Profile in Excellence: Monique Knox (Photographer)
Monique Knox is a professional photographer who prides herself on using her photography to invoke an emotional response within her viewers. For Knox’s Troolr Profile in Excellence, we asked her to share what it takes for a professional photographer to be successful without losing any love or passion for the art.
Q. Where did your career as a professional photographer begin? What got you into it and what keeps you coming back?
A. When I was younger I never thought that I would pursue a career in photography, in fact, I wasn’t really interested in photography until the latter part of high school. Once I picked it up as a hobby, I began to shoot at school and family events, that was when I really began to focus on photography as something that I was interested in.
If I’m being honest, I always had doubts in the back of my mind. I would ask myself, “is it really possible for me to make this a full-time career? Will I be able to generate a steady stream of income?” It was a huge risk but it felt right to me, it felt like I was meant to be a photographer. It was scary but I felt motivated by the reactions that my pictures would inspire in the people who saw them. I want to make people think, I want them to find a deeper emotional connection with my images. When I am out taking photos, I am constantly looking for meaning in the typically mundane. My hope is that when people see my images, people struggling with anxiety or depression or some other form of debilitating cognitive state, they can find meaning and purpose.
Q. Can you think of the greatest moment of your career so far? Why does that moment, in particular, stand out to you?
A. One of the most memorable moments, although not necessarily the greatest moment, would have to be the time I was offered a contract to take product photos for a distributor. I tweeted some pictures of another photo campaign I completed with a different client and the distributor contacted me. The work I did for them really cemented the fact that I need creative freedom to thrive. I didn’t enjoy having strict guidelines for my photography. This memory highlights the point in my career where I really decided what type of photographer I would like to be.
Q. How can an amateur improve their photography in order to take the step from amateur to professional?
A. Honestly, I learn so much from watching other professional photographers on YouTube. There are so many good channels out there, it’s a great way to get a variety of perspectives and tips. Also, practice all the time. The only way you are going to get better is to practice. Practice the things you are good at to get even better and practice the things that you are bad at to improve.
Q. Do you have any daily habits that really benefit you as far as your day to day life as a photographer?
A. Self-care is key. Taking time to relax really helps my mental health. When I wake up, I make sure to stretch. I avoid looking at my phone right away so I can focus on myself. It’s also important to have a space you can relax in. It really helps me to be able to think and reflect on what I have done and how I can improve myself.
Q. When you first started out what were some habits that you needed to break before you really took it to the next level?
A. I am a perfectionist and at times I can be my own worst critic. At the beginning of my career, I was overly critical of my work. It’s important to be confident and self-aware. If I have a strong understanding of what I want out of a shot, it is much easier to make that image in my head a reality. Also, it’s important not to rush things. Take your time and if you need a break, don’t be afraid to take a step back.
Q. Are there any specific things that an amateur must do in order to prepare themselves when they take that next step towards becoming a professional photographer?
A. Enjoy the process. It will be a journey and you will have moments of doubt but focus on your dreams and goals and it will all be worth it. Use good judgment and think about the choices that you are making. Think about how your decisions will affect your life in the future. Most importantly, don’t let anyone try and push your art in a direction that doesn’t resonate with you. Your photography should reflect you as a person. No matter what the subject is always put your personal spin on it.
Q. Beyond just the photography, what are some unexpected setbacks that a professional photographer has to deal with and how do you fight against these?
A. Discouragement and anxiety, as well as depression, are all things that I have struggled with during my time as a professional photographer. My best friend and the photography itself were both instrumental for me to overcome those struggles. All of the responsibility for this business falls on my shoulders and I am responsible for all the decisions that are made. If things are not getting done then the blame is all on me. It’s a lot of stress and it is important to find ways to deal with these stressors. I also found that at the beginning of my career I was struggling to find clients and it wasn’t until I established my own style that I really started to find customers.
Q. As a professional photographer, does the business side of the operation ever distract you from your art?
A. It can occasionally make me anxious. The stream of income isn’t quite what I would like it to be and sometimes I can be overwhelmed by all the social media apps and the thoughts of customers and people viewing my photos. Sometimes I have to take a step back and remember who I am and why I do what I am doing. Occasionally I will uninstall all social media apps and turn off notifications on my phone and spend some time by myself.
Q. Is there anything we have not touched upon that could potentially be helpful to a budding photographer?
A. I’ve seen some YouTuber’s and Instagram users treat their subjects and their fans as nothing more than numbers. I think it is important to take photos of the emotions you can invoke, not for likes and views. Finally, just believe in yourself and what you do. Enjoy your photography and appreciate the art that you create.