Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley
“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
~Muhammad Ali

One of the long-standing principles to personal financial stability and wealth creation is the notion of “Paying Yourself First.” I like it. It basically speaks to saving money or putting some aside for retirement before you start paying bills or anything else and in doing so, the rest of your business will take care of itself. Developing the habit of paying yourself first is a good discipline that also builds into it the habit of being responsible and taking of everything else as well. Let me give you three good reasons to shoot for yourself first.

Cultivating the Imagination
When I was a kid, maybe around 10 years old, I remember playing at my friend William’s house just down the road from where I live. We were playing football in his backyard. William shouted out that he was Walter Payton. Being a Dallas Cowboy fan, it was clear who I was going to pretend to be, but before I could get the name out of my mouth, William’s big brother Jesse claimed TONY DORSETT! I exclaimed very loudly that I wanted to be Dorsett, but Jesse did not dismiss his claim just to appease me. The rule on the street is that first to call gets dibs. I understood this, but it bothered the hell out of me.

Now understand me. This is just pretend. All I had to do was name another running back, but as far as I was concerned, there was none other in the league much less BETTER than Tony Dorsett. So I chose no one. I almost didn’t want to play, but I didn’t want to give Jesse the satisfaction. I was enraged over a pretend game that I was someone else. My point is that I wonder today how many of us has the type of imagination that we can get enraged over. At what point in our lives did imagination become too much child’s play. As photographers when we shoot for other people’s vision, we are often times creating what’s in THEIR imagination. Granted, you may have to be creative to bring their vision to a reality, but it’s still not your’s. Shooting for yourself gives you that opportunity to bring your own visions to past which will in turn bring in more clientele when they see your continuously putting out new and exciting work. Be an innovator.

Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley

Time is always of the essence it seems. You get a client gig and the expectation is to produce and render those results now. When do you ever have time to experiment, try new things, or sometimes shoot just to see what happens? You become stagnant when all you do is the same old, same old. You never know where you will find your new treasure. Venture out into new areas and genres of photo and just see what you can do. This doesn’t mean you have to jump into subject matter you hate…just something different. If you don’t like shooting sports, or fashion, then don’t. But you can rent a new lens and play with some macro work. Find a friend who can borrow a light modifier from and play with it in new ways that maybe it was never intended for. Or better yet, see if you can create your OWN lighting. I did that last year and make my own light wand with red and white light.

These are things you can bring back to the table when you are in negotiations with a client and he or she’s looking for that new “fresh” look! That thing that no one else has. Something they’ve never seen before. But more importantly, think about the sense of fulfillment that you’ll garner when you surprise even yourself by discovering that new thing almost by accident. Odds are, you will not make these discoveries shooting for someone else. No one can push your imagination like YOU can. Slow things down by limiting yourself to 50 shots or less. Shoot from a single focal length like a 50mm prime. Change your angles and shoot from either a high or low perspective. Regardless, change it up. Work outside the norm and the comfortable.

Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Counter Burnout
Don’t lie to yourself. You get tired of working for someone else, sometimes don’t you. Ever want to just escape photography all together… even just for a little while. Personally, I don’t understand it but I know in other jobs I’ve had, sometimes you just need a break. In photo, that should never happen but I can see how it might come to pass. You spend all your time shooting for others that you simply get burned out. This is less likely to come about if you spend sufficient amount of time shooting for yourself. Make your own work the priority over shooting for someone else. Pay yourself first. Shoot for yourself first. Much like they tell you in the airline safety message, in the even of a decrease in pressure, put your own mask on first BEFORE you help someone else.

Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley

Keep yourself healthy and in good shape and do the same for your photographic mind. Keep it sharp and exercised with new activities and fresh ideas. You, therein serve yourself AND your clients by staying fresh. You’ll definitely be able to see better when your mind is renewed on a continuous basis. Mental fatigue is murder to the mind of a creative. Stave off that fatigue by doing your own projects. I could as easily add a fourth good reason: PROFITS! The better you get a feel for the industry, your trade, and your capabilities the better you know how to create your own projects and then market them via social media to your own benefit. This can be work that you eventually sell, or use it as an opportunity to showcase your wares. Either way, you can make money if that is something that is important to you. In any case your limits are self-imposed. Lack of gear does not create a ceiling for you. Its not the absence of promotion of exposure that shackle your ability to grow. You are bound to this world today by gravity, but it is your imagination that allows you to reach escape velocity and venture to the stars.