Career

Progress Journal: Time to Be Brave

Portrait by  Ami Ford

Portrait by Ami Ford

If you have been keeping up with my Progress Journals, or have followed me online for a short amount of time, you will know that I’ve been bustling away on my photography work alongside a full time job as an editor in video production. Initially I had decided to stick with these plans until the end of the year, in order to save more money and build up my experience. Then I thought maybe I could resign from my job to finish around August-time. But last week all of that completely changed.

I tried to continue keeping up appearances, but I wasn’t in a good place. I felt sick with overwhelm and I couldn’t concentrate. I’d cry most days. Sleep wasn’t a thing that was happening. Anxiousness was a constant tightness in my chest, a headache that ran around the sides of my head, and a dropping sensation in my stomach; the same kind you experience during turbulence on planes, rollercoaster rides, or even on a swing if there's a drop in pressure.

I have been attempting to manage varying levels of discomfort, uncertainty and unhappiness for the last two years or so. This was due to near-consistent worry, pressure, and lack of control in and over my life, as well as a huge unsureness over who I am. Despite working really hard in therapy to tackle these things, I was ignorant to how depression and anxiety were slowly creeping back into my life in a big way. I was irrationally trying to rationalise my pain, forcing myself into spaces I didn’t fit, and compressing myself down so much I was merely existing. I may have been trying to keep my mind preoccupied, but how I felt began to fight its way out of my system physically. It was as though my body was screaming “If you’re not going to do something about this, I’m taking the decision out of your hands”.

Portraits by  Ami Ford

Portraits by Ami Ford

Sian

You may think I would have realised that I was dealing with long-term stress at this point… But, it was only something that hit me after a Google search. And, if you’re a user of The World Wide Web, you will know that typing any symptom into a search engine will only lead to one conclusion; swift, impending death. Usually, I’d take any online diagnosis with a pinch of salt, but noticing the worry line etched into my 25-year-old forehead, my inability to switch off, and realising the last time I felt truly relaxed was sometime last year, made the likelihood of sustaining a heart condition not so far fetched.

The reasons that had kept me bound - the security of a full time job and wages, and not knowing what would happen if I went self-employed - came from a place of fear. I was scared to take a leap. I was scared to fail… But the thought that my life would be over before I had the chance to do all of the things I have dreamed of, made me feel a fear that does not compare in any way. Even typing this made make me feel sick in my throat.

So, I handed in my notice, and, as of July 2019, I will be ready to pursue all the things I’ve never fully had the chance to until now. I get butterflies when I think about it. Nervous ones, but also giddy optimistic ones I haven’t felt since childhood; something I never quite expected.

Despite my best intentions, I hold my hands up and say that I couldn’t keep up with the plan I set myself in last month’s Progress Journal… and you can probably understand why. I’ve been busy feeling a lot of feelings, but also being brave, and the time to be brave is only just beginning. Wish me luck!

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Sharing the Process

Portrait by  Ami Ford

Portrait by Ami Ford

When I first come across my new, soon-to-be favourite creators, it’s often when they are blowing up, or have already passed that point, and are thriving. They have been slaving away for years, consistently improving, slowly building traction, and then BOOM. Copious amounts of blood, sweat, and tears presenting itself as an overnight success. It’s well deserved, but SO daunting to see.

When I see someone at the top of their game, it can almost feel as though they’ve just landed there. Like they’ve picked up a camera for the first time, and now they’re a YouTuber with 1M+ Subs, or full-time Instagrammer with 10K followers and the almighty swipe up feature. I know they must have worked hard, but I can’t physically see the hours they put in, nor trials and tribulations they faced to get to a place where they can call their passion, their job. But why is this? I’ve found that it’s often because where they started is hidden. Due to the amount they have produced, the fast paced nature of The Internet, or purposely by the creative.

For example, when I come across a photographer on Instagram, I don’t usually see the first ever images they took or posted. Or the ones after that. Or, sometimes, even the ones after that. This is either because; I’m not going to scroll back years and risk liking a post from when they started account in 2011… Or, if I am willing to take the risk, it’s not unusual for their beginnings to not exist online. They may not have shared where they started in the first place, or any photos they feel no longer best represent their work have been purposely deleted. And it’s the same with anything online - from old blog posts and tweets, to first ever YouTube videos.

Portraits by  Ami Ford

Portraits by Ami Ford

Sian

Now this isn’t unusual or uncommon. Heck, I’ve done it. I did it when I converted my personal account into my portraiture account, and didn’t want tons of personal memories mixed in with my professional work. I also did it when I still used the account as a personal one too. I deleted a lot of my first images a few years down the line, as I didn’t feel as though those filtered so heavily they were reaching the point of distortion, of something like a Coca Cola can, with a chunky frame and a caption that is ZomG sO deEep!1!!1 were really very me anymore.

It’s within our human nature to want to be liked. In the digital age, we project our best selves in order to “perfect” the way others see us, in the hope they will like us, follow us, want to be our friend or work with us. This can often mean that the version of our ‘best’ we projected when we were younger, or when we first started a hobby or in a profession, isn’t our best now. Then, because it feels somewhat invasive and inaccurate for people to see all of our versions together, we hide things. We form our online space around who and what we are right now.

This can mean that our process goes unseen. All of the time that went into getting to where we are now, spent growing, hustling, staying up late, working on our craft, or crying over it… Gone. Tucked away in the recesses of our brain, as a line on our CV, or on old hard drives that sit, collecting dust. We can begin to forget where we started, or why we started altogether. Failing to observe the progress we have made, and the wonderful things we have achieved along the way. It’s okay though, because people like us…

Portraits by  Ami Ford

Portraits by Ami Ford

Sian

In April, over the Easter Bank Holiday, I took a bit of an unplanned hiatus from my socials. I was fatigued from the bombardment of bad news on Twitter, and the overwhelming notion that the progression of my freelance career depended on how engaged I was online. I felt as though the content I shared online needed to be BIG, and GRAND, and ALL OF ME, ALL AT ONCE… I felt as though I didn’t have anything of worth to share, and had well and truly fallen into the highlight reel trap. So, I took a step back. Ate chocolate. Forgot about the world for a bit.

Ironically, the break from having to think about what I wanted to post online, led me to consider what I wanted to post online. I wondered why I worry about if something is “right” to share (in terms of its relevance), if I’m using my platforms in the right way, or why it’s so embarrassing to share my “bad” experiences. Like if I mess up, or if something doesn’t turn out quite the way I hoped it would. Do these things damage how I am perceived? Would showing my flaws and mistakes make me a whole person? Does it really matter? Do I just need to be true to myself? Who is my “true self”? Who am I? What started as a confused line of thinking had taken a handbrake turn into existential crisis mode.

I was processing. It was a process. I was in the middle of a process.

Then I thought about pausing, and going back to the beginning. To the memories I store on hard drives, in zip-lock bags, or in scrapbooks. To where I began, and the first steps I took... I realised that who I am is in my process. It’s in the time where I learn about myself. What I like, and don’t like, what I would do again, or what I would change next time. The mistakes I make when trying to improve are not reasons for ridicule, but vital to my own learning and growth. Things go wrong everyday; to err is human, as they say. And sharing these hiccups normalises them. I find it comforting to know when someone has been where I am. It makes my worries smaller, and into something to overcome rather than endure.

Portraits by  Ami Ford

Portraits by Ami Ford

Sian

I love writing my Progress Journal posts every month. Observing where I have improved, noting where I went wrong, and sharing my findings is constructive. It helps me to stay aware of myself and career, and move forward. In the past I have written about not knowing where I was going, and feeling lost. At the time it felt freeing to get the way I felt out of my head. Now it’s reassuring to look back on; because I was moving towards where I wanted to be without even knowing it… And that’s what our process does. Every choice we make, and every move we take is our process. Our life is our process, and there’s no shame in that. There’s no reason to hide it. In actuality, it’s bloody exciting!

So… Why not use our process as our subject? In the past I have shared the odd silly photo of myself on my socials, because it’s amusing. I chose to litter this post with goofy shoot outtakes, because that’s where you really see me. Also, my butt looks really good in the third photo, and it would be a criminal offence if I didn’t share it, BUT THAT’S BESIDES THE POINT. By sharing these photos, I am allowing myself to ‘find’ me. To show me. To be me.

From this point onwards, I’m going to be making more of an effort to show my process. Whether that is through updates or reflection in my daily posts on Twitter and Instagram, taking the time to look back in a blog post, or documenting where I am right now in my Progress Journal entries. Looking behind the scenes, in any capacity, fuels my imagination. It always has. And seeing someone start somewhere and go on to slay? That’s inspiring. I’m hoping that through being more open and honest about where I am and where I have been, will allow me to become more connected to myself and consequently be more authentically me… Here goes nothing.

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Progress Journal | The First Bump in the Road

Ella

I ended my last progress journal on a total high. I had just shot Ella, who was a total star to shoot with - we chatted our way around Portobello Road and Notting Hill, having a laugh as we went, and she even kindly treated me to a spot of lunch too - which I’m super grateful for! And I came away with 50+ images I was totally stoked with. 

Entering that shoot, I felt pretty nervous. It was the first I had done with someone I hadn’t met before, and, as I lived with crippling social anxiety not so long ago, wasn’t sure how things were going to pan out. Thankfully my fears quickly shifted to make room for a bigger desire; to get the most out of the experience and create images that we were both thrilled with.

From having such a positive experience, understandably I was already itching to get out and shoot more! Aaaand that’s when it all went a bit tits up.

A couple of fun self portraits from one of three sets I took this month.

A couple of fun self portraits from one of three sets I took this month.

I am LOVING playing with movement!

I am LOVING playing with movement!

Starting February, I roughly had around one shoot a week booked in. As I am currently still in a full time job, and trying to live a balanced lifestyle (as explained in my previous progress journal), this felt like a good place to start... But then the heavy snow appeared, and the first shoot was rebooked. Then a client’s work schedule changed unexpectedly, and the second shoot was postponed. And then sadly personal things happened, so the third client had to reschedule too.

Cancellations were something that I had always anticipated, and knew were going to be a part of this career. Situations change, shit happens, and life can just be completely out of our hands. I get it. I totally get it. And, to be honest with you, I’m seriously grateful they all rescheduled, when they could have just cancelled altogether... but, it still sucked and left me feeling a little blue.

When I am so early in the game, wanting to get as much practice in as I can, to sharpen my skills and build my portfolio, knocks like these hit a little harder than I would like them to. That being said, I have learnt a couple of lessons to take forward - which is the most important thing! 

The first being that, whilst I know I’ll never be able to stop myself from getting my hopes up, I do need to find ways to soften the blow when cancellations happen. Two resolutions I’ve found so far are: rescheduling with the client as quickly as possible, so there is another date to work towards, and then, in the meantime, making the most of dry, bright weather to experiment with self portraiture. I currently have so many ideas for what to shoot next bubbling around in my head - even if I am terrified about the Summer-like weather in Winter.

Lucy

And the second solution is to start implementing a non-refundable deposit fee. I know a bunch of full-time photographers who use this as a contingency for cancellations, and if I’m going to pursue photography as a full time career, I’m going to need a bit of protection against financial losses. I’m also hoping this will dissuade people from contacting me to arrange a shoot, and then flaking after I begin to discuss pricing - which ultimately costs me time, and slots for clients who definitely want to work with me.

Thankfully I do have a happy note to end on though! My final shoot of the month was a complete success, and it was my first ever paid portraiture shoot too - woohoo! Lucy and I shot four outfits in a couple of hours, and utilised different areas of a single location to give each look a unique backdrop. Being creative, thinking on my feet, and joking around throughout was a total joy, and I’m thankful to Lucy for booking in with me... And being up for trying some silly poses! 

The shoot was exactly what I needed, and put me back on the right track. Fingers crossed March will be a better month for me…!

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How I found my passion and how you can too

Portraits by  Kaye Ford

Portraits by Kaye Ford

Sian-0079.jpg

Chances are, if you clicked on this post, it’s really important to you that you find a path that makes you happy. As someone who felt unsure about where they were going for years, and was absolutely desperate for anything to point me in the right direction, I get where you are coming from. It’s scary. It’s unknown. It’s frustrating.

I tried a whole host of things to work out where my passions lied. I revisited old hobbies, gave new things a go, I even forced myself into activities my gut was trying to dissuade me from. It seemed as though I went round and round in circles; full of energy but no idea where to invest it. I thought I was going to explode.

It wasn’t until I stopped searching outwards, and began looking inwards instead, that I started to make real progress. I know, I know, sOoOo mushy. But from this experience, I found that my passion was something that already lit a fire inside of me... And now I’m going to show you how you can find your passion too!


What sparks joy? What do you love?

The internet may have gone a little wild with the Marie Kondo memes since the release of her Tidying Up Netflix series, but the sentiment of observing what ‘sparks joy’ and holding on to it works in this scenario too. So much so that the first step in finding my passion was reconnecting with myself, and thinking about what brings me joy. This allowed me the squash the feelings that finding the path I wanted to pursue was out of reach, disperse the franticness I felt over the overwhelming choice available to me, and really focus my search down.

To start, grab yourself a piece of paper or start a fresh document on your laptop, and divide it into three columns. Title the first column “Things”, the second “Activities”, and the third “Important”. 

Under the first column, list every single Thing that you find joy in. And when I say Thing I’m talking favourite artists, actors, bands, TV series, films, YouTubers, places, colours, cake… And so on. This doesn’t have to be a definitive list, but, like all of this exercise, getting everything out of your head and on to paper will make it easier for you to get an overall picture of yourself and where you are at. 

In the second column jot down all the Activities that you enjoy doing. Now, Activities can involve physical activities, such as sports and travelling, but this also encompasses everyday activities too. By this I mean: popping to your favourite coffee shop for a hot chocolate, spending hours people watching, buying yourself fresh flowers on payday, researching hashtags for Instagram, writing reviews on the latest cinema releases, slipping into fresh bedsheets, walking on crunchy snow… Basically anything that involves you doing something, in or out of the house. 

Then in the final column, take note of anything that is Important to you… Do you live for your family and friends? Is self care your main priority? Are you a frequent date-nighter with your partner? Is living as ethically as possible a big part of your lifestyle? Do you volunteer for any LGBTQIA+ groups? This is the space to make a note of anything you feel strongly about, that shapes you or influences your choices.

Whilst we can easily rattle off our favourite TV show of the moment or musician in a heartbeat, it’s unlikely that beyond our childhood years - where fan-projects were MY JAM - we have actually taken the time to consider the things we love. And when I say love, I mean the sort of love that fills you up from head to toe, and makes your heart do that warm and fuzzy thing.

This exercise is an important reminder of what you love, and, in my experience, seeing it all laid out in front of me, made me feel so much more assured of myself. And don’t forget; cross over is cool. Don’t fear writing similar things in each of the columns! In fact, it is actually quite useful, because it helps you…

Portraits by  Kaye Ford

Portraits by Kaye Ford

Sian

Find consistencies; what have you loved for a long time?

Now your lists are complete, review the Activities and Important columns and highlight all of the linked or similar points within them. From doing this, you may observe a couple of themes, or perhaps one theme that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Once you have found all of the consistencies, split them up into these themes, and rewrite them as new lists. It is vital to do this as it will help you decide on the area or field your passion falls into. 

For example…

  • Books and Reading
    Activity: Reading Books.
    Activity: Perusing bookshops for hours.
    Important: Prioritising meetings with the book club.

  • Being Outdoors
    Activity: Going hiking and climbing on the weekends with my partner.
    Activity: Spending time researching at rural cottages for trips.
    Important: The annual family walking holiday.

To find the field your passion falls into, concentrate on the theme you find yourself drawn to the most. If there is one you can pick out straight away then that’s great, but it can become really easy to overthink this bit. I got stuck in a loop for months and months by second guessing my instincts. What helped me break this cycle was looking back over my life to find consistencies there too.

I asked myself: “Is there anything I have always done or come back to time and time again?” - I knew that if I had chosen to keep up a hobby or interest for a significant amount of my life, it would have to mean a lot to me and would have likely brought me a lot of joy over time. This led me to photography!

As this was so telling, it’s time for you to take your new list of themes and look back across your life. Have you always been an avid traveller, keen cinephile, eager bookworm, total foodie, passionate sportsperson, or maybe even a dedicated follower of fashion and beauty? Listen to your gut and let it lead the way.

Once you’ve put your finger on the theme you love, you will be able to…

Portraits by  Kaye Ford

Portraits by Kaye Ford

Sian-0062.jpg

Make it personal: How can you turn your interests into a passion that suits you?

At this point, you should know what you love, what you have loved for a long time and the theme they fall into. A path may already be revealing itself to you, or perhaps the direction you would like to head in is becoming clearer. It’s also likely that whilst you have your chosen theme, you may not see a way to jump in, or build the ideas within it into a long-term pursuit - possibly even a career.

To work out whereabouts to get stuck in, it’s time to give your chosen theme centre stage, but consider the other themes in relation to it. By doing this, you can take everything that is of value to you and find a way of weaving them together to end up your personalised passion! HUZZAH.

For me, the Activities and Important columns revealed Photography as my biggest overarching theme, but other areas I felt strongly about were…

  • That I work best alone and am self motivated, but appreciate the time I spend with people. I also enjoy learning about them and their stories.

  • That, because prioritising my wellbeing is important to me, having the opportunity to balance and plan my own schedule would be incredibly beneficial.

  • That I express myself through creativity and helping others. From writing to drawing, I like to experiment by bouncing between art forms, and I find putting together resources rewarding.

This let me identify that I wanted to work on my own and for myself, so I could manage my own schedule, but take photos of people. And also that blogging and creating content was something I loved too. This then made me consider intertwining photography and blogging; by using my blog and socials to share my work, career change experience along the way, and what I have learned about photography to inform, entertain and educate others... And that was it. I knew my passions were portrait photography and photography-related content creation.

So, that’s how I found my passion, and I hope you did too! I’d love to hear your findings from completing these exercises, so be sure to get in touch via Twitter to let me know how you got on and where you are heading next.


[Record scratch] Hold up. “What’s the point of the Thing column, then?” I hear you ask… Well, besides it being a helpful tool to reconnect with yourself and settle in to this exercise, it can be a great way to find inspiration for your aspiration too.

Consider why you are drawn to the things, people and places you are. Do you want to follow in one of your idol’s footsteps, take aspects of their career into your own, or possibly even work with them? What is about their ethics you want to emulate? Is there a niche somewhere within it all that you want to tap into? Could your favourite colours be the colour palette for your new business venture?

Use your findings to help you work out the next steps to take, and plot out how you want to thrive in your passion.

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Progress Journal | Pursuing portraiture

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

The first time I took portraiture photographs, outside of a bunch I snapped for my Mum’s work way (way, way) back when, was in Summer 2018. On a whim, I rounded up a group of friends during golden hour, and we shot in the fields near where we live. That single decision, and the session that followed, sparked something off inside of me and that was it. I wanted to pursue portraiture.

Between then and now, I have been scheduling in all the practice I can get. From shooting on the fly at Pride and at night with Luke, to continuing to work on my skills with Rosie, Eleanor, Rowena, Gregg, Lizzie and Ella; who all kindly let me take pictures of them! I am learning, and gaining more confidence, every time I shoot… Even if I do feel the fear that I will walk away with no usable photographs beforehand - something that has never happened.

January has already been an exciting month for my me, but things are just about to get better. February sees me doing my first ever (not one but two) paid shoots! It has been incredibly heartwarming to receive good feedback about my work on Instagram, through comments and direct messages, but having people go out of their way to book in and put their confidence in me, is such a boost. To have this happen so quickly is helping solidify that this is the right path for me. Which is making me feel ALL OF THE THINGS.

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

At this point, I really want to continue practicing whenever I can - sorry in advance, friends and family - in order to experiment and improve. I would also like to grow my social media networks in the hope my work will reach more people, and to put together some physical materials I can give out when networking. The biggest barriers I am facing at the moment are directly impacting my ability to do the aforementioned though. The cost of travelling for shoots, rallying up people I know, and making time to work on my socials and networking are all areas that I need to work on.

When I am not working my full-time job as a video editor, I am balancing my time between the above, spending time with loved ones, and taking the time to carry out self care. As someone who struggles with mental illness, it’s vital that I take my time rather than push myself to the limit, and hurt myself in the process. So, as much as I would love to shoot, and shoot, and shoot, it just isn’t the feasible or healthy option for me. But, that’s okay.

From not knowing what I wanted to do last year, to feeling dead-set on making freelance photography a thing, I have already made such huge strides - none of which I should, or want to, overlook. To continue improving and progressing, I feel as though my next steps involve taking what I have discussed on board, and then building it into a workable plan. One that allows me to manage my time, achieve what I would like to, and stay afloat. I’ll keep you posted with how that goes!

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Why Portraiture? Talking Career Choices and Finding my Passion

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

At the end of 2018, I enrolled in on-going talking therapy. Despite making great strides in overcoming social anxiety and managing depression, I was in a slump. I was exhausted, I had lost my drive and I felt lost. If 2017 was the year of riding high, 2018 (for the most part) was the year of coming down.

In these sessions, we spoke at length about my chosen career path in film and television production. Whilst I am grateful for what I have, I am unhappy working in this field. The lifestyle clashes with my personality, the structure messes with my wellbeing, and, ultimately, the work itself leaves me feeling unfulfilled. 

It was rough to say those things out loud and let myself finally begin to accept them. I had studied to work in this industry for five years. At one point I was working three jobs so I could get my foot in the door. I got involved with some incredible work experience opportunities, which I will be forever thankful for, and feel so lucky to have had... but my love for working in the industry had revealed itself as more of a lust.

I was disappointed in myself. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I felt like A FAILURE.

Portraits by  Kaye

Portraits by Kaye

Sian

Further sessions came and went, but somewhere along the line, the conversation turned to photography. I told my therapist about some photos I took with friends in the Summertime, after getting a seemingly overnight itch to try my hand at portraiture. As I explained the buzz I felt when going over the photos from the shoot, I could feel myself lighting up all over again. I may have gone into the shoot as an excuse to spend time with friends and try something new, but I came away from the whole experience beaming with a pride I hadn’t felt in years.

It was this conversation that caused a weight lift, after spending months feeling stuck. Doors I closed way back in my teens, in the belief I was destined for different things, were suddenly bursting open, and the contents locked away were starting to make sense years down the line.

When I was in Junior School, I took photos of friends and family on a Polaroid OneStep, and overtime gradually upgraded through cameras to a Canon 60D; which I used when studying A Level Photography. As a kid I was naturally drawn to programmes with actors in over cartoons - hellooo That’s So Raven, The Amanda Show and Zoey 101 - and as an adult, this interest has blossomed into learning more about real people and their stories. So much so, I chose to specialise in Documentary filmmaking in University. And, even though I chose not to pursue Photography in education, I never stopped taking photos.

This realisation has given me a whole new lease of life. And whilst I initially had no idea where to start, I suddenly have a clear idea of where I want to go. I want to go out and shoot.

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