve been preparing to jump ship from the lion ride. (Cats are sneaky and up to no good, anyway.) No more portraits, weddings, or engagements. 6 months have been spent readying partnerships with numerous outdoor guiding companies, setting up adventure insurances, taxes, licenses, etc. I’m not jumping off of the ‘Small Business Owner’ train, I’m just switching up my ride and getting ready for the long trail. Ditch the lion in the sunset scenario, and insert a wildebeest. (I’m sticking with the African theme…. Feel free to suggest a better ride if you think of one.) It’s going to be a hell of a ride on a fun, crazy animal that looks like it was assembled from spare parts of other mammals. (Score, it also doesn’t eat meat; hypothetically this implies great success and that I won't get eaten). Coincidentally, wildebeest are also relentless and on the move, always looking for something better. This isn’t about looking pretty. This is about showing the world you’re amazing, a badass, and living life to the fullest. When you’re having fun, putting down your tech gadgets, and letting a professional cover the photography, you’re truly enjoying your adventure. You can’t help but look pretty, and look like a badass. I’ll be there to capture that.
Thank you for the support. Already, I have three adventure shoots booked on Day One. 2014 is going to be amazing. Don't worry, my wildlife and landscapes will still be posted and for sale!
With that, I present to you the new business path of Couloir Images, LLC. “Put down the camera, and enjoy your adventure.”
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Thanks for visiting! My blog is a resource guide for clients and other photographers for educational and informational purposes. (And sometimes the occasional rant about Photoshop, high-waisted skirts, being too tall to wear heels and Chacos being too casual for work life, and other venting topics.) I write my articles using my experiences and various other resources such as the the web, dusty books, and of course Myth Busters (if you have never watched that show, it's well worth the couch time). That being said, anything I say on my blog doesn't come as guaranteed advice; it's opinion only. By visiting my blog, you're essentially signing a contract that says "Yup, I understand; you make no guarantees and I won't try to sue you or report you to Obama. That might make our new friendship awkward."
Read on and enjoy, life is full of adventures!