Letting go…

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This image represents a milestone for me and my photography. Not because it is life-altering. Not because it is innovative. Not because it is exotic. Not because it is cutting edge. Not because it was shot with the latest and greatest equipment that cost more than my house (it was shot on my iPhone). Obviously, it is exceedingly NOT any of the above. This image changed the way I view the world and my photography for one simple reason: IT IS REAL. It is a real moment that translates to real emotion. It is a real spring evening with gorgeous, natural light. It is a real moment of friendly competition and wanderlust between my sons Ashton and Blake. And it is really great as an artist to be able to accept something that simply speaks to my heart and soul, regardless of its marketability or what it immediately says about my brand. Yes, I’ve certainly captured REAL before, but I think the real that you’ve seen has always gone through some sort of “ABP Quality Control”, making sure that the viewing public would approve in relation to what falls in line with what they’ve come to expect from a “professional”.

Just now, nearly six years into my career as a full time professional, I am finally, finally learning how to let go. I am finally embracing imperfection. I am finally not concerned about the box I’ve put myself in as a photographer. Don’t get me wrong–I like the box. I’m proud of the box. I worked hard as hell to build that box. That box is my brand, and I will always occupy that space, but finally I am not afraid to get outside of that comfortable, perfectly-within-my-control space.

I am ok if an image is not tack sharp. I’m ok if an image doesn’t cause one’s jaw to drop out of wonder and amazement. I’m ok if I’ve got blown highlights. I’m ok if it doesn’t adhere perfectly to all of the photographic rules by which I’ve abided for so long. And I can tell you that it feels fantastic. Not that I was ever burdened by my brand, but there’s a huge part of me now that feels lighter and more expressive.

For the first time ever I’ve put up a personal gallery on my website. Some of this imagery looks like me. Some of it is pretty and falls precisely in line with what you know me to be as a photographer. Some of it is slightly commercially cliche. Some of it feels like it would be more at home in a family photo album. Some of it looks completely random. Some of it has nothing do to with anything, and I’m totally ok with it. All of it, however,  holds weight with me in some way, shape or form, and finally, I’m not afraid to represent it simply due to that weight alone.

As many of you no doubt do, I have terrabytes of images that have yet to see the light of day simply because they have not fallen within that mold of the brand that I have created. There’s probably some of you reading this post right now with a fair amount of apathy. And really–that’s ok. I don’t expect you to feel the weight of this moment, because it likely seems somewhat insignificant and trivial if you’ve never been here. And I can understand how, from the outside, it’s just another blog post from another photographer that thinks the creative world revolves around him. But really, that’s not it at all. This is as much a journal entry as a blog post, and if you’re here, I appreciate you sharing in this moment!

Don’t worry. I’m still here. I still love sunrise and sunset and storm light and three-dimensional compositions and bold color and the rule of thirds and…you get the point. I’m not entering some strange mid-life hipster stage (though you’d better believe I’d grow me a waxable mustache if I could), nor am I abandoning all of that upon which I’ve built my brand to this point. But finally, I’m not afraid to appear less than perfect. And no, I’m not that delusional–I know what I’ve put out there to this point has been far from perfect, but that was aways my goal. No longer am I concerned with that–I simply want to be more than trying to be perfect. And I’ve finally figured out how…

 

 

“Dear Facebook”…

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Dear Facebook:

I feel like maybe I should be doing this in person, as opposed to a detached, heartless online letter. We have, after all, spent a lot of time with each other over the past several years. You’ve been there for the birth of my children, my travels round the world and the intimate, awkward and even heartbreaking moments with family and friends.

Perhaps more importantly, you’ve connected me with countless individuals and entities that share in my passion for photography and photo education. You were kind—almost too kind. At times, showering me with (sometimes less than deserved) praise on a daily basis, relaying the energetic and enthusiastic words of our mutual friends, and even providing insight and critique on occasion.

We grew together—you more than me (HELLO!!!), but hey, you always had more friends anyway. I’m happy for you—really, I am. Ecstatic? Hardly. Jealous? Not even. Hurt? Maybe (sigh…)

I wish I could say it’s not you, it’s me. I mean—that always worked in the past. But this time FB (is it cool if I still call you FB despite this minor quibble?), it’s most definitely you. We used to hang out all the time. BIZ BUDDIES! Right?!? We were so good together. I’d post fancy pants pictures, you’d show all our friends and we’d all party for a couple of hours—ya know—high fives, lots of online love, a like here–a share there. We were unbeatable you and me. But suddenly, you’ve grown incredibly distant (gulp…).  FB, you’ve…changed.

I know you hate hearing this, but I feel like this relationship has grown incredibly lopsided. I mean, I come to hang out and you don’t even respond. Are you seeing somebody else? Are you even attracted to me anymore?!? Is it because I said your sister was hot? Was it my application vid for The Bachlelorette? Is it because I’m a Mormon (that’s right, I said it). Is it my teeth? DAMNIT!!! IT’S MY TEETH!!! I knew I should’ve gotten braces. Thanks for nothing, Mom.

Really though, it’s like…it’s like you hoard my posts for you and you alone. WHY YOU GOTTA BE SO CONTROLLING LIKE THAT YO!?! (Oops, sorry. Excuse the white rapper talk. Sometimes I get a little worked up…) I’m starting to question why I even come around anymore. I mean, I’ve spent so much time on us—it’s hard to just turn my back and leave, but I really feel like you’re forcing my hand here. I have…(dare I say it???) other interests. You’re not the only one in my life either you know! Is that a what?!? A threat? Yes!!! Grrrrr. Kind of. Err…sort of. Um…well, not really. I guess threats don’t work if you don’t really care. It’s more of a last ditch effort for just a little bit of attention.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I still need you. But you’ve grown incredibly demanding. And your taste is effing expensive. I know, I know—you have your needs. Well geez FB, what about my needs?!? Did you ever happen to think that little Mr. Small Business over here in  Salt Lake City can’t afford your needs!?!

Ok sorry. It’s not your fault. Or maybe it is, but in the interest of keeping this (one-sided) conversation civil, I’ll try and wrap this up. It is, after all, your place. You’ve been so kind in letting me hang out rent-free for all these years, but I simply can’t justify the cost to “hang with the big boys”.

So…(wipes tear), where do we go from here? Ultimatum time?!? I wish. I just need you to know I still care. I want to be biz buddies again. You’ve introduced me to so many wonderful people, but we never see each other anymore. You’ve given me quantifiable return, and I appreciate that. But the gate master (yes, I’m looking at you), seems to have tossed the key, and no amount of love or attention will bring it back, sans an unfeasible amount of my hard-earned casheesh.

I’ll miss you FB. Really, I will. You might see me, though my attention will be a little (err…a lot) less devout. I hope we can work this out.

I’ll (mostly) always love you,

ABP

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UPPA: Unsolicited Professional Photographer Advice

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What’s that??? You didn’t ask for advice?! Well, here you are. You’ll read this and you’ll like. Whether you like it or not. ;)

I am frequently consulted by young, eager individuals wondering what they can do to secure a career as a professional photographer. My advice varies depending on the day, but today, it is this:

Success doesn’t pay the bills. MONEY pays the bills. Learn to monetize your successes.

One might naturally think that success begets riches, but that is far from true, especially in a world where “success” or that warm fuzzy feeling inside is just a couple of “likes” away…

Remember this: monetization is not selling out. Charging a premium for your hard-earned and well-developed skill set does not make you less of an artist or a creator. Feel-goods are all good and well, but you can’t pay the mortgage with social media likes, you won’t feed your kids with life experience, and the bank doesn’t recognize a 1st place ribbon as a form of currency.

Arguably, all of these things (and so much more) can make you a rather successful photographer, but unless you learn how to turn that success into dollar signs, you’re going to be researching applications on the interwebz for that next day job.

Being a “professional photographer” certainly is about much more than cold hard cash in the bank. But making a living as a photographer, at its very root, relies upon zeroes and decimal points, just like any other business.

On a positive parting note: this is all entirely possible. I know it. I believe it. I live it. And you can too. Just don’t forget the important schtuff.

Surround Yourself with Greatness…

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The advent of digital imaging has opened up the world of professional-grade imaging to an audience far greater than most photographers could have ever imagined. Yes–it’s true–it has never been easier to shoot a “pretty good” image, and people are catching on. It is super cool to see so many people fired up about photography, but with that new, sexy appeal comes its own challenges for those that make their living as full-time professional photographers. I’ll stop there…this is not another rant about my cousin’s uncle’s pony’s dog that just stole a great job from under my nose because he charges way less than me or (insert commonplace pro photog rant here). In fact, this post is quite the opposite.

It has always been apparent to me that we will never truly reach our greatest potential if not pushed by some outward influence. Whether that be encouragement from friends/family, discouragement from naysayers, or something somewhere in between, we will never really know what we’re capable of until pushed beyond that which we thought was our previous best.

My answer to this moderately crowded profession??? Embrace the competition. Surround yourself with greatness. Be confident in your own ability to produce something that has your own unique style/brand/stamp/calling card. Most importantly, BE BETTER. Don’t waste your time wondering why you weren’t published here or hired there–figure out who just got whatever you wanted, and what you can do to get it next time.

I was browsing the latest issue of Powder magazine and was blown away at both the number and quality of images put out by photographers that make their home right here in Salt Lake City. I’m proud to call many of them friends, and I’m even more proud to have my work included amidst theirs. If you want to be better than the best, you must surround yourself with the best. Then watch, listen and learn–don’t gripe, covet or make excuses.

These days, with the interwebz in every nook, cranny and nether region of planet Earth, we have the entire world at our finger tips. See your competition for the motivating force that it can be–and then be better.

 

We’re Back!

Skier Parker Cook rallies some classic Alta powder.

Skier Parker Cook rallies some classic Alta powder.

Or maybe, I should say…I’M back. Funny how so many of us photographer/entrepreneurial types throw that plural form around like it’s half-cooked noodle–just waiting to see if it sticks. “We” like to make you think that there’s a huge entourage of bustling interns working themselves to the bone each and every day while this well-oiled machine of a photography brand is in cruise control, taking the world by storm while I field calls from clients that want to overpay me for work that is far easier than it looks.

The truth is, the “we” that I throw around so often is basically me, my wife and my three boys. There. I said it. SURPRISE!!! The other truths?

1. I could never work this hard for anyone else but myself.

2. I’m not rich.

3. But I make a fine and decent living.

4. I have a quality of life that far exceeds anything I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams.

5. I have a creative appetite that must be fed whether it’s being paid for or not.

6. This means I love what I do, and I do what I love.

7. I drink way too much Coke.

8. I abhor mediocrity.

Every day I wake up and think that I must be one of the most fortunate people on this planet. I wonder, for a moment, what my life would be like were I not to have taken that enormous leap of faith and chosen to follow my heart and pursue a career that would make me happy for the rest of my life.

I have been pushed to the brink of sanity and then welcomed back with a nugget of success. I have progressed at alarming rates, only to then face the same simple challenges I did as a rookie. I have achieved and I have failed. I have been buoyed up and I have been incredibly let down. And through it all, I continue to believe that the path of photography as a career is viable, noble, engaging, feasible, crazy and super cool.

So why the introspective diary entry of a blog post??? Why the hell not? As in so many other cases, I do it because I can. And on this Tuesday morning, it felt right. I have many, many of you to thank. You really do know who you are. I have many that have inspired me, and in turn, I hope to have been a source of inspiration and aspiration to many of you at some point in time.

Whatever pursuit it is in which you are engaged at this moment. If it is worthy, don’t ever stop. Go till you can’t manage another labored breath, and then pick yourself up, and go some more. It is all worth it.

What Does $6 Million Look Like???

Architectural images from AdamBarkerPhotography of a private ski-in/ski-out residence at Alta, UT.

Here’s an idea–these are images from an architectural shoot I just wrapped of a private residence up at Alta Ski Area. It’s about to be listed on the market for a cool $6 million? Who wants to go in with me on this one??? I’ve got a Benjamin burning a hole in my pocket…the rest is up to you. ;)

The World Open Photo Contest (I need your vote!)

Stoked to be featured as part of the World Open photography contest this week. There’s some inspiring work being posted over there. Check it out, and give ol’ ABP a vote while you’re at it!

Yes. My whip really is that cool.

My car has wi-fi. That’s right suckas, I’m a rolling hot spot. Cuddle up on the Interstate and take a little suckle if you like. It’s on me and Mark Miller Subaru. Interested in a little coolness of your own? Check out a new Subaru Outback for yourself. They are the bees knees. and then some.

And yes, this is shameless sponsor promo. Long live the interwebz.

ABP Black Friday Sales 2011

This is the first of several sales we’ll be posting throughout the day!

These are matted 12″x 18″ signed/limited edition prints. Paper is Epson Ultra Premium Matte. Prints ship in protective plastic sleeves and are frame-ready. Single white archival mat. Outer dimensions are 16″ x 22″.

Save more than 50%! MSRP is $175.00. Black Friday sale price is $80.00 (plus shipping). See below for prints selections. Quantities are extremely limited and will go quickly! Email adam@adambarkerphotography.com or call 801-550-9141 to order.