20 de febrero de 2012

Gospel-Centered Business

By Bethany Carlson

Bethany is an international portrait photographer. She started her photography business in Asia while living in South Korea. Bethany has photographed clients from over twelve countries. Bethany focuses her art towards lifestyle photography of couples. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband, Tim.


A couple months ago, I reached a point of pure disappointment in my job. Essentially, my identity was based on how my clients responded to my work and how many inquiries I received per week. I even allowed bitterness to eat away at me every time I thought a photographer “stole” my ideas. The result: I started to not like myself, or my work. It was then that I felt the need to revamp my business. But it was not a change that I could just edit online. It was deeper than that. It was something that my heart needed to repent of. My business was an idol in my life. And I intentionally was leaving Christ out of it. My heart needed to undergo a solid dose of Gospel-centered rebuke and redemption. I needed to understand the concept of how when Jesus regenerates our hearts, He naturally should be in the outflow of everything we do.

One day, I stumbled upon a chapter in Joe Thorn’s book “Note to Self”. In his discussion on work he states, “You need to see all of life as spiritual, and your calling or employment as work for God regardless of pay, position or its connection to the church. In other words, stop treating what you spend the bulk of your day engaged in as something divorced from God and his work in and through you”.

I am still a serious work in progress, but by the Grace of God, I realize that all I do in my business should be Christ-centered, idol (self)-shattering, sin-exposing and Gospel-Glorifying. Tullian Tchividjian shares in his book “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” we constantly struggle to put the Gospel in our daily lives because the Gospel is not about us. How counter-cultural it is.

“The gospel doesn’t take you deeper into yourself; the gospel takes you away from yourself. That’s why Paul reminds the Colossians (and us), ‘You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God’ (3:3). The gospel frees us to realize that, while we matter, we are not the point.”

So today, I am sharing a list of photography-centered ways I have started to have a Gospel-centered business. These are not rules, but a set of guidelines that have helped me in making my business not to bring glory to Bethany, but to Christ. Although these are written specific to my clients and my business experience, I hope they could possibly help anyone who struggles with the same idols that I do.

1) Identity-in-Christ: First and most important ways to keep your photography business gospel-centered is to keep your heart Gospel-centered. Reminding yourself daily that your hope, assurance and acceptance is found only as a daughter (or son) of Christ – and not as a woman (or man) with a camera job. Photographers struggle with this identity crisis every time they receive feedback from clients or colleagues. It is a crisis every time you are rejected by a booking. Or perhaps every time someone “unlikes” your Facebook page. These are the moments  of crisis when you substantially place your acceptance, identity and worth in something that is not the Cross. This will sustain you. “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” -1 John 2:17.

2) Maintain a Healthy Friendship with Clients: Some may see this as “networking” but that’s self-focused and self-serving. Creating an honest communication with clients from the beginning can create a bond that a lot of brides hold onto with their photographer. Maintaining a healthy dialogue of encouragement between yourself and your clients can help create an opportunity to share your faith. You never know how God could use a “photographer” to bring a person to Christ. Sow the seeds of Grace. Sow the seeds of Truth.

3) Don’t Be Bitter, but Forgive: If you have been in the photography business for more than five minutes, you have been burnt. Most likely, a colleague has burned you. One day you have a cool friend in the business, the next day, they stole half your clients. Don’t be bitter. As Christ’s ambassadors, we are called to respond in a manner that is worthy of worship. Colossians 3:12-13 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Don’t be bitter. But forgive because for crying-out-loud, Jesus forgives us. The more we understand our need for Forgiveness, the easier it is to forgive in this business.

4) Branding Your Identity: I made the grave mistake when I was first starting out my business of focusing my business on me. Without realizing it, I had actually turned away a lot of people from my business because I did not have more wisdom in how I shared, what I shared and why I shared the things I did.  My branding was about promoting me and this ultimately led to my own personal identity crisis. Another situation occurred with a photographer that I knew of. She wrote on her Facebook business status about how upset she was to be losing business to another local photographer who didn’t have any talent. Over a year later, I still remember that photographer’s remark on her business page and how it left me feeling so uneasy about her character, despite her website proclaiming her faith in Jesus. As we market our brand/image, it is important to ask yourself “Why am I writing this status/blog? Why do I feel like I should share this particular photo? Is this going to Glorify Christ or is it going to glorify myself?” The decision you make in your heart will ultimately be the outflow of how your brand is portrayed.

5) Pray for your Clients’ Marriages: If you have been a wedding photographer for any given amount of time, you know that you are in a front-row seat to one of the most intimate moments a couple will ever have – the proclamation of their vows to God. Although we are not standing by their sides as bridesmaids per-say, we are witnesses to their vows. I have been in client meetings where I felt the need to pray for the couple and pray that perhaps I could share with them. One client meeting, I felt the burden to be honest with a bride-to-be who was venting about her “situation”. I felt that the Lord was placing it on my heart to share truth with her. My encouragement ultimately was not accepted and she decided to no longer have me as her photographer. It is a moment where I knew that my commitment to Christ was more important than any wedding gig. Praying for couples before and after marriage is vital in this business. We see a lot of great and also bad decisions being made. Ultimately, we are only a vendor. But God can use any situation or prayer to accomplish His will. Feel peace in His Sovereignty.

Further reading
{Note to self by Joe Thorn}
{Jesus + nothing = everything by Tullian Tchividjian}

Get to know Bethany’s work at 

1 comentario:

  1. Wow!! This is wonderful! Thank you Jessica for having Bethany spread her wisdom, love and truth as your guest blogger! It's my 1st time visiting your blog, I'll be back...promise!