Promoting Positivity: You are Talented, So Believe It!

So why is a commercial photographer writing about positivity and faith? Well, why not? In order to pursue a career in the creative industry you will need to stay positive and have faith in your work. Sometimes, I’ll find myself on a 4 to 5 hour shoot and have to spend up to 25% of that time problem solving because of an error caused by myself and/or the client.

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Jamal Burger (@jayscale) on finding your style and ORGANICALLY growing relationships with brands.

Working hard doesn't necessarily mean that you are making progress. It isn't easy to admit you've placed eggs in the wrong basket but being open to feedback and advice is CRUCIAL in order to grow. So, I reached out to a few of the photographers that are shooting the kind of content and brands that I'd like to be shooting. How did they attain these big ticket clients? What did they implement into their everyday grind and why do they capture content they way they do? These are the kinds of questions I wanted to ask.

The first person I reached out to was Jamal Burger (@Jayscale). I sent Jamal a message but not before giving his instagram portfolio a deep dive look. After reviewing Jamal's earlier posts, I noticed that early on he was actually shooting a lot more street and rooftops. At some point he started the transition into travel and sports photography (studio & court-side). What I loved about looking through his travel photography was that he was able to capture the true essence and culture of the locations he traveled to. Whats crazier is that he was able to do so while doing it in black and white. Colour is such a powerful tool and for an artist to take that very tool away from himself/herself is gutsy. For a few photos sure, but Jamal has committed to this process. Jamal Burger is a Toronto based photography and is followed and supported by some of my biggest photography role models like Andrew T Kearns and Samuel Elkins. 

Lets get on to the questions shall we! The first question I asked revolved around the transition that Jamal made in subject matter. 

"I transitioned based on the motivation to find more purpose in what I was shooting. I ended up landing on sharing my travels and I still wake up trying to understand what I want to do with the camera, and how I’ll convey my message."

With the conversations I had the past couple of weeks, there was one thing that seemed to echo. Shoot what you are motivated to shoot. Don’t jump onto trends just because people are double tapping them. There is no longevity to that approach as you will only look to drain yourself creatively. Take pictures of what you know, and what you love.

My second question was more focused on how Jamal was able to create the connections and bonds that have allowed him to get into the studio and onto the court with some of the greatest athletes in the world. 

"Connections that led to opportunity are based on genuine friendships which inevitably turned into work, without that being my intention. So network and make friends but never force anything."

I absolutely LOVED this answer. Essentially, don’t look to use people. Try to be your best/truest self around people and watch how doors open for you. Jamal told me that he wasn't looking for opportunity when befriending these contacts. Like he said, “Network and make friends but never force anything”. 

Now I know that I am not alone in saying that there are brands I come across daily through social media that i’d really like to work with. With that being said, my next question was more so targeted towards the approach. What did Jamal find to be the most effective way to reach out to brands and turn them into clients. 

“The best way to do that (reaching out and locking them down as clients). I think its a combination of both. Stay true to what you believe in and show that in an honest way. Only pitch to people/companies you believe in. Do some digging, DM and show that your heart is in the right place."

This was great. The consistent message that I was getting from Jamal was that you need to stay true to your craft, your passion & yourself. Instead of reach out to the big ticket clients and/or easy snags, reach out to the brands who speak to you visually and emotionally. 

I wanted to touch on the visual presentation of his images now. Every image is in black & white and I wanted to know why Jamal has committed to this style. Also, I was curious to now whether or not it was true film or a preset/post edit.

“All shot on film. I committed to this form because I want to be the one capturing my moments and I want them to live forever."

Lastly, Jamal left me with a recommendation for finding good reads.

“I recommend reading in general. Look for what speaks to you."

I enjoyed picking the brains of these creators. I need to thank Jamal Burger for having that knowledge exchange with me and allowing me to use our conversation to generate this blog post.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this! For more like it stay tuned every Friday till the end of June.

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week!


Promoting Positivity: Make The Best Of It

stay positive in order to achieve your goals


This is a short one but an important one. How much of an effort are you putting forward every day to stay positive and find solutions? I can tell you right now that it has been far more effective for me than staying negative and lingering in the mistakes. I have a few examples that I am going to leave you with that will hopefully have you buying in and skipping down the path of positivity.

Last rewind to a couple of years ago. A young and ambitious Michael just looking to take the world by storm. Reached out to a brand and asked to shoot for them, they agreed, I booked the studio and booked the model. Shoot day arrives and everything is going to plan. The model has arrived, clothes are on the rack, the backdrop is set and the lighting is almost completely set up... almost. Let me tell you, I showed up to my shoot without flash triggers. After searching extensively and looking for alternative ways to trigger the flashes without utilizing my on-camera flash, I had an idea. You see, the studio I was shooting in had a massive window setup along the back wall. I pulled back the curtains, pulled up the backdrop and found a V-flat. The result was a collection of shots that I was super proud of.

The next example is from earlier this year. I had been partying the night before with a small group of friends in Waterloo. Silly me stayed up far too late (5 am) and needed to wake up way too early (7 am). For convenience sake, I fell asleep at a friends house that the party was held in. The issue was that my car was 7 KM away in the other part of town. I woke up to a dead cell phone, a lost pair of glasses (still not found) and many drunk/passed out millennials scattered around. The major issue is the reason I needed to wake up so early to begin with. I have a project titled 'In My Head' and it revolves around collaborating with multiple talented individuals (ie. MUAs, models, stylists, etc) to create really cool and interesting portraits. Now, I needed to be at the MUA's (makeup artist) studio with the model by 9 am! After an hour of non-stop running in my very bloody John Maddens, I had arrived at my car. I needed to set aside the TERRIBLE morning I was having in order to not only make it on time but also to be engaging and pleasant during the entire shooting process. A couple of other things went wrong during that shoot but overcoming that morning had my positivity coded in titanium. 

behind the scenes for fantasy portraits taken in toronto ontario canada during sunset

Now, those are only a couple of examples but I'd hope they can help in sparking the match for you. So, to sum it all up, you can pout and linger in negative situations, or you can pull the back the curtains and let the light in. 

I am super proud of that metaphor.

P.S. Here is a short video I did recent highlighting this topic. I also include video footage of day 2 and what my mentality was like going into that photoshoot. Its definitely worth the watch!