BE A CANDLE, OR THE NIGHT

“BE A CANDLE, OR THE NIGHT”

Yoda said that. More from him later.

A drama flared up in the wedding photography industry late last week. Anyone in the outside world wouldn’t have noticed, but within the walls of the wedding photography industry there were ripples. Maybe even a little seismic movement.

The crib notes are this. A well-known photographer published “a system” with some advice (some good/some questionable) for new photographers. Many experienced photographers took offence. Rightly or wrongly, it’s not my place to say. I don’t think I even know any more.

Tweeted pitchforks were raised and Facebook torches were lit. And like my mum (and no doubt yours) always said, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”

On Friday when the drama was going down, Katie and I were flying to Melbourne for a wedding. Even though I was interested, I couldn’t really join the conversation. I quickly put something pithy on Facebook and Twitter and then moved on.

Dear Photographers. Forget about the drama. Worry about your clients instead.

Taking my own advice that’s what I did. I ignored it all and moved on to more important matters, like shooting Yu and Jordan’s amazing wedding. The wedding was so wonderful that I’d entirely forgotten about the drama until today.

This morning I jumped on the internet for the first time in days and the drama is still raging. Wow.

As I often do, I opened up Textedit on my laptop and started typing. The difference is that usually I don’t publish what I write. It’s just a good exercise to get the thoughts out of my head. And to spare Katie yet another photography related discussion with very little husband and wife merit.

This is what came out …

Negativity will poison your life, your photography and your business. It seriously will.

Not pointing any fingers. If you think I’m talking about you, I’m probably not. If you get defensive and mad at what I say then … that’s ok. Tell me about it in the comments.

Finger pointing isn’t the purpose of this. Telling part of my story is.

In 2010 I was in a spiral of negativity. I was obsessed with what other photographers and our competition were doing. Local photographers, interstate ones and even those overseas. Photographers who didn’t know that I existed and that I’d never met (and probably never would) were making me angry. Really angry. Successful photographers. New photographers. It didn’t matter. I was an equal opportunity cranky pants.

Our business had over $12K in overheads per month and Katie was very ill after being hospitalised from burnout and exhaustion. The pressure on us was huge, to put it mildly. This was early-Matt and Katie Photographers-days and our portrait business was wildly successful but also wildly out of control.

And here I was spending all my time and energy being a miserable jerk who was blaming everyone else in the industry because I wasn’t achieving the “success” that I deemed to be so rightfully mine.

A few photographers on an internet forum who knew our situation even called me on it after reading some of my negative rants. They called me out publicly and directly. At the time it made me so mad and it was embarrassing. But I’m so thankful that they did.

On top of that, a quote from a photographer friend in an interview stopped me in my tracks. Jonas probably wasn’t trying to be profound but one line from the interview turned my life around.

Here’s the quote:

“I honestly think people worry too much about the state of the industry and not enough about the state of their own business.”

That stopped me in my tracks. That was 100% me. All of my energy was focused externally. I was living and breathing negativity. I was railing against a faceless industry that had somehow turned against me. Or so my perceptions told me.

From that day I vowed to change. I took all of that anger and negativity and channelled it into my photography and my business. It didn’t take long for that anger and negativity to change into positive energy and momentum.

Fast forward to 2012 and since that day in late 2010 we’ve achieved success (our own definition of it) that I could never have dreamed of. In the last year we’ve spent nearly 4 months overseas because of our photography. Weddings in the UK and America. Holidays in Santorini, Paris, Rome, Venice, Wales and San Francisco and so many other amazing places.

We currently have more wedding enquiries than we could ever hope to possibly shoot even if a year had 150 weekends. New ideas are flowing constantly (mostly at 3am) and our next 12 months is looking even more insanely awesome than the last.

We’re not rich but we are happy. Happier than we could ever have imagined.

Again, I’m not pointing any fingers. I’m not saying we can’t discuss, debate, disagree, talk and care about our industry. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up for what we believe in. Or that we should all join hands and sing Kumbaya while skipping through tulips. Not at all.

I’m also not here to tell anybody what to do. I don’t think anybody should dictate what your photography journey should or should not be. Sure, there’s good, better and best but not really any right or wrong.

As the saying goes, I have no dog in this fight. Well, maybe a small one (preferably a Norwich Terrier) because I’m passionate about helping and teaching other photographers. And because we’ve got some pretty incredible plans for teaching this year.

All I’m doing is telling part of my story for people to take from it whatever they will.

Here’s what I’m saying … maybe I am talking to you. Maybe you agree or disagree with me. That’s ok too.

Or maybe you are right in the middle of doing what I was doing back in 2010.

If that is you, I’m telling you today that your energy is misdirected. All that negativity is poisoning your photography, your business and your life. It is killing your dreams and sapping your potential.

Ultimately we all reap what we sow. What we put out into the universe is what we will receive back.

I was certainly getting back what I was putting out there.

Imagine this.

Imagine that you were using your time and energy differently. Instead of whinging, complaining and fighting on the internet, you decide to put your time and energy into your own life and business instead.

You know, to spend more time with your family. To make sure your clients are happy and that you’re not drowning in a backlog of past weddings. Maybe you could be updating your website or blog to better reflect who you are as a photographer or even fix a few spelling mistakes. Whatever.

Please stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, and start worrying about yourself, your clients and your business. You need to do this for yourself, and you need to do it for your spouse/partner/family/children.

I’m far from perfect. Good grief, here I am writing this instead of answering e-mails or going through the photos from Yu and Jordan’s wedding. I do need to take my own advice, that’s for sure. Or maybe this needed to be said because someone might benefit from it. That someone is most likely me. Life is a balancing act and I’m trying to get better at it every day.

As wedding photographers we have one of the best jobs in the world. Every day I’m grateful that this is what I get to do with my life.

So, on that note I’ll finish.

Positive or negative? Which will you choose. Or as Yoda once said, “Give off light or darkness. Be a candle or the night.”

~Matt~

p.s. If you don’t have a clue what drama I’m talking about and you’re confused by this blog post … good for you! You’re on the right track!

p.p.s. Here’s a photo from Yu and Jordan’s wedding. As well as choosing us for their wedding, Yu and Jordan flew us from little old Toowoomba to Melbourne and then to Jordan’s parent’s property in Daylesford. Yu and Jordan then proceeded to have one of the most heartfelt and moving weddings we’ve ever been a part of. Words couldn’t describe on the day how blessed we were to be there, and words are still inadequate now.

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46 Comments
  1. [...] amongst photographers about the state of our industry. I’ve written about this topic before here. Something happened yesterday that compelled me to write about it [...]
  2. I not only love your positivity Matt, but that you take the time to share it.
  3. thierry said:
    I found this blog by accident, and glad I did .... thank you for taking the time out to put down words that are often thought but not put into practice ... I often write these messages then delete them before I hit send lol ... but I will take your lead and send this one on!
  4. Have no idea what the original drama was all about but very grateful that it made you write this positive post Matt.
  5. Nicole said:
    I didn't know what the drama was about, but i just looked it all up, and you are right Matt, you can choose to be negative or not. I thought the article was interesting, but I didn't think all of it was right, but that is life, take the good bits and leave the rest.
  6. Kimberley said:
    I have no idea what the drama was but I love your words! As an experienced photographer but with a new business was completely doubting my sanity and more worried about being another mum with a photography business then the professional I know I am! thank you
  7. Thanks for the post. Couldn't have said it better.
  8. Awesome post Matt. And, for what its worth *I* don’t have a clue what drama you're talking about and am too a bit confused by this blog post … hope that means I'm on the right track! tan.x.
  9. Very wise words Matt. You are your own worst enemy at times and having the ability to step up and make that change to improve your own world is so important. Definitely can think of a couple of people to also share this with.
  10. LOVED this post :)
  11. Dianna said:
    Amen!! Life's too short to live in the dark!!! Well said Matt.
  12. Such sage and timely advice, thanks Matt. xo
  13. lol who are you???? who's Jonas !!!!???? jokes aside .. I am a turtle, proud to be a turtle and after sticking my turtle neck out there last year and seeing all the jealousy, bickering and various other non charitable behaviour out there in our industry {surely the fashion world is worse than us lot?!} I decided that I wanted to be a turtle again, I am living and breathing the mantra you so generously wrote about in this post VIVA LA TURTLE !!! well done and back slap for putting the good word out there !
  14. Hannah said:
    Thank you Matt for this post! It is so nice to see that not every established photographer is out there to step on the little guy. As someone who is still very much learning and studying and trying to grow I am shocked at how many in the intudsty try to squash us as we try to grow a business. But we all start somewhere right? And its people like you that give us little people hope and inspiration that we can be better and grow a successful business! I look forward to much more from Matt and Katie and cant wait to see what adventures your business takes you on!
  15. Helen said:
    Good on you. Identifying your spheres of influence and what you can control and getting on with it....loved reading your story!
  16. pen said:
    Such a well written post, Matt. I'm a little like where you were back in 2010 (not about "the system") and find myself constantly checking in to pull myself back from being worried about all that is going on around me and where I fit in to that. This post comes at a timely point, and I think I might just bookmark it for future perspective :)
  17. Yoda would be proud of you <3
  18. Kim said:
    Well said :)
  19. I vividly remember those days in 2010 when you descended into that negative spiral and I am so thrilled to see you emerge and achieve such incredible success. I miss your great pearls of wisdom in that particular forum but I'm glad for you that you sorted your priorities and found such happiness. Love to you and Katie xoxo
  20. well said Matt, and I have said before, which you may or may not have read, you both, and in particular you on a certain forum, are full of gold nuggets of wisdom and sound advice. Even if it is simply, step back, step up and make your clients & business a priority. Nicely done! p.s Love the shot!
  21. Ken said:
    Hi there u 2. No idea what happened but we r so very proud of u both. In our line of work we had same experiences but its the commitment, passion & love for the work the counts all else is mist that disappears when the sun shines. Keep shining. Congratulations on a great achievment.
  22. Great fan of your work, and your work ethic. Strong believer in focusing on your own work, and seeing who we can help, than worrying about the whole industry as it rapidly changes. I wasn't even aware of this issue, until saw your blog post. Now I've checked it out, and moved on. PS. Well done on the award!
  23. Johanna said:
    Thank you. So, so much. This is exactly what I needed to read today.
  24. Where's the 'like' button? How can we get your post/approach to attract as much attention as the drama? Thanks for your transparency. Best to y'all.
  25. KrisD Mauga said:
    I couldn't have said it better- really! Thank you for expressing yourself and sharing a positive light in an amazing industry where ate times we et caught up in the race for success. Cheers!
  26. I have seen the drama and I think it's sad...I agree with you completely about everything. WHY focus on the negative stuff? How does that help your business, your clients, your life? If you don't like something, ignore it. What is more funny, is that they are bringing more attention to something they don't agree with. :) Thanks for writing...I am all about being positive!! Congrats on all your success!!
  27. Very well said Matt. Kelsy and I do our best to work like this as well... But the twitter world can suck you in just like a good drama on TV. Sometimes it doesn't seem real. Sage advice to shut it off and concentrate on something real - our clients. Cheers!
  28. Debbie said:
    I am not a photographer, but follow you on FB...and I am able to take your words here and apply them to my life and work. Thank you for this! We all need reminding about this life lesson every now and then!
  29. Lisa Jay said:
    There's a drama? hehe... Perhaps you have to be on twitter to be down with the industry drama's. I respect the industry my work is a part of & I enjoy looking at other people's work & all inspiring one another (art is there to share & inspire).. however 'the industry' isn't my focus. I understand it & I do make choices that I think are respectful of it as a whole.. but it's not in my concious thoughts in the day to day of my work. We all approach our work differently, we all come from different backgrounds. I agree with you there is no right or wrong. We all have preferences & the clients get to choose whos ways work for them. In art, in life, in photography, in business, it is always a work in progress. The negativity probably comes from fear. My motto is 'take my work seriously but not myself'. Looking forward to seeing your new ideas flourish this year guys.
  30. Mark G said:
    I'm not a photographer, and I have no idea what drama you speak of. What I am is one of your good mates, and I needed to tell you that I've never been prouder of you, brother. To see the change in you after watching you and Katie struggle until now has been as exciting for Nat and I as it I'm sure it has for you both. While our weekly racquet ball game is one of the bummers of now living 2hrs instead of 2 minutes away, we are looking forward to Thai next week. You up for some racquetball too?! Cheers and apace, bro. MG
  31. Annie said:
    Well said. I don't have anything to add :) You're very wise, and I'm very grateful for that day I spent with you guys (seems like forever ago!). You're the best kind of people for the industry. Thank you!
  32. Stew said:
    PS. I didn't know about "the drama" either! :D
  33. Stew said:
    Beautifully said, written and well done Matty! I couldn't agree with you more. Congratulations to you, Katie and all your successes. :)
  34. Matt, I absolutely love this post. This is so relevant to ALL creative industries. Instead of wasting time criticizing, belittling and being condescending to those we disagree with, we could all expend the same amount of energy and time to educate people in the value of what we do as photographers, designers, artists etc. "Comparison is the killer of joy." Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. Lisa :)
  35. Jodie said:
    Matt, thank you!!! Gratefully I have no idea what drama you are talking about and have always prided myself on not getting sucked into the dramas of the industry but this year I have been struggling with my own negativity and your blog post has come exactly when I needed it. Thank you for reminding me to be the light. Xoxoxo Jodie
  36. Amanda P said:
    Hey guys.... Im a new photographer and stumbled upon ur website and blog, firstly I enjoy it alot and I just want to say that I think it's fantastic that you encourage new photographers and that ur blog is very insightful as well and ignoring what other photographers is going to be important in making my business successful as well. I have no idea what this controversy is either but thanks for speaking out about it! I also enjoy your work imensly and just want to say thanks!!!! :-)
  37. Justin said:
    Once again Matt, you are the voice of reason, and your words are the wise words to listen to. Let's talk about the Melbourne plans :)
  38. Kristen said:
    I've been watching the drama and finding it pretty funny. Excellent post and lovely image too :)
  39. Victoria said:
    Wise words Matt I agree. I missed all the drama too. We are all on different photography journeys. I loved hearing you guys speak at Hair of the Dog last year. The most profound thing you said which sticks in my mind and I often share with others and tell them where I learnt it is: If you are on your deathbed, you wouldn't hold up your laptop and croak, "Here's my portfolio", you just want to be with your loved ones. So true. Keep up the great work you guys. I admire you a lot for being leaders in this industry which can get rather cranky pants at times.
  40. Exactly, their are alot of people that need to read your wise words. Glad your now a candle,
  41. Forgot to add that it's wonderful to see all the great things you and Katie have achieved. xxx
  42. Awesome blog post Matt! I haven't a clue what the drama is over but from Katie's description on FB I'm assuming it's over just over shooting instead of taking deliberate shots? Not to worry anyway. As you guys know I pretty much retreated from the Photography community 2 years ago also. It was literally doing my head seeing the blatant chest thumping on social media and on blogs and I was tired of being used by new photographers eager for stardom at any cost. I prefer not to look at blogs anymore, just a select few friends like you and Katie whom I admire and genuinely wish good things for. Life is so much better living like a mushroom! And I can hold my head high knowing that my ideas are my own, not some exact replica copy cat of someone else's idea. Besides, it is all about the clients anyway! If it's not, you are in the wrong business.
  43. Wise words Matt. Very wise words.
  44. here here matt! well said.. I look forward to watching your positivity grow your business to new heights this year! xxx
  45. *Pats self on back* -- No idea there was drama! Woohoo. Gotta love that image guys. Awesome!
    • pmeaj -
      Wow! Thanks for sharing so honestly! But no one would ever hold hands and sing "Kumbaya". It would have to be "By the rivers of babylon". :)