Intro by Skip Cohen

Well, the new year is well underway, but at the same time, we’re just coming out of the “slow season.” Wandering through the Photofocus archives I found this gem by my buddy Levi Sim. It couldn’t be more appropriate through the rest of the year, and continuity into your future as an artist.

Let’s face it, we’re all dealing with various levels of stress every day. You can’t help but feel it, even when you’ve battled the demons, won, and moved on. Those challenges still drain your energy and each one takes a tiny piece of your heart.

Well, you can’t create images that tug at people’s heartstrings if your own heart isn’t in the game. So often we lose sight of how we fell in love with imaging in the first place.

Levi’s got three great suggestions to help you build more peace of mind. With peace of mind comes a more relaxed approach to business and in turn creativity!

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I’m just a kid, but I’ve learned one thing that reduces my stress and gives me peace of mind every time. It’s simply that I need to do what I know I need to do.

With the year wrapping up, here are three things I’m doing that are giving me more peace and lower blood pressure just thinking about them–imagine how good I’ll feel once I actually get them done!

  1. Own Your Zip Code

Firstly, I work actively and energetically with my Chamber of Commerce. It doesn’t mean that I’m always making pictures (although, I am), more importantly, it means that I’m helping set up chairs, clean up refreshments, and volunteering to be the Diaper Czar at the fundraiser. I’m just helping out and getting to know people. I’m gregarious, so I may be louder about it than others, but I guarantee that the quiet people who help out are noticed and valued at least as much as the loud guy with the hat. This leads to likability and trust which eventually lead to referrals.

Second, I’m making relationships with individuals. Maybe it’s coffee with someone I met at the chamber, or maybe it’s going door to door and meeting business owners. These things are hard for me to do (way outside my comfort zone), but they are always rewarding in the relationships I build, and occasionally in the direct business I receive. Like my buddy says if it was easy it wouldn’t be called a JOB! Knowing that I’m working hard at doing my part gives me peace of mind; if I’m slacking off, though, then I get heartburn.

  1. Really Actually Truly Protect Your Photographs

There are things you worry about that keep you up at night, and there are things you worry about that give you ulcers over the long term. Protecting your photographs is the long-term kind for me. It started like this: I was flying to a photography job in Utah, and I was working on the plane, but when I exited the plane I left my portable (should be called ‘losable’) hard drive in the seatback pocket.

That drive had a lot of pictures on it, some of which were not yet delivered. I filed paperwork, etc., but I had nightmares about what I would say to my clients every night. Do you do that? Do you have conversations in your mind that haven’t happened, and may not happen, but give you lots of stress? Most of the time, I could have done something to prevent those conversations, and that’s the biggest thing that gives me stress.

Delta found and shipped the drive back to me, and all was well, but it got me thinking about my workflow and “what happens if.” The first thing I do is travel with two portable hard drives, and when I shoot all the pictures go onto both of the drives, and those drives go into different bags on the way home. No more putting all my eggs in one basket!

At my home, I’ve started using a Drobo, and one set of all those pictures I shoot are moved from the portable drives onto the Drobo, which immediately makes a second copy inside itself. The Drobo is so simple. All I did was insert two ‘naked’ hard drives, and then plugged it in and moved pictures to it, but my pictures are doubled up so WHEN a drive fails the images are still safe inside. And unlike my other ugly RAID server that I hide away under my desk and takes up all my legroom, my Drobo is the size of a toaster and looks really sharp, and sits proudly atop my desk. It’s really so easy to use that I’m kicking myself for not getting one sooner. It’s like a peace of mind in a toaster-sized box.

I highly recommend you get a true backup system, like a Drobo. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of effort making those photographs, and it’s so easy to protect them.

3. The Secret to Becoming a Better Photographer

My final tip for reducing stress and garnering greater peace of mind is to stop making excuses and start making photographs. I could be so much better a photographer if I made more photographs.

I know that there are commitments that keep you from doing things sometimes, and sometimes it’s just not a good idea to go out shooting during a rainstorm at night. But if I quit watching Netflix and start watching Lynda.com and then practice all the photoshop tips I learn, man I’d be flying along!

There are only excuses keeping me from being better. I don’t need to go on a trip to make great pictures, I don’t need to hire models, and I don’t need to buy expensive lights. If I just put out a little effort, I could walk down the street and find something to photograph and practice on it until I really mastered that thing. And boy, I happen to live in a terrific place to take pictures–and so do you!

The only secret to becoming a better photographer is to make more photographs.

Written by Levi Sim, lead Photographer for Utah State University and an important member of the Photofocus editorial team. When he’s not writing, podcasting or spending time with his family, he’s involved in all kinds of portraits for editorial and commercial use, product shots, action pictures, and landscapes in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

 

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