I’ve been feeling this way for a while, the peak being today, with the pressure looming to almost explosion point. Ok I probably did internally explode, hence this written piece right now. You see, I love(d) Instagram. A magical place where we can share our photos. It’s as simple as that. But beyond the simple act of sharing a photo, is a deep, complex underworld. An underworld, that unless you’re in it, or are very close to someone who is, you would be none the wiser. What is the underworld you ask? The curation, the staged, the sponsored, the gifted, the collaborations, and the content creating. Sure, to the untrained eye, you see a beautiful image, a quick caption, a double tap (perhaps a comment if you’re feeling inspired), but you scroll on and think not much more of it.
With beautiful images &/or large-ish ‘numbers’ comes sponsorship. Huh what? Like sponsoring a child.. well ah yes but no not really. Sponsorship – the act of a company / brand paying an ‘influencer’ or blogger to promote their product.
‘Holy moly, you mean YOU want to pay ME to take a pic of something that I potentially do (or don’t) love and share it with my peeps?’
It’s like striking gold, and I mean how hard could it be? But until you do it.. consistently for a good few months you really don’t realise the time, the skill, the planning, the resources that often go in to these ‘in the moment’ images. The strive to perfection is intense, as is the contrast on VSCO filter A6 (my go to).
I’ve been enjoying my journey thus far (up until about a month a go). But this little kettle has boiled right over. Let’s set the scene of how things played out today in my home, (which was the tipping point that leads me to write this tonight). It’s just like any other Monday, except it’s not. Today we find ourself ‘enjoying’ ‘family time’. Except replacing enjoying with ‘bribing’ and family time with ‘product photoshoots’. Like I mean, what better way to spend a rainy Monday morning than bribing a defiant 4 year old to pretend to do something more enthusiastically than they usually would, whilst ensuring the angles are perfect, lighting just right (can’t fuck up the lighting otherwise it will put your VSCO filter way outta whack and basically ruin the entire ‘feel’ of your ‘feed’).
Up until now, I’ve been happy to share photos the way I want to, of things I like to do, without nobody controlling or telling me otherwise. Unfortunately (for me), when you agree to work with company’s, some tend to think they can control the photos you produce, which ends in me being the worst parent in the world, pimping my kid out for a few bucks. Obviously prior to this, I was happy to include the kids authentically: sharing our days, going about doing what we do – nothing staged. But unfortunately in this instance, the client insisted on the children being in the shot, I agreed, not really thinking much of it – until it came time to actually photograph the content. The moment we began, I hated it, he hated it, and it was basically this massive hate fest, around a product that we actually LOVE. It sounds absolutely insane when I write this, in the moment, I felt like we were being taken advantage of, a circus act, and honestly it isn’t worth it.
Now I’m going to lose jobs, potential clients, current relationships because of this. But the thing I’ve always said is, my honesty is my biggest currency. I cannot pretend to be somebody I’m not. I want to be honest with you all, share my feelings, the truths, the hard times. I doubt anyone else in the industry will share what I’ve just shared, for fear of missing out on the above jobs / collabs etc. But seriously, we should not be forced to pimp our kids out (or ourselves) for the sake of brand exposure.
So for the brands/companies/PR agencies – I’m sure I speak for a large portion of us – we are all for taking and sharing photographs of products we love, but let us do it how we want, and when we want. Stop breathing down our necks for deadlines, a lot of us are mothers, with kids at our feet 24/7. If you want to work in the Mother / Child product industry, and expect super quick turn around times – then maybe you should hire child free actors to get the shots. But if you want AUTHENTIC content, AUTHENTIC moments, for AUTHENTIC audiences – then loosen the reigns. Because honestly, I’m sure I’m not the first and won’t be the last, but this pressure is insane.
Something that used to be fun, is becoming less than. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I have been able to transform a hobby into making some money for my family whilst I care for the kids at home. But I hate the pressure that comes with it. It isn’t easy. We earn EVERY. SINGLE. DOLLAR, plus some. I KNOW what you guys love to see from me, and it’s not the fake staged, over curated shit. I’m not a model, nor am I the perfect mother, with perfectly behaved children, living in a perfect house. I love the Instagram community, the friendships I’ve made have been wonderful, but I hate the drive for perfection, the pressure to be someone you’re not, for the sake of fitting in. The pressure for the perfect image, the pressure for a high ‘likes’ count, the click throughs, the comments.. it all gets a bit much, and takes us COMPLETELY away from the purpose of the app – the joy of taking & sharing an image to our friends, family, the world. It has been whipped out from under us. So excuse me if I disengage for a while, I’m aiming to find the joy, in what should be joyful. With less pressure, less stress, more fun, more love and simply being Me.