In the world of criminal law, a collateral consequence is almost always a penalty, disability, or disadvantage on someone as a result of a conviction for a criminal act. As a criminal defense attorney, I can appreciate the negative connotation of the term ‘collateral consequence’. However, the word collateral just means ‘additional or secondary’ and consequence simply means ‘as a result of’ or ‘following something as an effect.’ There are several collateral consequences to being a portrait photographer as well. Some positive and some negative.
One of the best collateral consequences of being a photographer is getting to meet and work with new people. I never really expected this benefit when I first started out but I find it one of the aspects I enjoy the most. I find this especially surprising since I am an introvert by nature. I typically enjoy a night at home alone than a night out with friends. A quiet evening watching a movie recharges me whereas going to a large event with tons of people saps the energy right out of me. Having a camera in my hands or just looking around me with a photographer’s eye, I see situations and people that I feel a need to interact with that I probably wouldn’t otherwise.
In fact, I think everyone should don the artist’s or photographer’s hat, even if just for a day. You stop looking at people you know through the experiences you have had with them and you simply look at them for who they are in that moment. I am convinced that if you grabbed a camera and the person you dislike being around the most and did a photoshoot with them, you’d look at them in a whole new way. A camera forces you to strip away your prejudices and preconceived notions about someone and forces you to evaluate them in the present. Prior to getting in to photography, if I saw a person in a park or walking down the street with vibrant colorful hair, I would probably stare a little or even perhaps walk off in another direction. Because of my preconceived notions of what that person must be like and how drastically different I probably am from them, an opportunity to meet them was lost. Now if I see that same colorful stranger, I am compelled to get a picture of them, or at least try, which often times ends up in a conversation. I have contacted more ‘strangers’ in the pursuit of this hobby than I have at any other time in my life, and for the most part, I love it! There truly is beauty in every moment and in every person. We simply choose not to take the time to see it. Put on the photographer’s hat and take the time. It is worth it! Wayne W. Dyer said it best. “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
A negative collateral consequence of the hobby is found just on the other side of the same coin. As a photographer, you will meet people that appear to be very interested in working with you. You discuss ideas and come up with a time to get together only to be cancelled on at the last minute. At first, I simply blew this off as no big deal but the more it happened and the more I talked with other photographers, the more I realized this appears to be a reoccurring problem with photographers in general. Perhaps some of it is that the model isn’t as invested in the shoot as the photographer or that the closer the time comes for the shoot, the more nervous the model gets. Whatever the reason, last minute cancellations or no-shows are common, and frankly upsetting. A photographer’s time is just as valuable as anyone else’s. You start to discover who is reliable and who isn’t. If I were only a portrait photographer, I think this would be even more upsetting than it is. However, when I have a cancellation, I switch modes to still life photography, light painting, astrophotography, or any other item on my photography ‘to-do’ list. Some of my best images have come about as the result of a cancelled shoot or a no-show.
Despite the occasional cancellation, I still love approaching friends, acquaintances, and even strangers for pictures. Striking up a conversation with them and learning a little about them as we collaborate on creating amazing images is, in itself, very rewarding. I am, and probably always will be, an introvert. However, there is a special thrill in meeting people for the first time that are willing to share in the enjoyment of this hobby.
Keep the interesting parts of life in focus.