I Don’t “Do” Portraits

I don’t “do” portraits.  If I had a dime for every time I said those words I would have made more money from saying no to portraits than all of my landscape photo sales combined.  Sad, but true.   I always say that portraits are too much like my day job as a teacher.  Portraits involve telling people what to do, making them pay attention, and getting them to stop talking and hold still so I can do what I need to do.  Landscapes, on the other hand, are quiet, don’t usually move, and only speak in a metaphorical sense.  So why am I even thinking about taking on portraits?  I have agreed to a few portrait sessions for family and friends and the truth is that I kind of enjoyed it.  When a photo captures an individual’s  true personality or the dynamics of a relationship it is slightly exhilarating.  Portraits are also a lot easier to control.  I can add my own light, move the person to a better location, and add props.  So why do I keep saying no?  For one thing,  portraits typically need to take place in the evening or on weekends.  That is my family time and the last thing I want is for my photography to take me away from my family more often.  The goal of pursuing nature photography was to spend more time doing the things I love WITH my family.  Another reason is that portraits make me nervous.  If I take a bad photo of a mountain it is not likely to be upset or complain.  I can just go back and try again.  People tend to be upset if the photos do not turn out well – especially if the photo is related to a specific unrepeatable event.


The draw to take on portraits might be from a sense of urgency to start making this photography dream into something that actually makes money rather than costs money.  There is, however, an underlying issue that comes up every time I am planning a landscape photography outing.  It might not be a popular issue to voice in today’s “girl power” climate, but I face certain limitations as a woman.  I can’t always find someone  willing to get up at 3:00 a.m. to drive and hike to a sunset location with me.  My husband is very supportive but he doesn’t always want to get up in the middle of the night to go sit and watch me take pictures.  Being alone in the dark in remote locations poses different challenges for a woman than it does for a man.  That is just the simple truth.  I am cautious; I am as prepared as possible;  and I am fit and relatively strong.  Still, there are major limitations to when and where I can photograph.  This frustrates me, but it is a reality that I cannot change and I will not take unnecessary chances.  I believe these limitations are part of the reason so many  female photographers  end up in portrait and/or event photography.  So for now I am resisting the natural path toward portraits and events because it is not my dream and if I am going to pursue something different from my day job that I already  enjoy it needs to be the purest form of my dream and not a substitute. My goal, then, is to find ways to get out and take photos when and where I want.  At this point I think it means gathering other like-minded women to join me in these adventures.  The idea that there is strength in numbers takes on layers of meaning in this situation.  If you are female who loves the outdoors and wants to join forces and start planning and implementing photo adventures please comment below.


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