Being a Lensbaby Ambassador has made me a better photographer. Sure, with time and practice, we all get better at our craft. But being an ambassador for the company has
forced inspired me, to get serious about my photography in a way I wasn’t before. I didn’t notice this change until one of my local customers pointed out how much my work has improved over the last two years. I was more than little pleased that any improvements in my work is noticeable to my audience.
When we take the time to recreate our work as Sabrina and I did in November, it’s easier to see these improvements. When you do a one-to-one comparison between old and new work, you often see changes in style or skill plainly laid out. I’ve always been a big fan of recreating older work. Both because I enjoy revisiting ideas that I like, but also because I enjoy seeing how far I’ve come.
Of course when customers can see that difference, then the jump must be bigger than I thought. How big has the shift been and what might have been at the source. That’s when I realized that the pressure Ive felt being a Lensbaby Ambassador has made me a better photographer.
Trailblazer to Ambassador
When I applied to be a Trailblazer at Lensbaby I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It simply sounded interesting. Of course, that was a pre-pandemic mind-set. Once Covid-19 shut the world down, Lensbaby like so many other companies, scrambled to survive. They shelved the Trailblazer program and replaced it with the more ambitious Ambassador program.
I was lucky enough to be folded into this program. But once again, I really didn’t knowing what I was signing up for.
When I began to meet the other Ambassadors, I was more than a little intimidated. The other photographers in the program are playing at a much more serious level than I’m used to. They’re educators, documentarians, portrait and wedding photographers. Even food photographers and concert photographers! They teach classes, they lead or attend photo workshops, they submit their work to contests and they belong to photography clubs. This part of the photography world is very foreign to me. Even though I’ve been a working artist my entire life, somehow I avoided most of these activities. Probably because they terrify me. Honestly I’m afraid I won’t measure up.
It’s easy being considered an OG or influencer inside the supportive bubble of our toy photography community. But now I’m playing at a professional level with all the expectations that this implies. Being in the Lensbaby Ambassador program has forced me to take my role as a photographer seriously.
Being an ambassador has challenged me in ways I never dreamed of. I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to create not one, but three videos for the company. In each video I’ve had to explain myself and my process. This has been a great focusing tool. Who am I? What do I stand for? Understanding the why and the what of my process, has helped me to push my work to a higher level.
When I was handed the Obscura lens to beta test, it sparked a crisis of confidence. I was forced to face my personal fear of “am I good enough” and “am I really a photographer”. Successfully emerging from this crisis gave me a strong faith in my own abilities. Reaching my own ‘dark night of the soul’ and coming out the other side boosted my confidence in unimaginable ways.
By embracing my role as a photography professional, not simply happy amateur, has helped me prioritize my photography. Instead of the last thing I do in a week, I’m always planning my next image. I even keep lists of ideas, something I’ve never done before. I even have several six image narratives I want to complete! Ideas are easy, finding the time is more challenging. But I will get there.
I’m also finally getting serious about improving me Lightroom and Photoshop skills. When I was working with the images I created with the Obscura lens, I was forced out of my “light touch” editing approach. I played and experimented with the images. The results were interesting. Sometimes it worked, sometimes… not so much. What Ive been left with is a desire to get better as my craft. While I know I won’t be going down the photo illustration road, I realize there is plenty of room to bring the best out of my images.
While being a Lensbaby Ambassador has made me a better photographer, it’s not the only force working on my artistic process. Between my workshops (more on these later), helping to manage this blog and my own personal growth…I find myself stepping into the person I want to be. I want to be seen as a photographer who inspires others to reach for their own creative dreams.
While the future might be unknown, I know it will continue to bring opportunities that I will use to move my work to the next level. Because now that I’ve stepped outside the cozy and supportive bubble of this community, I’ve tasted the terrors and joys of being challenged. Yes, it’s been scary as heck! I’ve had more than one crisis of confidence. But once I pass through each challenge, I feel stronger. And with each successfully met challenge, I feel that my confidence and the quality of my work improves.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the people at Lensbaby who have placed their faith in me. Being a Lensbaby Ambassador has made me a better photographer. I’m forever grateful for this experience!
A Lensbaby guide to selecting a lens would be super appreciated. I find the LB website a bit overwhelming for someone who knows nothing of the lenses and their intended purpose; perhaps a guide could help those like me?
I LOVE the last photo and would like to know what lens was used and a how-to/behind the scenes for it, for example.
TC thank you for your comment. Are you in need of a LB lens guide specific to toy photography? If so I can probably write one up for you. Each lens has its own quirks and it really is a case of what effect are you looking for. Ive found each lens has a personality and my job is to pair the right lens with the feeling I’m looking for in an image. Lots of trial and error!
Ive added the technical info for the images. The fishing bunnies isn’t much different from the other two. If you want to see what the image looks like before the edits I can send you that. Unfortunately I don’t have any BTS of the image. Ive noticed that outdoor toy photographers often dont document their work. Im wondering if its because we have to move super fast to capture the changing light? Hard to stop and document the set up. This is especially true for me, all my set ups look the same!!!
Thank you for the reply. I would love a description of each lens’ “personality.” I am keen to get one to help add some variation to my photos (dramatic/cinematic portraits and scenes using Lego or action figs), but no idea of which would achieve the ideas I have in my mind’s eye.
Thank you for an inspiring post, Shelly! I think we (at least me) sometimes forget that the people whose work we admire struggle and face challenges and are still growing and learning. Gives me hope and inspires me to step up to challenges, get out of my comfort zone, and explore the possibilities :).
Chellie – thank you for your kind comment. I think your response is exactly why I write posts like this. We have a tendency to put people we admire in a place where nothing ever goes wrong. While in reality we all struggle. We are all on a journey of creativity…just some of us are a little farther along. Ive so enjoyed being with you on your journey this year. Makes my heart all warm and fuzzy! Here’s to an amazing 2022!!
Thank you for describing your evolution as a photographer with the Lensbaby. I do love the Lensbaby lenses I have purchased since I first saw what you are able to do with them. Watching you work with the lenses and following discussions has encouraged me to try more new things as well.
It’s always fascinating to see what unexpected journeys life takes us on. We sign up for one thing and it becomes another…. and you rose to the challenge! Love that.