What I learned in 2020, and what’s next!
So it’s that time of the year when I usually review the work I’ve done. The projects I’ve been on, the type of work I was hired for, how my style evolved compared to the previous years, what I learned, and what I plan on doing next.
It is my first year sharing those thoughts in a blog post and on YouTube. I normally keep these observations to myself. But this time I thought that with that terrible year we just had it would be really interesting for me to share these thoughts. You might learn a thing or two in the process and you will also realize that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in my business.
So last year I did mostly Athlete portraits in the Fitness and Crossfit world, lingerie, and Boudoir… and of course, I’ve worked with a few dancers, ex dancers, and gymnasts.
After a quick glance, you'll notice I've made a lot of basic portraits. I used natural, or available light and sometimes, one, and 2 light setups. I went for a slightly underexposed background on some of my shots. The approach I had for several years got me thinking... How didn't I get sick of this way of working?
I don’t hate these images but I think they are not memorable for a lot of reasons. After a while, if my images are correctly executed I ask myself one question. Is it memorable in any way? I am not talking about the experience I had on set, the people I met, and the fun I had during the shoot. I am talking about looking at these images as a work of art if we allow ourselves to see it this way and the answer is “No”.
These images will not stand the test of time, and it’s not a bad thing. Not everything has to be “art”, especially If you’re doing client work. If your client is happy, and you got paid then perfect! Making a timeless piece of art was not the goal… you can save this for later, for more personal projects for example.
So basically, this is what you end up with. You own your craft, you show up on the job, you are now able to break the ice easily with a client to communicate and you are good at identifying their problem, and providing a custom solution has become 2nd nature! I am still working on this, to be honest, but I am getting better.
It’s hard to be creative on lingerie and boudoir sessions. Working in bedrooms, apartments, hôtel rooms doesn’t help to try and be original. So to spice things up you try to change your perspective and add props. I really went dark on some images I went for something moody. I sometimes wasn't looking for a realistic result. And I faced a lot of situations where I had to adapt to unexpected changes on location but that's part of the job. The quality and direction of light are still an obsession for me and I still struggle in certain conditions.
Looking at these images revealed the lack of risk I took in my work in 2020, and this has been going on for a few years now. In one of my last videos of 2020, I said that it was my less creative year.. and I was right!
Another important thing worth mentioning is that I’ve worked for a lot of clients in the past years that just didn’t have the right budget for what they wanted to achieve. Trying to adapt to their budget forced me to make a lot of compromises. You do your best to make the most out of every situation, and that's what you are paid for, but when there are too many constraints, you cannot expect groundbreaking results.
This is important when you are exchanging with your client, don’t oversell your work, because if you stay realistic, your client will be disappointed in the end because you didn’t deliver what you promised. And if you over-deliver you might please him or her, but in the long run bankruptcy and depression might knock at your door. I am not ashamed of the pictures, but after all these years, I expect way more from myself and can’t continue in this direction.
The only time I really took the time to create something in 2020 was when I was given the opportunity to test gear which is a shame. Great learning experience, where I got to create images that I end up loving a bit more than my usual client work, and of course for you guys this means a new YouTube video. But while this is fun, nobody is paid during these sessions. I miss working on projects where the money is not a problem and where the goal is to create images and content that goes beyond the internet. Because personal projects are cool but they cost you money!
My goal for 2021, if COVID allows us to work normally:
Fight formulaic approaches when possible
Taking more risks and getting out of my comfort zone
Find new clients that can afford what I wish to offer
Even if this means starting from scratch, I believe it’s worth it. Why pursue in a direction that leads to a place that makes me unhappy? If so then I might as well give up on Photography and find a regular job. The idea is to find the right balance, and 2019 and 2020 for me have heavily leaned on only one side so it’s about time for me to make the necessary changes to balance this out.
I know it’s hard, I’ve been doing this recently with my video work. Considering myself a beginner and starting all over again. Finding a workflow, the right tools, the stories I want to tell and who I want to work with, and how. I did a few tests last year when possible and got interesting results. You can see these videos on another YouTube channel because I wanted to clearly separate my film and photography work because I am going to tackle completely different themes. Or you can find my video work here: www.hazekware.com But I of course started with what I know because it is easier for me to work with people that I’ve met in the past in my photography projects. So Dancers and athletes will regularly show up at first and gradually we will venture into unknown territories. What about you? What have you learned in 2020? Since 2021 is still an uncertain year at least for me, I will not share or talk about upcoming projects with you yet. I will not make this mistake. So keep an eye out, connect with me on Instagram or Twitter, or even Facebook if you are over 40… My blog of course will still be the place of choice if you don’t want to skip a beat. Please take care, stay safe, be responsible. Love, peace, and having fun, these words are not mine, but they feel like the right words to say right now!