EP129 - What Is Your Inner Energy Source?

At the end of a long week, the exhaustion can creep up on you.  Fatigue is not an unusual feeling for a professional photographer.  But finding your source of energy, whether it’s your work, your clients, your colleagues or just some time out with family, is crucial.

For me?  Well, for me it’s always been about people in one form or another!

The details of the Photo Hubs Oxford workshop mentioned in this episode can be found at:


This is a hands-on, three-hour workshop for no more than ten people and is all about the thing that I love doing most: finding and using available light for fantastic portraits!

Would love to see you there!


Available To Subscribe On:

Episode Transcript

There is, it seems, a sweet spot for a professional photographer. Too few shoots and every session becomes supercritical. Too busy? Well, being too busy rapidly leads to exhaustion and burnout.

I will admit. I’m at the latter end of that spectrum just now. But we are working hard to find a little balance.

I’m Paul, and this is a slightly weary mastering portrait photography podcast.

Hello, one and all right; before we begin, If you are listening to this podcast before the 16th of October, 2022 years, 2022. Here’s a quick advert from my sponsor. Well, that’ll be me. I’m just bigging myself, Sarah, Michelle, and my team up a little. So I hope that’s okay.

I do admit, at some point, I need to get the hang of placing ads in these podcasts so that when the date of an event passes well, they stop being played, but with everything else going on, ah, that’s just one lesson I haven’t had time to sit and well, learn. Apologies if you are listening to this after the 16th of October, maybe by the time you do get to hear it, I will have gotten the hang of things, and mistimed ads are no longer appearing. But I wouldn’t bet my lunch on it if I was a betting man.

Anyway, I’m just letting you know that a few spaces are left on a workshop that Sarah and I are running at the upcoming photo hub in Oxford on Sunday, the 16th of October. So the theme of the workshop is straightforward. Have you ever been caught in a situation with nothing but a camera and your subject, and you still have to get a great photo?

Come to think that is my day job, and it’s precisely what I love to do. And it’s what my clients pay me to do. So I love the sense that as long as you have some light on a face, you will be able to create some kind of beautiful portrait. And that is the subject of our workshop.

So if You’re, thinking of going to the photo hubs, why not come and spend, uh, no matter what the weather is doing, come and spend some time. It’s a three-hour workshop on mastering available light. Uh, it’s an intensive portrait photography workshop. We’re going to cover everything you need to create pictures in whatever light you might find, which is the light you have around you. We’re going to hunt down locations, hunt down pockets of light using just the world around us for inspiration, and create our images.

Now, whether you’re an aspiring pro or an experienced enthusiast, come along and learn how to take beautiful portraits with a sharp eye and a little imagination with nothing more than your camera.

The workshop will cover the fundamentals of reading the light, and getting incredible light out of everyday situations. How light affects your images and how to make the very best of any location posing and guiding a subject to get the best out of them, and you’ll be putting the skill straight into practice with this very much hands-on workshop. You will bring a camera. And you will have a ball.

The workshop is limited to 10 people, and it’s only £150 for the three hours.

The full details can be found at https://photohubs.co.uk/product/oxford-light/

Photo Hubs Oxford is a two-day photography event, although I’m only doing one of the workshops and there are plenty of workshops and presentations by a handful of incredible photographers, Glyn Dewis, Russ Jackson. I can’t even say Russ Jackson, Panikos Hajistily, Heather Burns and Olivia Bossert and it costs 10 pounds for the two day pass to attend the, uh, event.

Now also, if you happen to be a Graphistudio customer have I mentioned that Sarah and I are ambassadors for this incredible album and wall art company? Well, if you happen to be a Graphi customer, head over to their Facebook pages, where you will find discount codes, that will get you into the event for free and will also reduce the price of our workshop to just 125 pounds for the three hours. 125 quid. Uh, if you happen to be a Graphic customer, which I think is a bit of a bargain.

So the light today Has been utterly stunning, very luckily, but even if the weather is crappy next week on the 16th, we will still be creating beautiful images because that is the very point of the workshop: creating images, no matter what. Uh, a situation you find yourself in, though I have to say today has been stunning with that autumn lights waking across the sky. And pinging off the autumn red leaves. I love it. Anyway, I will put all the links and the details. Into the show notes for this 📍 episode.

Uh, so for this week, so for this week, What has been going on? Well, as you, might’ve got for my introduction. Uh, we’re very busy. Uh, I’ve been chairing qualifications for the British Institute of professional photographers. Now when I decided to, uh, leave my previous career as an it Consultant and pick up my camera as a professional, little did I know that it would take me this far. And here I am now chairing judging for one of the oldest and most recognized photographic associations in the world. And I love doing it too. It can be possibly a little stressful, but it’s truly an honor at the same time.

Like all of the judges. I just want every panel to be a successful panel. I want every photographer to be rewarded for the effort that they’ve put in.

Genuinely, we want every photographer to have a successful panel.

And that’s the thing. Everyone who submits their images has worked incredibly hard, but sometimes. Sometimes it’s just not to be. And the panel of five judges would agree with me. Qualifications is essentially a peer review, five judges and a chair discussing. Debating assessing, reviewing. And I guess arguing sometimes, but mostly drilling into the panel to make sure that when we do award the creator, those all-important letters.

Every other photographer who’s been recognized before them, nods their head in wise agreement. Sure photography is subjective, but when it comes down to it, there are key things that judges are looking for at each level, from licenciate, all the way through to fellowship. At Licentiate, We’re essentially looking for solid professional standard after all the BIPP that British Institute of professional photographers as its name suggests is an association dedicated to the art and craft of the professional photographer.

And when you get all the way up to fellowship, we’re looking for creativity and technical excellence. Of the very, very highest order. Last week, we were lucky to achieve all of those. things with several of the panels and seeing the candidates thrill at the news will never really leave me. It’s always, always exciting.

Now, sadly. A few of the panels weren’t successful this time.

Note my words though, the panel, the panel, the images, the panel of images wasn’t successful this time.

Why do I choose my words so carefully?

Why do I think it’s really important. Just by getting your work together and subjecting it to any kind of evaluation, whether it’s a critique, mentoring competition, or in this case qualifications, every single photographer who steps forward. Is already a success.

Maybe, maybe the peer review didn’t go the way they’d like for a million very good reasons. But trust me, every photographer I’ve seen who puts themselves through it, pushes themselves forward, takes advice, takes the time, dedicate themselves to in this case, producing a panel of 20 images. Is on the way to success.

Every step a photographer takes towards qualification submission from taking the time with their mentor, assessing their images, designing the panel and yes, yes, you do design a panel and I cannot stress this enough. You don’t just pick 20 individual images. You design a panel that hangs together.

And when you display it, it looks coherent. Otherwise, all you’re really doing is highlighting the differences in your images. And it’s one mistake. I have seen quite a lot over the years. And that is that a photographer very often wants to show just how eclectic they can be, how every image, every moment, every client is a completely different style.

This is rarely, when you think about it, a good idea. If you really do have a wide breadth of styles, Then go the whole hog and enter separate panels for each of these genres or each of these styles, finishes, call it what you will.

Yes, it’s expensive, but you’re much more likely to succeed at a qualification when it can be seen as a collection rather than as a scrapbook. I have to admit when I submitted my panels a few years, well, quite a few years ago. Now I remember the terror of it all too. Well, it’s expensive. In emotions and finances.

It’s terrifying. It’s utterly terrifying.

It’s cost you a small fortune. It’s cost you time. It’s cost you. Energy is probably knocked your confidence a bit as a mentor is having to guide you into the things you need to improve.

And in so many ways that feeling doesn’t entirely leave you.

But it is worth. Every second. And after my fellowship panel, I honestly felt a sense of release, a sense of. The shackles are off. Now I can do anything I like. It didn’t last of course – once you Get your head back into the business, very quickly, very quickly. You’re reminded that you have to produce these results. Every day for your clients? Yes. Yes. You’ve got your letters. But the world keeps turning, but that sense of achievement and the confidence, that I could now do anything if I chose to has driven me ever since.

And here I am, as one of a handful of people in the country, chairing judging. And I love it, I absolutely love it.

Judging Is an opportunity to enjoy hundreds, maybe thousands of images, alongside other eminent photographers. When we’re judging, we debate, we discuss. We may agree. We may argue a little bit, but one thing is for sure. We all take the time to appreciate this craft. And I always come away. With an odd mix of enthusiasm, ideas, maybe little insecurity.

Yeah, there is, again, that sense of. I don’t know if underachievement is the right word, but the idea that I could do better. And one panel in particular, this last session. I don’t think it was just me, but it certainly left me truly in awe, truly inspired, truly, truly in wonderment. And also just a little envious of what that photographer had had achieved. It really, really was that good.

But whatever it was, whatever those couple of days of judging where I came away, absolutely buzzing and full of energy.

A question that floats around the industry is why do people like me, people who judge people who mentor or organize, organize events. Why do we do it? There’s no money in it. And there’s very little recognition. But for me, at least it is truly an honor. It’s truly an honor to be there, to be able to pay back to this industry. That’s been so kind to me and to help lay the groundwork for the professional photographers of the future, the people entering the industry. Now the youngsters may be, there are people like me who transitioned. A little bit later in their careers and decided photography was for them. Maybe like me, they will go on to get involved and maybe help drive standards and professionalism in this industry.

Maybe they’ll get the same joy out of being part of something bigger than just me or them in the studio. Honestly, I always come away more enthusiastic and more driven. Even if I, well, occasionally I’m a little jealous of someone else’s raw talent. But it isn’t just judging. It is just getting involved in industry that fires me up.

I said at the start of this podcast that I am exhausted. And I am, you can hear it in my voice. I can hear it in my voice. I’ve got headphones on as I’m recording this and you can hear when I’m really tired, it’s a Saturday evening and you can hear.

My voice is lower than it is normally, and that’s just tiredness. This year is a complex one. I think, certainly emotionally. And going forward. There’s no doubt that the global economy is uncertain at its very best and the UK economy. Wow. That’s not just uncertain and that’s complete and utter chaos.

And I’m reasonably good at separating the business pressures from the creative ones. But it’s not a science. I’ve always loved being on top of the news. I’ve always loved. No, it’s going and current in current affairs, it’s one of the reasons our business has been successful and Sarah really do keep on top of things. We do know what’s going on. We do know where the markets are shifting, or at the very least… we try to keep up!

But it’s not a science. And. This year, this year, I think. It’s been really tough and I’m not convinced it’s going to be an awful lot easier next year.

No matter how good I am a separating the business pressures from the creative ones. Sometimes they just can’t help but creep into each other. Sometimes I might be feeling massively creative. And it gives me confidence in the business when other times it might be the other way round and the business is flying and it can help fuel my creativity.

If one side’s going well, then the other side gets dragged along by it sometimes though. Sometimes this business can feel a bit flat on both sides of the line, both creatively. And from a business point of view and you really, really, really don’t want that to happen because at the moments when you have to be at your best. it’s hard to feel.. creative .

Now we’re lucky here. I am. Honestly lucky here. We really don’t have tricky clients. I’ve no idea how we’ve done it. And I wish I could parcel up the ingredients for how we’ve managed to attract the clients we do. It would be worth an absolute fortune. But we certainly do have something.

Some. Intangible thing. That draws the nicest people to us, but business is still business and sometimes it really can feel like running through treacle. At the same time, sometimes it can feel like I’ve become a derivative of myself. I’m still producing images. I love. And thankfully that our clients love to.

But I have this nagging doubt in the back of my head that I’ve become a little stuck. Maybe it’s a little lazy, maybe. Everything’s just become a little too familiar. Right now. I’ve been in one of these patches for a week or three. It happens. I’m used to it. I’m used to the idea that for awhile, I’ll be progressing and changing and moving and it’s all developing. And then.

Without even noticing it. Suddenly all of that stuff sort of slows down. It’s in those times, I need a boost, but I also need to remember, that In those times when I am feeling flat and uncreative, all that’s really happening. Is that things are sorting and sorting themselves out in my head. New ideas are there. They’re just taking time to surface. But it can sap my energy, it can sap my drive and it’s in these times. I always need a bit of a boost.

So this past fortnight, it’s come from a handful of places. This is where I get my energy I’ve already mentioned the judging and I love it. Judging everything about it.

But Our clients have the same effect.

We have had two separate wedding, , reveals this week. , we’ve also had two clients come in to pick up their finished products. We’ve had four portrait shoots and a wedding as well. Now the wedding itself. Than the wedding itself. , it didn’t entirely. Go to plan. There was a huge and catastrophic water main breakage.

And along with most of the Oxford area and surrounding villages. The Manoir, the hotel where the wedding was to be held, had no water. It turns out you can’t open your doors without water. If you have no You have no flushable toilets. So you simply cannot have guests. Or staff for that matter.

Now, luckily the guys at Le Manoir worked tirelessly to make whatever they could. Possible. They handled rebooking all of the guests into different and equally beautiful hotels and they managed to stage just the ceremony and a few photographs in the grounds. So it wasn’t a complete write-off. We managed to get the ceremony and the handful of photos.

And it was fine. As long as you didn’t need the loo or as I discovered you didn’t want ice in your drink. It was apart from the obvious a perfect ceremony. But unfortunately there was then an hour and a half drive to the next hotel for the wedding breakfast again. A stunning hotel. But we’ve now lost 90 minutes,

Of what is always going to be a fully packed day. On the upside, we were short of a taxi so , the bride and groom, along with the groom’s mom hopped into our land Rover defender, and we laughed our way through the rush hour traffic.

I don’t know if I am truly an extrovert but I certainly am outwardly confident though, that doesn’t really diminish the insecurities that I have, or the fact that I always feel quite shy when I’m not in work mode.

I don’t know if it’s the same for But holding the camera in my hands is an amazing uniform. It’s sort of a shield, a barrier. That lets me be a performer and it suppresses my normal nerves. But what is true? What is true? Is that these are the things that help me recharge my batteries. People always the people.

Whether it’s the judges, the mentors, the candidates. The wider industry or my clients. I’m not a psychologist, but I think the definition of extrovert. Is if I refuel my batteries when I’m around people and for probably 80% of my time. That’s exactly what I do. This morning, I photographed a lovely couple , to celebrate their encasement. The minute I opened the door, the laughter started and it didn’t stop until we were saying goodbye.

It’s a lovely thing to be in the company of others, having an absolutely wonderful time. And of course, Creating beautiful images as we go.

Now, back to that wedding as I was leaving one of the older guests asked if I’d be willing to travel to photograph her daughter’s wedding. And of course I pointed out to her, that she hadn’t even seen a single picture. Picture from the day as of that point. But she responded that it had nothing to do with the photography. It was all to do with the laughter and the joy of the day. And I guess. For a people photographer. That is the biggest compliment of them all. And I’ve always wanted to be a good photographer.

It’s always been about. The images, but maybe in the context of shooting a wedding or shooting a family or shooting people, maybe being a good guest. Or a good companion. Is equally, if not more important, maybe, maybe just maybe. Getting people to laugh is the key. At least for me. As my engagement, couple pointed out this morning.

There is, it seems a certain skill to it. Mostly by bringing energy, joy, and positivity. It’s one of them said this It put me a little bit on the back foot, but she said to me, she describes the way I work as and I quote. Strategic strike. I can’t even say it. Strategically deployed ridiculousness .

I love it. It’s a great line. She’s much clever than me strategically deployed ridiculousness. Now I’m not quite sure what that means. I think she might simply been calling me a clown, or just an idiot. Either way strategically deployed ridiculousness is the way And this afternoon in a similar vein, we had a wedding reveal, at the end of which the client wrote on, we have a little frame. Uh, that they sign. And she wrote the following and this is just a small excerpt from it. And it says, and I quote from the moment we first stepped into your studio. And by the way, her handwriting has those really nice w over their eyes.

She does a circle. It’s just quite cute. Ah, I love that kind of writing. I don’t, I dunno why it just, I dunno, it makes me smile anyway to carry on. And I quote, we were instantly laughing, nonstop and had no doubt you were going to be our photographer for our big day. And that’s a big day with a capital B, a capital D and a good old circle over the letter i.

So that was what came out of today. And she was describing my original wedding pitch when they turned up and I won it because we laughed. I mean, I’m hoping, obviously the inner creative of me hopes, I want some of it because the photography is beautiful, but the reality is it’s whatever it takes If making people laugh and have a good time.

Is what it is then fine. Because running a business. Is exhausting. And you have to find your fuel. Now, whatever that may be, you have to find it. Whether it’s the photography itself, whether it’s your clients. Maybe it’s the cathartic nature of doing some post-production some Photoshopping or some grading.

Maybe it’s creating a beautiful print and putting it to a wall, or maybe as I have done the many others is getting involved with the industry and doing some mentoring or doing some judging or whatever it is. It doesn’t really matter. You have to find things. That recharge your batteries. And I have come to the end of the day at the end of a week.

In which the workload looked honestly, like it might just break me and I’ve ended it. With laughter and a lot of hugs all round. And it is absolutely the energy that I need. I thought I’d finished today, broken and instead I finished it. Exhausted. But on a high.

So as of tomorrow, I’m taking a week out with Sarah and then our kids, I say, kids. Both in the twenties. I don’t know why describing those kids anyway. I cannot be more excited and the way that today. Has ended. It’s the perfect beginning to a few days out.

You need to find. Ways to recharge your energy ways that keep you energized. These are just a few of mine.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please do leave us a five star rating and a written review. It really does help new listeners to find us. Also wherever it is that you’re listening to this podcast right now hit the subscribe button. And next time there’s an episode out. You’ll be the first to hear it.

When you’re going to be the first, I’ll be the first. But you might be the second to hear it anyway. Please do subscribe. If you have any questions or comments or things you want us to talk about. And please do email Paul@paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk. That’s Paul. At Paul Wilkinson 📍 photography.co.uk.

And whatever else is going on in your life, whatever chaos is going on with interest rates going on with gas prices, energy prices, inflation, or simply just the weather. Whatever else. Be kind to yourself. Take care guys.

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