The Success is in Your Story: Tips for Photographers and Artists

Success is in Your Story


We all want to be "successful". As artists success can be a bit of an ambiguous definition. Some days I just want to make great work and be proud of it and that is success to me. Other times the priority seems to be that I just want people to respond to it, and pay me for it and I have to compromise to make that happen. It is a struggle we all go through if we are trying to make a business out of our art. But what if we could do both? What if we didn't have to compromise? 


We as modern humans often tend to try to fight our surroundings. We want to go bigger and better, we want the things we don't have, the things we can't have. We want to eat strawberries in the winter so we find a way to do so even if that comes at a cost to our world. I am not saying this to put us down as people, our drive to make things better than they are has brought us a long way as a society as well. However, I also think it is important to be aware of what direction we are pushing up in. Are we going against the grain of the wood or with it? If you ever took Karate and tried to break the board, you know that when we try to break the board against the grain it can make it much harder or even impossible than going with the grain.


We do this as artists and business owners as well. We tend to look at what others have, what they have accomplished, or how they are better than us. We may try to be like them, or do what they did to get where they are thinking the results will duplicate the exact same way for us. Chances are, unfortunately, that it will not duplicate for you in the same way, or even close to the same way. They are a completely different person, with a different story, different passions, and different strengths. From the start they were formed differently, and each experience in their life has made them who they are, just as your own story has made you who you are. And you have strengths that they don't have, and something to say to the world that they can't say.


It is important to find our own strengths and work with those, make the most of who you were made to be, and not try to be who someone else was made to be. Great how do I do that?! Finding those strengths can be difficult. You would think we would know ourselves better than anyone, right? Those around us that love us, look at us everyday. We hardly ever are looking at ourselves. So they probably see things we don't see. So ask them. Ask the people around you that love you, how they see you, ask them what your strengths are. Write that down. Then ask a stranger. Maybe it is a friend of a friend, or someone on Facebook that you are "friends" with but they don't really know you. Ask them to look at your work and tell you what they see. You will get 2 very helpful answers, one is the objective view of what your work is expressing, and the other is a bias view based on someone that knows you well. These are both so very valuable. One will tell you what you are currently showing the world, and the other one, the one that loves you, will probably give you some insight on where you need to go, what direction you start heading "up" in.


It is then time to take that feedback, and see what resonates with you, put it all together and then meditate or pray on what speaks to you about the feedback you received. You will probably need to start just making some more art at that point, get out and shoot, more often than you usually do. Then see what emerges, comparing it to the feedback you received. Put it all together, the new and the old, and look at the progress, look at any change.


I still struggle with this and am currently working hard on finding my strengths and putting all of my upward energy into them. It is a bit of a journey but one I really think we have to take in order to really be successful artists. When you are pushing upward in the right direction, success is inevitable. I can not guarantee exactly the kind of success you will have, and it may involve adjusting your view of what success means a bit as well. We all have different roles in the bigger story. I think we tend to forget that creating work that brings people joy and that we are proud to show the world, is really the greatest success we can ask for as artists. It is why we were given this gift and why we do share it with the world.


If anyone wants me to be your objective view I am happy to help! I might ask you to give me your thoughts in return as well. :)

This week's image to me shows what I mean by the beauty that can emerge when we don't fight our surroundings, we don't fight who we are and our strengths. When we be the main character in our own story, instead of trying to be in someone else's story, the rythm and beauty will be undeniable. I believe this is how we are made, and how we can thrive...
xoxo Meghan Aileen

Island Life: Is it Really Paradise? For Art's Sake Project Photographer's Challenge

Last week I was blessed to be able to take an almost free trip to the great state of Hawaii with my husband and my daughter. We stayed on Maui and had just an amazing time. There is incredible beauty in the natural environment and the culture that is undeniable. The volcanic base for the entire island is so interesting to me. It is built entirely on a dangerous volatile force of nature... in the middle of the pacific ocean. What does this do to a culture? What does this mean to the people and the environment? There are parts of this island that truly seem like paradise. But we saw many things that really also made us think that there are things about the underlying culture that are masked underneath this guise of paradise...  

We stopped at a small historic town as we drove around the island. I thought it was a cute and colorful little town and just wanted to photograph it. Immediately my husband got a bad feeling from the people and the atmosphere there. My husband is a recovering addict, he has been clean and sober for 11 years and is amazing at reading people and places. I always say his Spiritual Gift is Discerner of Spirits. He immediately said he thought there was some drug problems in that town. He always can tell. A friend of ours that lives there confirmed this for us. She said that there is an undertone of people that think they are suppose to be happy because they are in "paradise" but they are not; maybe they feel isolated, maybe it's the constant stream of people coming and going, maybe it is the extremely high cost of living... Whatever it is seems to be a breeding ground for drugs and theft.


We also drove to Hana and as we stopped at one of the turn outs, had a bit of an altercation with a local that was selling stuff out of his truck. He was yelling at us for not pulling far enough up in the parking lot. Not the kind of laid back island friendliness you would expect. At the airports we continually had trouble with people that worked there being unprofessional and just not very nice. My husband also has been to almost every airport in the world and said the Hawaiian ones were the absolute worst. I got the feeling that the locals are sick of tourists, and who can blame them. Their culture has been turned into a side show for people to come and briefly experience as a novelty, and then leave. This happens all year long, everywhere on the islands. It is certainly understandable. The intrinsic isolation of this culture based in the middle of the ocean, seems to need an outside connection but resent it at the same time. I lived in New Zealand for 6 months once, and got the same feeling there, there is a very high teen suicide rate in New Zealand due to the isolation from the rest of the world.


At the same time it also seems to breed connection and community, not all the Hawaiians are unfriendly drug addicts please don't get me wrong. We met many many warm, creative, beautiful and wonderful people. There is a different set of priorities that are prevalent in the people, that a work-a-holic like me can greatly admire and respect. Just like its volcanic tropical base, it has amazing beauty like you have never seen, and a dark, volatile side to it as well.


My image this week I feel represents this. Even though the fire is more Polynesian, the Luau is a Hawaiian tradition. This image I feel shows the intense, fiery side of the culture as well as the beauty, the passion and the joy. It is a display of their Hawaiian culture, and other Polynesian island cultures for the tourists that is booked solid every night. I am grateful to have experienced this amazing place and people. I am grateful to now be back home here in Franklin, TN too. To me, where I live is my paradise. This rusty worn wood historic town and my home in the forrest is just perfect for me. But I am certainly happy to visit the island life once in awhile... ;)







Angel of the Forgotten: Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake

Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake

Angels of the Forgotten 

by Meghan Aileen

Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake ~Angels of the Forgotten

This project has sparked a lot in me so far and we are only on week 5. I am rethinking the focus of my time. It has already showed me how much I miss making images, reminding me I can speak through them. It has also showed me I need to make some changes so that creating becomes more of the priority again. This is scary and exciting so stay tuned for some changes coming soon and more about that!

This week I was inspired by the dilapidated buildings all around me here in Middle Tennessee, by their history and their value to us. I love that there are so many homes, barns, and even city buildings that maybe somewhere else would have torn down and replaced with a shiny new building, but not here. We seem to cherish our rust, our rough wood, and our broken bricks. We hunt for it and value it. It is just awesome. I drive by this house almost every day. When I was shooting this image the old man who owns the land came out to see what I was doing. We stood in the heat and talked awhile. He grew up on this land. His family had been there for almost 200 years. We talked about how the road used to be dirt, and what it was like before the mall in town was put in. He lives up on the hill in a newer house now, but kept all the older buildings on the property as they are and have always been.

I am calling this image: "Angel of the Forgotten". Sometimes it seems to me  like there are Angels protecting these places. These buildings don't seem like they should still be standing but they are. The world around them moves on, becoming what the consumers of today dictate that it should become. These buildings seem to stand still in time, representing something long gone, reminding us that our time is not the only time, that here were generations before us and will be many after. They remind me that I need to treat the world around me accordingly, to preserve it for those to come; to make things that last and to reuse what we already have. The front porch of this home is held up with stacks of precarious bricks. The wood is rotted and boards falling off, but it stands. It houses our history, generations of family life, of community and homesteading. I can document it for those of tomorrow in my own way, with my own vision, and I am grateful for that.


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Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake

Angels of the Forgotten 

What do you cherish around your local area? What is your favorite thing that you drive by regularly? I think it is part of our responsibility as photographers to document our local areas in the time we are living. It is important for the generations to come to see what it was like now. I hope you find something that inspires you this week in your town and make some art...for art's sake. :)

Hope to see you next week!


Meghan Aileen


Edited with:

Vintage Natural from the Memento Photoshop Action Set

1600 Film from the Nostalgia Textures Set

Light Leak Overlay Set


Week 4: Professional Photographer's Challenge. For Art's Sake: Surreal Children's Photography

For Art's Sake: Surreal Children's Photography

Imagination. Wonder. Adventure. These were my inspiration for this week. Sticking with the surreal I decided to go a different direction with an image of a child. Having a 2 year old has taught me so much about wonder, imagination, and enjoying simple pleasures. The way her mind works is so intriguing. She can spend hours with a blanket or a balloon creating all kinds of games and things to do. We could all learn a little something from that. We need such complex entertainment as we get older and especially in this highly advanced age of technology.

We stopped the car the other day on the way home because there were 3 hot air balloons setting up to take off in a field by our house. Those are the kind of things that can make even us adults revert to a more child-like state of awe. My daughter was so fascinated. All of us were. I like to imagine that something like this image was going on in her head when she got home....


Disclaimer: Kids don't try this at home  ;) marketing for photographers, inspiration for photographers, free photoshop actions

For Art's Sake Photography Challenge: Surreal Children's Photography


This sweet little miss here is getting ready to float off into the sky for an morning adventure. As any good pal would do, she lovingly ties each one of her friends to their own balloon, and off they go. I imagine they tease the squirrels in the trees, someone needs to. I am sure they go down the street to the neighbor's house with the pool and land right in the water. Those furry critters must get hot in the Southern summer heat.

I needed a bit of that contrast I love in there so the overgrown boarded up house contrasts the clean innocence of the child and the animals. I am going to stick with the child based surreal for next week too, there is something I really love about this. It is good for my soul too to have to put myself in the mind of a child. I learn so much from their curiosity and wonder. My jaded old mind is starting to appreciate the simple joy of balloons, turtles, and lightning bugs too.

Hope to see you next week!


Meghan Aileen


The Shoppe Photoshop Actions Used: 

Matte from the In Vogue Actions Collection

Tea Time from the Nostalgia Actions Collection

1600 Film from the Nostalgia Textures Collection


For Art’s Sake Project: A 52 Week Journey ~ Week 3 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge - Steampunk Surreal Image

For Art’s Sake Project: A 52 Week Journey

Week 3 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

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Week 3 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

So this week I had some fun at a costume shop! I never knew how inspiring and fun those places could be. After searching through rows and rows of interesting outfits, gowns, and costumes, I found a steampunk outfit. I have always loved Steampunk. The textures, the mix of vintage style and industrial machinery.

I also decided that I would start to do some self portraits. I need to shoot something other than my child and arranging models is not the easiest thing when you live in the country and run 2 businesses full time. It just takes a lot longer to shoot yourself! I actually found it quite amusing, running back and forth from the camera. The background I used here is an old clock I bought at the flea market. I added the apple because I wanted a hint of something organic in the shot to balance out the industrial feel, and for the color of course. There is also a bit of the Adam and Eve symbolism with the apple as well.

I think what I love about the surreal is the lack of limits. I am not bound by reality. I have always liked to push the boundaries of what is possible and this allows me to do so. I love environments and landscapes. This allows me to create any environment I want and to put anything I want into it. After so many years of creating what other people wanted, it is no surprise to me that I am landing on the surreal when doing art just for me.

The magic in these surreal images really happens in the final editing. Running an action over all the layers really brings them together. Adding a texture really adds a more illustrative feel to the image which I love. My background is in illustration and painting so I have always tried to blur the lines with my photography a bit. I plan to work on blurring them even more, so stay tuned as I experiment with that some more this week.

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Edited with: Vintage Natural from the Memento Actions Set

Edited with: Old Painting Texture from the Nostalgia Textures Set

I hope you are creating with me. If you are finding yourself stuck please let me know and I will help however I can :) Sometimes we get stuck in life, but we have to just keep moving. Life is movement. Art is the same way I am finding. My inspiration is constantly in motion and I need to just keep creating if I want to keep up with it. If I stop, it seems I fall out of sync with it even more.


Keep up with me on Facebook and like my page HERE to follow my journey...


See you next week!


Meghan Aileen