Do you shoot with an “abundance” mental approach? Or is your choice to shoot from a mental state of “scarcity”?

It makes a difference, you know. It makes a difference in how you approach your subject matter. It makes a difference in the way you see the world. It can have a dynamic effect on your imagery, and on the work that you do in post.

Scarcity breeds contempt and anger, while abundance nurtures awareness and action.

An example – and I will use the old me as the example, as I used to have a scarcity mentality. I looked at the glass of water and saw it as half empty. In fact, I wanted to know who stole the rest of the water that should have been in there so I could kick his ass.

Heading out for a shoot, I would think about what I didn’t have. What gear I wished I had that would of course make the shot way better. I didn’t have the time I needed to prepare, or do the proper scouting. I would find fault with every thing on the set, and be a taskmaster to create perfection. Anything less was not going to be good enough, and I didn’t achieve perfection – ever. No one who lacked as much as I did could ever come close to perfection.

Creative LIVE, April 5, 6, 7, 2012

Scarcity. A constant focus on what I did not have. Whether gear, or time, or money, or…


It only stands to reason, doesn’t it? I didn’t have the lens I “needed” or the lights I “needed” or the time or the prep or the models or the stylist or the portfolio or the…

So how damn good did I think I was? How good could I have ever thought I was lacking all the basic stuff the ‘other guys’ had.

If not having shit was an award, I was quickly running out of shelf space.

I would come home depressed because the shoot didn’t go the way I had planned on it going. I had fully developed that shoot in my mind and had everything set from the moment I got there till the moment we wrapped it. And, shockingly, the shoots usually didn’t go as I had so meticulously planned.

I lacked control.

Understand something: I was doing good work. With good equipment. With fabulous models and the best stylists in town. I wasn’t shooting crap. I just wasn’t shooting what I thought I should be shooting. I had great clients who loved my work (idiots) and a super team that seemed to like me (fakers).

I was in scarcityville. I lacked… well, everything.

It sucked.

And when you live in the sucky scarcityville, nothing will make it go away. Getting a brand new shiny Toyo 4×5 was not as thrilling as it should be… should have been a Horseman. And when it was a Horseman, it should have been a Sinar. Balcars? Bullshit… should have been Broncolors.

You see “scarcityville” is a state of mind that cannot be changed by reality. No amount of gear or cool lights or great clients would move my ass out of scarcityville… it was home. It was as comfortable as an easy chair. No responsibility for anything, scarcity was the problem. No worries, everything sucked anyway. Stuff goes wrong and it was eeezy peeezy to find someone or something to blame it on.

Scarcityville… Population? We don’t know, not enough to count… what about the term scarcity do you not understand?

Changing that way of looking at the world was hard. And it took time and a mentor or two that came along to kick my ass out of scarcityville. They were like mental realtors from hell. They foreclosed on my little dump in suck city, and made me get a sweet little condo over in “Abundance”.

It was different.

There was no one else to blame when things went awry, it was my responsibility. I didn’t lack anything, I made great use of what I had. And there was not a personal attack when shit happened, shit simply happened.


When working from an abundance mentality, you have everything you need to do what you need to do. That doesn’t mean you have everything you WANT, it means you have everything you need.

A scarcity mentality means looking for photographs that you cannot do. An abundance mentality means letting the images you can do reveal themselves to you.

A scarcity mentality means finding excuses for failure, when failure is not at hand. An abundance mentality means that there is no failure if what is achieved is excellent.

Scarcity means not letting go of what is wrong to find what is right. An abundance mentality means letting what is right guide you to the work you want.

Don’t have a 300MM f2.0 lens? I can think of a lot of shots that would require that lens to do them justice. I can also imagine there are about a gazillion and a half images that could be made without it. Which do you want to concentrate on; the ones you cannot do because you lack the lens, or the ones you can do with your nifty 100MM f2.8?

I read it on forums and I hear it in workshops. A constant drone of “I need to get” and “if only I had a ____”… in order to make photographs.

Bullshit. A camera and a lens is all you need to make photographs. We get so mired in what the other guy has to make his photographs, or the cool lens she has to do those amazing ‘bokeh’ images… (wtf is ‘bokeh’ anyway? I call it shallow depth of field), that we fail to make any images at all.

Here’s a clue, Sherlock… getting that lens will not solve the problem, it only alters the “need”. The problem is from thinking about what you do not have instead of being in tune with what you do have. And you will instantly find yourself ‘needing’ some other thing, the cool lens was not enough.

OK – sounds like I’m preaching here.

And well, I’m preaching here.

Develop an abundance mentality that allows what you do have to be more important than what you don’t have. Be aware of the limitations of course, but instead of letting that inhibit your creativity, let it be a catalyst for doing something extraordinary.

Take responsibility for all that surrounds you, and stop blaming your choices for getting in the way. If something is truly a problem, eliminate it. Start over. Trade it in.

Change what you can, and leave the rest to rust.

I think that the way we look at our work can influence the way we look at our lives and relationships and careers as well. An abundance mentality in those areas can be as equally important.

I learned to see the glass of water as not half full, or half empty. It was a glass of water that held as much as I poured into it. It was my choice on how much to fill it. It was my glass of water. It was perfect.

But I won’t go any further… I’m done preaching and I need a smoothie.

I would love to know how you think about your shooting. Do you see your self as working from an abundance mentality or a scarcity one? How do you plan on changing it… if you indeed plan on changing it?

Till next time…


Just before I was to hit the “publish” button, I got an email from Leslie Burns. She sent a link to one of the most poignantly written posts I have ever read.

“It turns out that my training and experience had equipped me perfectly for this epic act of self-deceit. This was my gig. My schtick. Constructing a compelling and convincing argument to buy, from the thinnest of evidence was what we did. “Don’t sell the sausage. Sell the sizzle” as we were taught at ad school.


Countless late nights and weekends, holidays, birthdays, school recitals and anniversary dinners were willingly sacrificed at the altar of some intangible but infinitely worthy higher cause. It would all be worth it in the long run.


This was the con. Convincing myself that there was nowhere I’d rather be was just a coping mechanism. I can see that now. It was’nt really important. Or of any consequence at all really. How could it be. We were just shifting product. Our product, and the clients. Just meeting the quota. Feeding the beast as I called it on my more cynical days.


So was it worth it?


Well of course not. It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling. No ultimate prize. Just a lot of faded, yellowing newsprint, and old video cassettes in an obsolete format I can’t even play any more even if I was interested. Oh yes, and a lot of framed certificates and little gold statuettes. A shit-load of empty Prozac boxes, wine bottles, a lot of grey hair and a tumor of indeterminate dimensions.”

Read the whole thing here.

Then hug your family a little tighter, and take some time to live.

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