with Courtney Slazinik
8 Things I Learned About Photography from a Writing Conference

I recently returned home from a conference for writers. You read that right…writers.

Do I have a desire to write a book and become a writer? Nope.

But I do know the value in learning from people outside your niche. I decided last minute to attend the Tribe Conference in Franklin, TN.

There is something pretty magical that happens when a bunch of creative minds get in a room together.

Each speaker was amazing, inspiring and a couple made me cry a little (I do that…get all emotional thinking…yes, I can do that!).

I met incredibly talented people that I would never have met if I hadn’t attended the conference. It’s easy to look for photography conferences to attend. But if you really want to push yourself, look at a conference outside your niche.

I may have never heard from speakers like Marsha Shandur (who helped me realize who my “Dork Goblin” was) or Jon Acuff (who had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes).

  • No.
    Show up everyday

    This really hit home for me. Several of the speakers talked about daily habits of writing. I know this is true for photography as well. My first year when I became obsessed with photography I started a Project 365. You take a photo every single day.

    I showed up every day for a year and saw a drastic change in my images. It was that year that I decided to start Click it Up a Notch.

    Big things happen when you focus on your craft every day. It doesn’t matter if each day you write something amazing or take the best photo ever.

    It is in the time and effort you put into getting better. Plus, it reminds you that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You won’t get better overnight.

    No one does.

    You have to show up every day.

  • No.
    Confidence is a learned skill

    It’s easy to believe that some people are born confident. Nope. That isn’t the case.

    You have to learn to believe in yourself.

    If there is one thing that will kill your creative spirit (especially photography) it is comparing yourself to others.

    “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

    How many times have you scrolled through your social media feed and left discouraged? I know I have.

    I head over to Instagram and see these amazing images and wonder why mine don’t look like that.

    We have to learn to be confident in ourselves and our work. Study your images. How can you make them better.

    As one of my friends says, “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

    Learn to be confident in yourself!

  • No.
    Do what you can't

    I’ll be honest, I love conferences, I love hearing motivating stories and I may cry a little.

    I’m the person who watches the Kid President and cries. Yup, I do.

    One of the speakers showed us this awesome video on doing what you can’t and I cried and thing instantly wanted to show it to my daughters.

    Warning: There are a couple of swear words (two I believe) but if you can look past those the message is amazing.

    Challenge yourself not to listen to those in your life saying “you can’t”.

    You can’t raise your prices.
    You can’t find clients in this saturated market.
    You can’t take a picture every day for a year.
    You can’t ___________.

  • No.
    You can be known for one thing or nothing

    This was the second conference I got to hear from Sean McCabe. He is full of insights and practical help to become better at your craft.

    He talked about curating your work. He said, “You can be known for one thing or nothing.” Wow!

    Think about that. When people get into photography they want to shoot everyone.

    They may say, “I shoot families, weddings, newborns, seniors, and travel.” But what are they known for? I hate to say it, but maybe nothing.

    It’s important to hone in on what you love to photograph and then focus on that. Show up every day to get better at that type of photography and before you know it you will be known as the best ______ photographer.

    Think about your favorite photographers. I am willing to bet they are known for one thing.

    What do you want to be known for?

  • No.
    Invest in yourself

    When you first started with photography, did you learn through books or courses? Probably.

    You invested money into yourself to help you learn and grow.

    Do you still invest in yourself?

    Dan Miller suggests investing 3% of your income into your education to get better. Maybe that is purchasing a book, a course, or a coach. Think about what you need and where you would like to go.

    It was incredible to hear from a man who has been on tons of TV shows and speaks at some of the biggest conferences, that he continues to invest in his education.

    I’m guilty of not investing in my photography education lately. It was a nice wake up call that I need to continue to make that a priority. I can’t let myself get comfortable. I need to continue to challenge myself.

  • No.
    Body of Work

    This was another phrase that kept coming up over the weekend.

    Your body of work.

    Do you have a strong body of work when it comes to your photography?

    Yes, you can take an amazing image here or in the case of the writers write one viral article. But if you don’t have a body of work to show you may not get the book deal.

    This is true for photographers. Whether you are working with clients or not, people are looking at your body of work.

    This is where showing up every day comes back into play.

    When you show up daily you are creating a strong body of work.

    Let your work do the talking for you.

  • No.
    There are people cheering for you

    Do you have someone in your life who believes in you and your dream? If not, there are plenty of people out there who do and want to help you succeed.

    Many of the speakers have written books to help you!

    I purchased all of them. I’m a book junkie, what can I say?

    This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Click it Up a Notch.

    Here are a few I can’t wait to read:
    Finish by Jon Acuff
    Real Artist Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins (I have read this one and it’s incredible)
    48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller
    Overlap by Sean McCabe
    Doing Good is Simple by Chris Marlow

    What I learned about photography at a writing conference

  • No.
    A goal is a promise you make to yourself

    Jon Acuff shared a variety of ways to finish a project you are working on. Lots of great insight about how to make sure you keep going and don’t quit.

    How many of us have started a photography project only to quit shortly after starting? We lose our momentum and next thing you know, you are no longer picking up your camera like you had hoped.

    I have been there.

    I have a hard time letting people down. However, for some reason, I can very easily break a goal which is basically breaking a promise to myself. Pretty powerful to think about.

    So he suggests instead of setting yourself up for a goal you may not be able to keep instead, cut your goal in half. He has tons of other great advice in his book, Finish.

I share all of this because I left the writing conference feeling inspired to pick up my camera, not a pen.

So next time you are presented with an opportunity to learn from someone, even if they do something you have ZERO desire to do…Go! Learn!

You never know what you will learn from someone that can help you with your own creativity whether that is photography or writing.

I hope you will continue to take advantage of any opportunity you have to grow. I know I will.


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