2010: lessons from my 2nd year as a photographer

Hong Kong Wedding Photographer Kenneth Lim

2010 has been a big year for myself and kenneth lim photography. I managed to photograph 5 weddings in the US, Canada and Hong Kong, 29 events, 28 portrait sessions and teach 31 private and group photography classes. Yowzers. I also participated in my first exhibit last October and organized the first Help-Portrait event in Hong Kong with a great team of photographers, make-up artists and other volunteers.

On a more personal level, this past year I've become more comfortable with my career choice (more on that later). I'm no longer nervous right before every assignment (although I think nervous energy is generally a good thing). I no longer fear getting peed on (happened shooting newborn portraits), pooed on (HK Park bird, during an engagement session) and leg humped (pet photos, thank you Larry the dog).

It's been a strange and wonderful journey getting here. I moved to Hong Kong working as an investment banker and through an odd series of events, I ended up transitioning to photography. I started off a little unsure, worried about whether I'd make it. I purchased large amounts of photography books - some of which I've read and some of which still sit on my shelf, unopened. I listened to photography podcasts while I ate and fell asleep to them at night. Looking back, it's strange to see how far I've come.

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

Your friends are rooting for you. In every instance of success I've had in life, I have done so with the gracious help and support of good friends. You simply cannot do it yourself, and in my opinion photography is no exception. Fortunately, although it is an extremely competitive field, I have found that most people want to see you succeed. Having a strong team of supporters in my corner has been a humbling experience.

Don't listen to the naysayers. When I used to work as a first-year analyst, one of the template powerpoint slides that I'd include in presentations was called "Risks and Mitigants," which would highlight in bullet form the potential risks that a company faces. Since pursuing photography, family and friends became quite vocal at highlighting the "risks" of my career choice. They would crunch numbers, compare to other photographers and send website URLs of photography styles that they thought I should emulate. Although I know they only want the best for me, I've had to learn how to filter out some of the critique in order to maintain focus on my own vision and goals.

Living the dream gets lonely. As a freelancer I sometimes shoot with a team to handle large assignments, but generally I shoot alone. That means I'm often grabbing quick meals by myself at odd hours of the night after a long shooting day is over or staying up late to finish post-processing hundreds of images. Not exactly a rockstar lifestyle. Having a group of colleagues that I enjoy being around every day was something I took for granted in my old job.

The good thing is that I have no regrets. Photography has turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and more. Along the way, I have met some pretty cool people in Hong Kong - writers, pilots, DJs, poker players, fighters and once in awhile a celebrity or two. It has been a long road, full of potholes and milestones. I wouldn't have made it this far without the support of my parents (this past year have tried especially hard to understand why anyone would pay someone to take photos), my sister (who no matter what finds even my boring photography super cool) and good friends and colleagues (who have been an infinite source of encouragement and inspiration).

To sum up how I feel wrapping up 2010, I am reminded of my first job when I was 17 and an office boy for a small New York law firm. Before I left the job for university, one of the firm's partners paid me a small bonus and left me with a life lesson that I still replay in my mind today: "always be willing to do the work."

I think the biggest lesson I've learned is that photography is a lot harder than it looks. Although it is still my dream job, I've realized that like most good things in life, it requires dedication, patience and of course - hard work.