We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
A very timely question as this has been going through my mind recently. The reality of the incredible competition out there, with thousands of photographers and millions of photos, can be intimidating. Anyone with a decent phone can now take high quality photos. I’ve learned that many people love to look at beautiful and interesting photos, and being human I certainly enjoy compliments on mine, but only a very small percentage will ever purchase. Why would they, when they can pull out their phone and have instant access to unlimited free shots? The challenge is how to make mine stand out as unique among an enormous crowd. I can’t say I’ve found the answer. But I know I love the process of thinking about and planning a photo, then organizing and sharing my work, and that keeps me going even if nobody’s buying. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to depend on it for a living, because I’ve come to clearly understand the term ‘starving artist.’ I believe the secret is to love what you’re doing, and just keep plugging away. Sounds simple, right?
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’m a photographer. While I specialize in landscapes, many other things capture my interest and prompt me to pick up my camera (or phone) and shoot. Mountains, sunrises and sunsets, beaches and oceans are all favorite targets. But Houston provides many interesting photo opportunities as well, and I’ve been branching out a bit to capture our spectacular skyline, parks, waterways, trees and fountains. It’s not easy describing where I am professionally. A powerful lesson for me has been that the bridge between hobby and business is wider and more daunting than might be expected. The major challenge is finding ways to differentiate my work from the many thousands of photographers and millions of photos. How can my work find its way through all the noise and clutter? Most of my photos capture sights that others have shot many times before, so I look for unique ways to approach a shot: an interesting angle, perspective, or lighting that maybe hasn’t been tried before. It’s rewarding to be told I “have a good eye,” which to me is infinitely more important to successful photography than expensive equipment. But I’ve learned that a good eye doesn’t accomplish much without a solid plan, with concrete ways to communicate your vision and market yourself and your work. I’m still learning those lessons, and that will likely never stop.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Being a landscape photographer, my mind immediately goes to sights and locations. Our skyline is very impressive, especially at night. The trails along Buffalo Bayou are excellent ways to get some exercise and a feel for the city. I’m a cyclist, and the bayou trails provide a good way to see a lot of the city without a car. The Heights is always changing and growing, with many opportunities to walk, bike, eat and drink. Eleanor Tinsley Park, the Sabine Street bridge, and other near-downtown locations are great ways to get outside close to downtown and see incredible urban views. One of my favorite things to do is hang out in coffee shops, and EQ in The Heights is my go-to spot. Houston has superb parks; big ones like Memorial and Hermann, and many smaller ones scattered everywhere. The museum district is great. I volunteer at the Hobby Center and get to see all the top Broadway shows. In short, there’s no reason to be bored in Houston. There’s something for everyone.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I lost both of my parents recently and I’ve thought a lot about this. I can clearly see how the foundation and lessons they provided me have helped me in everything I’ve done. Nothing extraordinary, just things like the importance of being a good person, having a strong work ethic, preparing for the future, taking personal responsibility, helping others, lifelong learning, and in many other ways just by leading with the example they set in the way they lived their lives. Those are each priceless and I’ve tried to impart those lessons on my children, and now my grandchildren. In some ways I think that’s helped teach me the importance of gratitude, and with that I’ve grown to appreciate the beauty around me. Sunrises, sunsets, and cool cloud formations catch my attention all the time. I’ll also add that I specialize in landscape photography, and love capturing the beauty of national parks, mountains, coastal areas and many scenic locations. I’ve visited and hiked in Muir Woods in northern California a couple of times, and it was stunning. Learning about John Muir’s role in helping to establish our national parks and preserve our lands has inspired me to photograph them and share these national treasures with people who might not be able to see them in person.