A few weeks ago, I turned down a huge opportunity to document a couple’s engagement party. The bride-to-be personally reached out to me and expressed how much she adores my style. 

Laidback and natural — those were the words she used to describe it. She wanted so badly to work with me and it’s all because she saw my website. This is why having a website is important and it’s something we can probably talk about in a later post.

Aside from documenting the engagement party, she also wanted to hire me to shoot their pre-nuptial photos and their wedding.

There was a time in my life when I’d jump on a huge opportunity like this without hesitation, but this time is different.

I respectfully turned her down and told her that I work mainly with film now. Also, with the load that I have in my main job, I don’t have the time to take on any other side hustles as of the moment.

Thankfully, she understood and I recommended someone else who can do a far better job than I probably could — someone who has an actual team and high-end gear.

Now, this isn’t a self-doubt thing. It’s actually more of a growth thing.

You see, I’ve documented weddings, engagements, and other events for quite a long time. And to be honest, I thought wedding photography is what I really wanted to do. Turns out, I want to do something else.

Sure, I’d be paid handsomely if I said yes to this big-time client, but I know I’ll dread the workload later on. Will the pay be worth it? I know myself enough and I’ll definitely say no.

These days, I’m trying to shift to a different lane in photography. 

I’ve done the fancy and heavily directed ones. It’s time to capture moments that are totally unguarded in its real and imperfect way. That’s why I shifted to shooting in film in the first place — to embrace imperfections more.

It’s time to tell stories that will provoke human emotions, thoughts, and maybe even conversations.

So what I’m really trying to get across is that it’s okay to say no to work that you know won’t be very fulfilling for your soul. Not every opportunity presented to you is something that you should seize.

I think, that with everything else in life, you should approach opportunities that come your way with gratitude first, then discernment. Weigh out the pros and cons of the project or deal. 

Will it be good for you creatively? Will it help you get to where you want to be in your field? If not, then maybe it’s best to let it go. There are still plenty of opportunities out there as long as you’re still living and breathing.

As a creative, you call the shots. You can say no to things that don’t sit very well with you.

I know that I’m saying this from a certain standpoint because of my privilege. Most people would go for any chance they get to earn even if that means compromising their creative soul. 

With all my heart, I understand that. I really do hope that the day will come when we’ll do work that won’t make us choose money over creative freedom and fulfillment.

But If you feel like you’re at a certain point in your creative pursuit where you’re doing well financially and your skills aren’t really the very best yet but you know you’re more advanced than you ever were, then I think you have more freedom when it comes to choosing which opportunities to seize.

So choose well.


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Pearl Aton is a freelance creative from the Philippines. She posts her work and thoughts on her website, pearlaton.com.

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