Tonight is an exciting time for me. It’s 1:19 AM. I’m sitting on the couch. My wife fell asleep well over an hour and a half ago, and my dog is curled up in an awkward position somewhere behind Shari’s heels.
So what have I been doing that’s so important that I haven’t moved my gluteus maximus from the couch for over an hour? Registering my web-site. That’s right. In just a few more days (if all goes as planned), http://www.RyanAustinDean.com will be up and running, ready for business.
It’s funny that the actual domain registration only took about 5 minutes; it took me about 6 months to convince myself into actually securing the name. I’ve teetered on the edge of making this step, but a few things always held me back.
First of all, I don’t feel like a real photographer. Everyone goes through their early days, and I understand very well that becoming an established photographer can be a lengthy process. I know that I can improve, and I believe that I’ve shown some mild improvement since purchasing a camera and a few lenses, but becoming a fan of photography means that I’m exposed to absolutely fantastic work.
I know what you’re thinking: Ryan, everyone has to start somewhere. Yes, but it’s difficult to see getting to the point that some local photographers are at currently. I go to famous photographers’ web-sites of course, but the ones I frequent most often are the great photographers from around this area. Mark Eric, Steven Myers, Fred Egan, Nate Weatherly…these guys are beyond incredible at what they do, and I get the sneaky suspicion that no amount of dedication, patience, and hard work can bring about that certain indefinable quality that great photographers seem to call up from within themselves.
This isn’t a pity party; it’s a harsh and what I consider to be realistic look at what the future holds for the average aspiring photographer. I have no desire to fool myself into thinking that I’m something I’m not; delusions of grandeur, as I’ve said before, are never becoming.
Second in my reasons for delaying a serious marketing push is the awkwardness that I’ve felt in establishing a consistent payment system. I didn’t buy a camera to make money. I bought a camera because I knew I would love taking pictures. I’ve wanted a decent camera my entire life, and I finally got one. I just wanted to capture special moments with the family, expressions and instances that would never come again. If I saw a beautiful landscape, I wanted to have a picture of it to go back to time and time again. I just wanted to take pictures.
You can imagine how uncomfortable it is informing “clients” for the first few times about your sitting fee. Not having given any previous thought to it, I’m sure the awkwardness, long pauses, and shifting around has betrayed the thoughts just below the surface.
“Is that too much to charge them?” “Is it worth that much?” “Will they resent me if I shoot higher than $__?” “What if they believe I think too highly of what I do?”
These questions race through my head, and I feel myself nearly panic. Never mind the fact that I’ve found what I observe to be comparable work for much higher prices…I’m brand new at this! Then again, doing worse than breaking even for the amount of time, effort, and resources is never a healthy practice to get into.
So, yes, I feel uncomfortable figuring out what to charge people, but I have every intention of setting a standard fee (after some advice from friends and seasoned photographers) to place for viewing on my web-site. The very thought makes me break out in a cold sweat, but I have to do it.
Now for the “transparent” part of this post: I’m doing this for a reason, and the reason has something to do with God.
That last comment might have made you smirk, but hear me out.
I’m a life-long pastor’s son, and I’ve been a youth pastor for 4 1/2 years. Being in this position, I’ve been privy to all sorts of information. I’ve seen people at their best; I’ve seen people at their worst. I’ve rode the highs and lows in Bossier City with my parents for 20 years. I’ve seen the toll that caring for 500+ people has taken on my family as individuals; I’ve also seen the incredible blessings that have come as a result. I’ve seen every blemish, every hiccup, every triumph, and every trial, and I’ve seen it up close and personal.
While it’s a life of “privilege” at times, it’s also a life of burdens, most which are unnoticed or (more often) unseen. I tend to take things heavily, being an emotional person, and I’ve felt it take a toll on me personally. I don’t simply concern myself with my own burdens, but when my family struggles, when a member of the youth group struggles, or when the church as a whole limps through a tough time, I can’t quit thinking about whatever it is that’s causing the grief. While it’s often unhealthy to do other people’s worrying for them, I believe it’s an integral part of the job, and I’ve done my best to accept that.
I’ve sought means of escape through various hobbies–anything to distract me during the off hours, but I haven’t found that escape through most of the older pastimes. When there’s no momentary escape, it’s easy to feel burnt-out, even during times when less is going on in the church. Add that on to feelings of personal dissatisfaction with the job you’ve done or the caliber of person you’ve been thus far, and you have a recipe for a meltdown.
I said all that to say this: I believe that God gave me photography as my escape. I don’t just love doing it; it’s therapeutic for me. Even when I’m just taking pictures of Apple in the backyard or shooting the ten-thousandth picture of one of the nephews, I feel a release from the stupid and often unnecessary burdens that I place on my narrow, Irish shoulders.
I’ve enjoyed photography so much that I’ve prayed several times about it, asking God to dial me back a notch if I let photography become too high of a priority in my life. For me, it has sometimes been the spiritual equivalent of a nice Shiatsu massage (I’ve never had one, but Mom said it’s good); just a little something to loosen me up and send me on my way.
Where this attempt at a business fits in to God’s plans, I’m not quite sure, but I have felt a release from Him to pursue it in moderation. There are more important things in life: my wife, my family, my youth group, my church, and my study, but I believe this fits into God’s will for my life.
I’m not sure why you (whoever you may be) read this blog, but I’m sure that very few of you will have made it this far in this particular post. For the few of you that have stuck with it…*high five*
If none of you have made it this far, then I would like to take this moment to announce my candidacy for the office of President of the United States of America. I would appreciate your (no one’s) vote.
All of that being said, I’ve made my decision: I’m going for it. I’m getting a running web-site (which I plan on updating to a spiffy, Flash-based design in mid-2008), printing out business cards, and pushing this thing for real. What happens past that point is up to God, but at least I know I’ll have fun doing it.
God bless you guys. I’m going to sleep. It’s 3:25 AM at this point, and I’m sick of staring at this screen.