Photography is a rare career that is 80 percent passion (at least). Often it's love for the art that draws people into trying it as a business. Rawlins was first exposed to photography in high school and stayed as close to it as she could, shooting candids for a newspaper and working in their darkroom to develop her images. After covering an event for the paper, she was asked to photograph a wedding...and became a weekend warrior in 1977. In 1997, a local retiring photographer contacted Rawlins to purchase his well-established studio portrait business, and she jumped at the business opportunity.
After going full time, Rawlins found her way to photography associations in 1998. "Twelve years later, it's amazing how much I've learned from PPA, SEPPA, Texas School and my state and local associations," she says. "One of the big draws to a local or state association is the social network. It can really encourage referrals. If I'm booked, I have a pool of photographers who I can feel comfortable recommending."
Such associations might even help in your efforts to reduce overhead in a slower economy. Rawlins mentions the prop and background exchanges (during state prop auctions, for example) that allow her to get something new at great savings. And those more local networks might help you find a partner. For example, Rawlins is considering forming a partnership with a non-competing photographer to share a retail space for less.
"Then at the regional and international levels of association, the knowledge pool is much bigger and the educational opportunities grow" adds Rawlins. Take, for instance, the upcoming International Photographic Competition (deadline April 30, 2010).
"Our clients aren't going to know if an image could be improved. Photographic Exhibitions Committee (PEC) judges do know," Rawlins comments. "I've become a better photographer from competing--the quality of my work for my clients has gone up because I've used competitions as educational tools. If I cannot be present to hear the regional judging comments, it is definitely worth the small fee to pay for the international critiques to find out why I did or did not make the 'grade.' Once I attain one category level, I challenge myself up to the next level. I have even been fortunate enough to have images selected for the Traveling Loan Collection."
Want to know a competition secret she learned the hard way? Don't enter images of your own family...you can't help but take critiques on them personally. As she reiterates, "You have to think of competition as an education, as constructive criticism. It's there to help us better ourselves."
From bettering her photography to serving as a leader, Connie Rawlins is constantly pushing her passion and knowledge to new heights. She jumped in...and she's in to stay.
ALL IMAGES Â© CONSTANCE RAWLINS