Monday, May 27, 2013

Follow Up to Yesterday's Copyright Post

Hello Everyone.  I just wanted to pop in and write a quick follow up to yesterday's blog post so that I could apologize to anyone who may have been offended by it.  It was not my intention to hurt, offend or call anyone out.   Honestly, I am really just trying to wrap my head around how to go forward in my business.  Since I posted yesterday, I have received several emails and facebook messages from friends and clients who thought I was referring to them and I feel so bad that I made so many of you feel uneasy.  It wasn't geared toward any of you, it wasn't even geared toward the girl that is cited in the original post, she is just the first person I was in communication with when my attention was brought back to an issue that I've had for years.  So please, if I have hurt your feelings in any way through my post, forgive me.  How to post my images on facebook and other social media is a decision that I need to make for future images and I just thought it would be a relevant topic for my blog.

The fact that my post invoked so many emotional responses in others surprised me, even though it is a pretty emotional topic for me.  I think the reason that it may have bothered so many is that I spoke to the issue on the surface level instead of going in depth to what is really going on in my head/heart around the subject.  I think that anytime there is a deeper issue that is present but not being brought to the table, confusion and distrust can surface, so I am sorry about that and I will try to be a bit more transparent.

Here is what is going on...for the past several years God has been growing me in confidence, purpose and trust in Him.  This has all been in my personal life and it has been amazing, I am a completely different person than I was four years ago.  However, even though so much has changed in me overall, my business persona seems to have stayed pretty much the same.  I still have a tendency to be the old, scared me, thinking less of myself than who God says I am.  I hide behind the camera/computer and fear stepping out into the realm of marketing or self-promotion in any way.  I care way too much about what other people think of my ability, my artwork or even my portraits.  I want people to like me as a photographer and have let too much of my identity be wrapped up in that.  It is time to break free.

I know that the Lord has been leading me to step out more into who He created me to be, but I have been dragging my feet as far as it pertains to my business and I haven't really been able to pinpoint the reason.  Yesterday, after posting I felt completely unsettled.  It was not a post that I particularly wanted to write, but I really felt that it was something that I needed to do and my husband agreed, so I did it.  Surface level?  YES, but I checked it off.  Of course, surface level doesn't work when God wants to expose something deeper, so I have been wrestling with Him ever since.  I have been going back and forth all day about that silly post and the argument that I keep having with myself is, "Am I being too controlling?"  Ding, ding, ding!!!! That phrase should jump out at me like a bright red flag, but I've become so used to it that it just sounds right.  Seriously, what other photographer have you ever heard of that wonders if they are being too controlling with their images?  It's ridiculous, yet in my mind it's such a prominent thought that it sometimes paralyzes me from making good business decisions.  Where did that come from?  I know exactly where it came from.

A LONG time ago, I was a part of an organization that constantly told me that I was being too controlling with my photography.  There were a lot of weddings within the organization and at the time, I was the only photographer there, so I was the natural choice to photograph them.  Everyone there was a friend of mine, so I made my prices as low as I possibly could and in some cases, too low.  There were a few weddings that I ended up paying out of pocket  for a few rolls of film and processing (I'm so thankful for digital and the fact that I no longer have to estimate how many rolls of film I will need based on the number in the wedding party).  Yes, this was THAT long ago, I was still using actual film!  Since I worked in a photo lab (best Photo Lab I've ever been to- Centric Photo in Tucson, check them out- they ship), I kept my client's costs down by processing the film and doing the printing myself during hours when the lab was closed.  Even with all of this, I was told that I was being too controlling with my pictures.  Their suggestion/requirement became that instead of "making" the couples have professional grade film and processing their prints at my professional quality lab, I should  just surrender the film to them  and let them take them to Walgreens for processing to save money.  At first this was more than I could take.  How could I let people who were trusting me with their wedding memories take their film to Walgreens?!?!?!  Let me reiterate that this was many years ago, the discrepancy between quality of our professional lab and Walgreens was even more abundant  in the days of film, where a technician actually looked at each negative before printing and chose how light/dark to make it, along with what colors to add or counter.  Plus, if someone's film was ruined by the run through developer at Walgreens, there weren't scanners around where we could easily pull them into Photoshop to fix them.   The best fix there was still nose grease (yes, it's as gross as it sounds, but it was highly effective).  Anyway, I about collapsed the first time it was suggested to me to let a couple take their film anywhere other than my trusted lab and I politely refused, turns out, that wasn't an option.  The next wedding I photographed I gave the unprocessed film to the couple when they returned from their honeymoon.  That afternoon I received a call, "Do you have our film?"  asked the voice on the other end of the line.  What!!!!  My heart was beating like crazy.  They had left their film in the building we had been in and thought that maybe I had seen it and picked it up.  I felt like I was going to die.  That is a lot of pressure on a wedding photographer!  Well, they found it in the lost and found later that week but I was sure that I was never giving a couple unprocessed film again.  I was wrong.  The daughter of the head of our organization got engaged and I was thoroughly degraded for even considering using professional film, let alone a professional lab because he didn't think that it could possibly make a difference in quality.  I was told that he, "knew the kind of operation I was running" and that I was, "ripping off" the people in our organization and that he wasn't going to allow me to continue to operate that way (this all occurred in the middle of a wedding reception that I was photographing).  At first, I knew that I wasn't ripping people off and that I was actually going over and above the call of duty and giving the couples a great product for an insanely cheap price.  I thought that there must have been some kind of miscommunication,  but after being yelled at by him and brought before "the board" I started to doubt myself.  Was I really robbing my friends?  Was I really being controlling and making them spend money on a product that no one could tell was better but me?  I felt horrible.  Any confidence that I had left at that point was gone and I felt like not only a failure, but a bad person.  I believed the lie that he accused me of, I actually believed that I was swindling people.  How does a person believe that they are doing something that is so far removed from who they really are?  I don't know.  I guess it just comes down to the fact that when you respect someone, sometimes the things they say about you ring louder than the truth does (any parents out there rethinking how they speak to their kids right about now?  I know I am).

Anyway, that is where the whole issue of being too controlling with my photography came about.  I believed the lie- hook, line and sinker, and boy did I sink.   I bent over backwards for my clients and with every wedding or portrait session, I was mentally set in opposition to myself, trying to stay in check so that I didn't swindle my client or take advantage of them in any way.   I began to fear photography jobs because I hated who I believed I had become, I spent the whole time hoping that my clients wouldn't see what a cheat I was (even though I would never even consider cheating them).  Every job was mentally and emotionally taxing as I fought against myself, trying to do everything in my power to give the client exactly what they wanted regardless of how far away from my professional sensibility it was.  I fought against being controlling and in doing so, I allowed myself to be controlled.  The worst part is that I can see areas in my photography where I am still doing this, areas like the copyright issue.  I had no idea.  Seriously, I didn't want to put "the statement" on my images because it sounded "too controlling" to me.  There are a lot of areas where I can now see this has affected my work, mostly in client relationships.  I have not set out clear expectations because I have thought that if I did that, it would be controlling and therefore wrong.  However, I am now starting to see that what I've believed for so long was the lie.  As the photographer, it is part of my job to set the expectations and the contracts so that my clients aren't confused or overwhelmed.  The other day I heard a quote by Michael Port.  He said, "Most business problems are really personal problems."  That is certainly the case here.  Now that I am aware of this, I will choose to disbelieve the lie that I have internalized for so many years and allow God to heal me in the areas that I need it.  Hopefully this will soon lead to me being a much more confident photographer and business woman who no longer writes confusing blog posts that cause her friends and clients to think that she is upset with them.

Well, I really wasn't expecting all of that to come out, but I am glad that it did.  I hope something in there helps someone other than just me.


  1. Jeanette,

    I appreciate your attempt to put things in context for everyone, and to "wear your heart on your sleeve" for us. It sounds like there is a lot of history there. As someone who has been very blessed by your photography and your generosity, let me respond to your original post as written, perhaps without the additional context: you do not have anything to offer excuses for.

    You've stated that some people, perhaps inadvertently, have trampled on your profit. You've taken steps to protect your profit, and your brand. Don't apologize for this! It is not wrong to operate a business that blesses people and make money doing it.

    Your photography blesses people. In order to bless the greatest number of people possible, you have to stay in business. You do plenty of work through your church and perhaps elsewhere that people don't see to bless others, and you do so freely. At the end of the day, though, if the path in front of you is to build a business, then those who are blessed by your work will rush to support you in that business.

    You've stated the hourly fee covers your fixed costs for being there, and your profit comes from the sale of the photos. You've also stated that the fee doesn't cover the hours you spend pouring over the photos to perfect them. I would imagine it also doesn't cover the equipment cost or maintenance, nor the years of study and effort invested to protect your craft.

    Do not apologize for taking steps to protect your brand.

    And with no disrespect intended to people whose feelings were hurt: if they think there's a problem, they should contact you and fix it. If you release them to use the photos: problem solved. If they accidentally stole from you and need to make amends: there's the solution. I, for one, am looking forward to following your work for a very long time.

    The Healthy Geek

    1. Healthy Geek,
      Thank you so much for your response and kind words, they really encourage me.