trading on tools

“How did you get into photography?”  “Did you and Steve meet in photography?”

Conversation starters or genuine curiosity, these are the two most common questions I’m asked by those with “conventional” jobs or, really, any non-photographer jobs. The creative incites curiousity already, but a creative in business is something of a novelty to many.

Those questions are invariably followed with something like this: “I saw your site, you guys do beautiful work. Do you only do weddings? Weddings must be SOOOO inspiring. You are so lucky to be able to do this.”

Yep, I am. I am lucky, blessed, fortunate and grateful to do what I do for a living. But what I do is not who I am, and I work damn hard, every single day, to make a business out of my creativity.

These conversations typically wrap up with something about “passion” and the idea that I must be “passionate” about photography.


Passion is such an overused word, especially when it comes to wedding and portrait photographers. If you consider why you make a living as a creative, and you are really honest in your answer, how many would say “passion” is the reason?

Are you really passionate about photography, or are you passionate about the “why” of photography?

Let’s flip that for a moment. Do you think doctors are passionate about medicine per se or are they passionate about healing people, solving problems, and improving lives? Are lawyers passionate about the law, or about using the law for some purpose? Do you see the difference?

My passion, bliss, joy, whatever you want to call it, comes from telling stories and facilitating the success of others. Right now, my stories are told through my lens, but they were not always told that way. As a child and teen I told stories through words. As a grown up I use image making instead. The “why” is the same, the tools are different.

The past two years have been filled with introspection as I look at options for my creativity. I could, for example, decide to write full time and tell my stories that way. I could turn to teaching and mentoring as a means to be part of the story and satisfy the “teacher” part of me. Or I could continue to use my camera to forge ahead. What will it be? Will it be more than one?

When you are a creative and you give a piece of yourself to all you do, joy is a necessary part of the process – if you don’t love it, why do it?  This joy-turned-job will suck you dry, taking all the enjoyment, and ultimately creativity, out of what you once loved, if you don’t find ways to stay joyful.

And so What IF and What If Lift were born – two endeavours that combine my love of teaching with my love of creating and building. I am part of other people’s stories, an integral part, and that is inspiring on its own. I’m about to start my next work with Wiley, my publisher, creating a new story that will facilitate creativity in others. And I still photograph weddings, satisfying the need to create something visual and lovely for others.

It’s not the tools, it’s why we use them. Too many trade on the tools and forget why this path called them. Odds are you have many tools to choose from, many ways you can create. You don’t have to stick with one tool forever. Choose the tools necessary to create the why…

…but trade on the why before the tools.

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