on being "liked"

Warning.... possibly LONGEST blog post ever (in summary, I'm ok with the new facebook charges, even though I likely won't pay for them or for "likes").

I worked on cruise ships as a photographer for about 6 years.

If you've ever been on a cruise ship you'll know, the photographers take a lot of photos. On any given ship there can be up to 15 or so photographers. They are called "photogs". Your job is essentially to force people to have their photo taken. "Come on gorgeous, grab your boyfriend... give him a squeeze", "this won't hurt a bit", "you don't have to buy the photo, but we just have to take it" and at times, even resorting to begging cruisers to just "please" have their photo taken. Photogs know this to be called "smudging". You photograph people getting on the ship, getting off the ship, dressing up on the ship, eating on the ship, partying on the ship, and even go on tours to photograph them enjoying their moments at various landmarks around the world. I photographed passengers at the Great Pyramids of Egypt, going through the Panama canal, in the rainforest in Brazil and at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

No one is coming to you because they see something beautiful in the way you see the world. You are begging them to have their photo taken. Then, you are displaying their photos in a high traffic area to get them to buy the images of themselves. You help people buy their photos, you spend hours looking for certain photos, you print them, you re-print them, you throw away the un-bought ones. At the end of my 6 years with Princess Cruises I decided that I would never beg anyone to have their photo taken again, or try and sell and upsell my images.

I was kind of awesome at "smudging" the passengers. I rocked, really (any of my ship mates agree?) Super annoying I know. I was able to quickly bounce back from my first night onboard in the dining room when the crankiest man ever yelled at me to "get out of his face, and what kind of a life was this anyways." (I may have said a few choice words back to him, and then calmed burst into tears when I was outside the dining room.) As a photog on ships, I was sworn at, yelled at, ignored and a few times even pushed. You just learned to brush it all off and get back out there and do it all again. I toughened up a bit and at the time, the pros outweighed the cons. I was being paid to travel the world. I was meeting amazing photographers from all over the world and I was completely immersed in photography. However, I found out that I don't like being bullied or treated poorly, and so when I was done... I was really done.

I remember how done I really was. It felt like the limits of what negativity my soul could handle had been tested just a little too much. Nearing the end of my time with Princess I thankfully didn't have to spend much time doing the 'dirty' work as much, however, I recall having to do another "gangway" early morning getting people to stop and have their photo taken as they get off the ship. I was my usual cheery, happy smudging self, I was being ignored, sworn at and finally a man came down and said something really rude to me and I walked off the gangway. Burst into tears and called my manager and said I was done. I knew in my heart, it would be my last contract. I was done putting my energy into the world to have it thrown back at me in a negative way. I was done the hard sells, the begging and the pleading. I knew, there was something else in store for me.

When I moved home to pursue my photography dreams, I still worked incredibly hard. I just wasn't begging anyone, for anything. Especially not to have their photo taken or to like me. I did many things to create authentic connections with people, and share my images and the beauty I see in everything, but I wasn't making deals, I was more focused on sharing. On just being a photographer. Capturing moments, getting better, finding my own style as a photographer and finding my place as an artist. I was creating art with people and having them love the images felt better than anything I'd ever known in a career before. Just recently a fabulous new client of mine got her images back, she said some really sweet things and then said "good for you for choosing a profession where you get to make people so happy, and get such great feedback." I had never really thought about it before, but it made me smile. It WAS my choice. I then thought of how fortunate I am to have such amazing clients who understand and appreciate the images I create with them. We are on the right track.

Just today, I realized that lately I've been feeling a bit off. I think it has to do with the way that facebook has changed its "pages". I know the changes have been going on for a while, but specifically how all of the people who "like" my page will no longer see all or any of my updates unless I pay for them to be seen. I feel like it is a classic case of bullying. I've loved building up my "likes" one at a time, over time. Putting my energy out there and having people respond to me in such a great way. I've spent all this energy building up all of these followers, only to be told... Ok, great... now you have to pay to have them see your posts. Oh. Ok Facebook, thanks. Maybe it would have been cool to know that before. There are other ways to increase traffic, and I'm learning about it all along the way. I've loved building up a following so I could connect with the people who "liked" my business, my imagery and even... me. Yes, it has been an amazing tool to showcase my images and a wonderful platform to reach people I may never have reached before, but it feels weird, really weird to 'ask' people to "like" posts, photos or essentially... me, or to suddenly have to pay for the people who've chosen to join along with me to see the posts they've signed up to see. It feels a little like being a "photog" again and begging. It's something I just don't "like". But really, is it a big deal? It's just facebook... not the end of the world.

So, if you are still with me after all of this rambling then... I LOVE YOU. Each and every single one of you reading this. Please know. I am so humbly grateful for you. Your heart, you taking time out of your busy life to spend a moment with me, here. Or on facebook. Or on Pinterest, or twitter or my website.

It means more to me than I can even begin to express. I know social media can be frustrating on many levels, especially when you are sort of led into a world of it, spend so much energy and time building up your "likers" only to find out that now to reach all of them... it'll cost you. But really, what did we all expect.

So, where am I at with all of this? I'm just here. Me. Sitting behind my computer waiting for my girl to wake up from her nap and thinking about my past, and how it's shaped who I am now, and how I've run my business this far. It's amazing that I've never really made the connection before. All I can do is continue to put myself out there, and hopefully come up with a few ideas to not feel like I'm pressuring people to "like" me... or my posts. Cause that is just not how I want to roll.

I think that if something is valuable or holds significant meaning in life... we are all smart enough to find what we want to see, and engage with. We don't really need everything jammed down our throats all the time anyways. It isn't awesome that my posts won't show up on everyones newsfeed, but maybe it'll end up being a blessing... as the people who really REALLY want to see what images or what I'm creating, or what I'm up to, what events are going on... they'll just come find me on their own. Or, at least that is what I hope will happen.

Closing thoughts, be nice to cruise ship photogs and log out of your facebook for a minute, and think about what YOU really want to see. Maybe it's not a newsfeed of what facebook decides you should see... maybe... you'd rather hang out on Pinterest. I'll leave you with these rare oldies from my time at sea.