In this wicked episode of “The Savory Shot,” our energetic host, Mica, dives headfirst into the world of personal projects and creative growth. She strips down their mysteries to show how vital they are in every creator’s journey.
Drawing from her own wild ride, Mica shares personal stories of success and stumbles. She creates a captivating tale that emphasizes how critical these side gigs can be – they don’t just ignite creativity but also boost your personal and professional development.
It’s not just about satisfying our creative cravings – it goes beyond that. These endeavors serve as a platform to show off who we truly are and what we dream of achieving. It’s like putting your heart out there for everyone to see, thus forming a bond based on authenticity and shared aspirations.
Mica’s got a boatload of useful know-how, advice, and game plans to mix your personal projects with your work stuff effortlessly. She makes sure both sides are noticed and remembered. This way, you’re not only chasing after what lights you up but also keeping the bills paid.
You can expect this episode to be a thrill ride packed with inspiration. It’s chock-full of reflective moments, get-up-and-go vibes, and practical advice you can actually use. You won’t just be listening – you’ll feel driven to act on your dreams while keeping it real in the professional world. Get ready for an enlightening experience that merges passion with a profession like never before. So, no matter where you stand on the creative spectrum – an experienced professional, a growing hobbyist, or even someone mulling over kicking off their own passion project – make sure to listen in. Dive into this thrilling exploration of personal projects and discover how they can fuel your creativity while offering practical skills. Unleash the power within by converting those lingering ideas into reality! Remember, it’s not just about dreaming big; it’s about bringing these dreams to life. Get ready for some real-life inspiration that’ll kick-start your journey towards self-fulfillment! So, let Mica be your guide. She’ll help you tap into the unrealized potential of your personal projects. We’re talking about more than just daydreaming here – we’re all about turning those dreams into reality!
Mica McCook is a renowned food photographer based in Austin, Texas. With a flair for capturing gastronomic art, her images tell delicious tales of cuisine and culture. Mica’s lens unveils the magic behind every dish, making her one of Austin’s most sought-after culinary storytellers.
Mica: [00:00:00] Welcome. To the 34th episode of The Savory Shot. Y'all, has it really been 34 episodes? Dang! Well, if you don't know who I am, that's alright. Welcome to the show. I'm your host, with the most, Mica McCook. And I'm a food photographer. First and foremost, I just want to pause and express my gratitude. I cannot start this show without saying thank you.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here. Every time you tune in, every message you send, every comment, every share, it fuels this journey we're on together. Y'all, I never have to worry about being on E, because y'all fill this tank up. Every. Time. You show up. Every. Episode. Y'all, I've grown.
I've evolved. I've laughed. [00:01:00] Maybe even shed a tear or two on this podcast. And that's all thanks to you. I've said it once and I'll say it every episode. This podcast exists because of you, the listener. So thank you. Grazie. Danke. Arigato! And all the bazillion ways to say thank you. Seriously, it's wild to think of where this podcast started and where it's at now.
Those early episodes? Man, what a trip. They were diamonds in the rough. But they were real, they were raw, they were special. And they continue to be special. Y'all, this podcast... This is a labor of love. It's just me over here. It's a one, one woman show. And I love it. This is the kind of personal project that just [00:02:00] keeps my head in the game.
And we need those personal projects, right? The ones that remind us why we even got into this whole industry. And that's what I want to talk about. Today's episode is about those projects. That make our hearts race and our souls light up.
I'm talking about your test shoots. Your personal projects. The shoots where you can stretch your creative legs and go wild. You know what I'm talking about. Those shoots are the lifeline to your career.
It's a must. You should be doing personal projects every quarter, every month. But, before I get into that, grab your to go drink. I got my cafefefe. Find that cozy spot and let's start the show.
Mica: You ever have those days where you're just staring at your gear, fingers itching to create something? Anything? You know what I'm talking about. Spark, that little nudge, pushing you to do something different. I'm not talking about the usual client briefs or those routine gigs, which, don't get me wrong, are great.
But they don't always light that fire. Nah, boo. I'm talking about those ideas that come to you in the dead of night, or during a long [00:04:00] shower, or even when you're biting into your favorite food. I'm talking about those, "Ah ha!" Those... "Oh my god!" Those, "Oh my god, we should totally do this!" Those, "What if we grabbed this and then did this?"
The ones where your heart races just thinking about them. They're spontaneous. They're wild. And sometimes they feel so out there that you wonder if they even make sense. Like, let's grab a cheeseburger and paint it in glitter, or let's throw popcorn out of a rocket and photograph that. Y'all, we've done some crazy things, but it's in those moments.
Those raw, unfiltered thoughts. Magic happens. [00:05:00] Those are the seeds of your personal projects. The ones that are 100 percent you. No compromises. No boundaries. No "We've got to stick to the shot list." Just pure, creative energy. I'm excited just talking about it. And today, we're diving deep into why those seeds are so crucial and how to let them flourish.
Mica: Now let's get real for a moment. How many times have you caught yourself daydreaming about a project that's all yours? You're not bound by client requirements. No deadlines, no external expectations. Just 100 percent unlimited creation. We've all been there. Heck, I was just there yesterday. And there's a reason those dreams linger. This reminds me of my high school days when I had a [00:06:00] cell phone and I had that plan where I had 500 minutes, 500 minutes, monthly minutes, to talk on the phone and then after nine o'clock, I had unlimited minutes.
Anytime before nine o'clock, you do not call me unless the building's on fire. Like, I gotta preserve these minutes. But baby, come nine o'clock, I'm gossiping with everybody. The sky's the limit of what I could talk about. Those 500 minutes. That's a bare necessity. Who, what, when, where, why?
Keep it under five. But nine o'clock p. m. conversations? Man, I could, I could really embellish shit. Add emotions, things and stuff. That's when I view personal projects and paid projects. Those paid projects, that's the 500 minutes. Who, what, when, where, why? Do what you gotta do. You gotta get shot lists, gotta get what the client needs and [00:07:00] wants, and you don't go over a minute.
But those personal projects, that's the nine o'clock conversations. That's the gossip. Personal projects, they're like a mirror. They reflect our deepest passions, our quirks, our whimsies. They're the things we do, even if no one was watching or paying, because they resonate with the very core of who we are.
They bring out our authentic self, the version of us that's not altered or refined for the outside world. If you ever feel stuck in a rut, like you're repeating the same pattern, shooting similar photos. You're, you're on this, this creative hamster wheel. And you're running and you're running and you're running and you're running and you're, And you're running, running, running, running, running, running, running.
And you're creating the same shit. Well, personal projects are your way out. They're the rejuvenating [00:08:00] breaks we need, giving us the space to experiment, to fail without real consequence, and to discover new horizons. They're the challenges we give ourselves, not because we have to, but because we crave growth.
Y'all, my growth did not happen in the photo shoots with clients. That's the test. That's where you apply what you learned in your personal shoots. My personal shoots, that's where I grew. That's where I improved. Because I could mess up. Repeatedly, over and over, and there's no real consequences.
There's not thousands of dollars. There's not clients who flew in from town. Your test shoots is that opportunity to fuck it up and fuck it up again. That way when you show up on the shoot and you just whip out your magic wand and you're like, Boom, boom, boom! They go, how'd she do that?
She's talented! First time! They don't know... They don't know all the [00:09:00] hours that you've put in on your personal shoots. They don't know all the kinks that you worked out beforehand. Your test shoots, that's your practice. Your client shoots, that's where you apply. That's the job. I want to say this, and I'm a quote.
Uh, Sister Wives, Robyn Brown from Sister Wives. I'm going to quote her. I want to say something to you and I want you to download it into your hard drives. I never in a million years thought that I would quote Robyn Brown because I do not like that woman. Shout out to anyone who watches Sister Wives. If you watch it, come gossip with me because I got some things to talk about.
But back to this. Lastly and most importantly. When you pour your heart and soul into a project, clients, the ones, the dream ones that you've been binding for, well, they see it and they connect with it. Your projects are what they [00:10:00] zoom in on. Yeah, I said it. You heard it right. Think about your personal projects as a map, a beautifully crafted, soulful map that showcases you. Showcases your journey, your capabilities, your evolution.
They want to see what's new, real, raw, and untamed. Because for them, it's gold. Here's why. When your client stumbles on your portfolio, they're not just looking for technical prowess. If that was their only requirement, they got 20, 30 other photographers that they can go and hush and hire. They're hunting for personality.
For flair. For that unique touch that only you can give. And you know how you find that unique touch that only you can give? Well, it ain't reading books. It ain't watching videos. It's from getting that camera out and trying some [00:11:00] things out. It's right there in those projects. The ones that you did just for the love of it.
Your personal projects are like windows into your creative mind. They want to see your vision. They want your ideas. They want to see your ability to take a concept and turn it into motherfucking art. They not only want to see that, but they want to see what you can do with their brand and turn it in to motherfucking art too.
These projects, they tell a story of your commitment, of your passion, your dedication. It says, hey, I'm committed to creating. I'm committed to experimenting. I'm committed to evolving. And that narrative, you know, it's compelling. It speaks of a professional constantly thrives on creativity and growth. Your work from the year before [00:12:00] should look drastically different than the work you're creating now.
You should always be striving to push yourselves, to push your creative limits. And, baby, I had to tell you... You can't do that in a paid gig because you need to deliver on command when you're doing a paid gig. But when you are alone with your other fellow creatives and you guys are just trying some shit out. It might work, it might not.
You might walk away with some beautiful stuff or you might walk away with shit. I mean, I've, I've had shoots like that too where I, it just didn't work. But that's the beauty of those test shoots. So you want those personal projects because you need to grow, you need to thrive on creativity and growth. Now if that isn't enough of a reason for them to matter, then I don't know what to tell you. I don't know what to tell you. I, I shake my hands [00:13:00] off the problem. But if you are a listener of the show, then I know you're doing the work.
I know you're doing them test shoots, so I don't got to worry about you boo.
Mica: I know that there's at least one or two of a side eye, eye rolling, neck twisting, like, Mica, I got bills. I ain't got time for personal projects. I get it. I get it. I get it. Don't, don't get mad at me. I get it. Juggling personal work and paid work, it ain't easy. Bills gotta get paid, right? Ain't nothing going on but the rent.
You gotta have a J O B. If you wanna be with me. There ain't nothin goin on but the rent-ah! Yeah, okay.[00:14:00]
Oh man, I've missed a solo episode with just my with just me. Seriously though, imagine your creative energy is this huge, bustling pot of soup. I'ma channel my my my Mexican side, I'ma say that my soup is a caldo soup. Shout out to my mom. I hope she makes me some or maybe she'll teach me how to make it because she's so stingy with her recipe.
Come on, mama. But seriously, imagine your creative energy is this huge bubbling pot of soup. You've got different ingredients in there. You got the, the carrots and the peas of client work, the spicy herbs of deadlines, and then there's this rich broth, the essence of your creativity, your personal projects.
Those secret spices that give your soup that um, [00:15:00] that flavor. The flavor that sets it apart from any other soup out there. Now here's the catch. How do you make sure this soup doesn't become all about the carrots and the peas? How do you keep that flavor alive? How do you make sure that there's something more than salt and pepper in your soup?
Like I said, I don't want nobody rolling their eyes at me and twisting their necks and snapping their fingers because let's be clear about one thing. Paid gigs are essential. They pay the bills. They put food on the table. And if you're booking the kind of gigs that you want to be booking, they're satisfying.
Completing a challenging client brief, seeing your work out there, getting that appreciation. It's a high. I get it. I understand it, but boo thangs. Constantly working on paid gigs can sometimes feel like you're on [00:16:00] a treadmill. You're running. You're running, and you're running, and you're running, and you're sweating, and you're running, and you're like, Ah, Shane, I've been on here for 15 minutes.
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, I'm running, I'm running, I'm running. But you're not always sure if you're going in the direction you truly desire.
It reminds me of. I did this race a while back, way way back, like, like 20, 000 years ago. But I did this race called the Austin 10 20 and it was 10 miles, 20 bands. And they're like, don't bring your headphones because we're going to have all these bands playing and it's going to be live music and it's going to be awesome, it's going to be fun.
And so I didn't bring my headphones. And it was the most boring motherfucking race I ever did in my life. Because as soon as you pass by a band, you just. It would just go, you know, and then it'd be like super quiet for like two, three miles. So I, well, I mean, it made sense in my brain. I don't know why I just told [00:17:00] you this. So that is kind of what I view as... Overworking yourself and just constantly working on paid gigs, you say you're just running this this route and then every so often you'll get a client work and it'll pass by real fast but it's not really what you want to be listening to and it's not what you really enjoy doing.
Well, that's why you have your personal projects. I view personal projects like pit stops. They're your refreshers, your coffee shop. They're that weekend getaway in the middle of a hectic month. Or those day, day trips where you drive off with no destination in mind. They rejuvenate you. They remind you why you fell in love with your craft in the first place.
All right, all right, all right. I know I'm getting some side eyes from some of you because you're like Mica, you still haven't said, how do you balance the two? I get it. I get it. Chill out, chill out. [00:18:00] For anyone who is struggling with how to balance between your paid gigs and your personal gigs, I'll tell you what works for me and then you decide if that's your jam, that's your cup of tea, if that works for you, then go for it, shoot for the moon.
And if not, find something else that works. But the first thing I do is I schedule it in. It's in my calendar, y'all. Treat your personal projects with as much respect as your paid gigs. Block out time for them, like you would for a meeting, like you would for a doctor's appointment.
That is time reserved for your craft. I have it on my calendar once a week. I do my shoots once a week. The second thing is, I find some way to hold myself accountable. And that could be different for every one of y'all. You can have a bestie, a food photog bestie, where you guys just hold each other accountable.
You could share your progress and post updates on your social media. You could say, you know what, I'm gonna post every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, a new [00:19:00] project that I'm working on. And the other thing is, is know when to pull back. Do not get in the studio for the sake of getting in the studio. You need to recognize when you're stretching yourself too thin.
It's okay to press pause if you're feeling burned out. Don't get in the studio for the sake of getting in the studio. If you're not inspired, you're not inspired. So go do something that does inspire you.
Go, go hang out with your friends. Go out to eat to a couple of restaurants. Go look at some food magazines or, or read some cookbooks. Do what you gotta do to get yourself back in the headspace. But if you are feeling burned out, it's okay to press pause. Do what you gotta do. Cause it's a marathon. It's not a sprint.
See, every time I think about the word marathon. All right, another story, bear with me y'all. When I was in middle school, I joined the track and field afternoon program and I wanted to get right in to the races. I was like, put me in coach, I'm ready to run, you know. The only spots that were [00:20:00] available that were open.
Was this long distance run. You had to like run three laps around around the track and I was like well I'll do that all the time. They signed me up for it. It was my first race and as soon as the the little gun went off pow, I was took off I was running fast and I was winning first place. I ran around that first, made that first lap and and I remembered shit.
I have to have to run around it again Y'all, I didn't even make it to the finish line. I was so out of it. I just walked. And my coach came and got me and she's like, come on, you know, and, and I, I quit after that. Yeah, I, I didn't, I didn't, uh, run in track and field anymore, but I did still enjoy running just for a form of exercise and, you know, I'd go around the, the track and field during my gym class, but that got me to thinking, you know, [00:21:00] how do people make it through marathons? People have asked me, how did you run 10 miles? How do you run three miles? And it's like, it's not a sprint. It's, it's, it's, it's a pace. You go at whatever pace you're going.
You walk when you need to walk. You run when you can run. The whole point is your body goes through stages as you go through each mile. Well, I like to think of your creativity the same way. When you feel creative, when you feel energized, get in the studio and start making some shit happen. When you're feeling burnt out, when the thought of taking your camera out just makes you go, ugh, I don't, I don't want to do it.
Like, I don't feel like I'm gonna get anything out of this. Then, take a pause and go do things that are inspiring. Go to an art museum. Go look at some photography books. Go watch one of those artsy fartsy movies. Do whatever you gotta do to surround yourself with, with art.
And support yourself [00:22:00] in that way. That can be a personal project, too. Think about that. This TED Talk has been brought to you by Mic I'm kidding. I'm kidding. But the point I'm trying to make is this, y'all. Balancing paid gigs with personal projects, it isn't about choosing one or the other. Because that ain't gonna happen.
Unless you win the lottery and you can just do personal projects for the rest of your life. Which, that's what your girl is trying to do. She's trying to win that big lottery, that Texas Powerball. But seriously, Balancing paid gigs with your personal projects is about harmonizing the two to create a symphony where the highs and the lows, the crescendos, the pauses, they all come together to craft your distinct melody in this orchestra of the creative world.
Someone said once about paid gigs, do two for the wallet, one for the heart. [00:23:00] Yeah, that's it. That's what they said. They said two for the wallet, one for the heart. So, think of it that way. Aim for that every month. Two for the wallet, one for the heart.
Mica: Okay, I am going to use a tired, tired analogy that everybody's used, but it's so relevant to what we're talking about that I'm gonna say it again and I'm gonna keep saying it because it's so damn good. Like Noah's Ark. If you build it, they will come. If you want to work with specific brands, then you need to figure out the milkshake that will bring the clients to the yard. All right? I had to, I know that one is corny, but y'all know I can't pass up a good, a good corny analogy.
My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard and they're like it's better than yours, they're like [00:24:00] is better than yours. Bethany, I can teach you, but I have to charge. In this case, I am not charging you. I am sharing what I know and, all I demand in payment is bagels with cream cheese, lots of coffee, a Harry Potter wand and um, yeah, and barbeque.
Get me some fatty brisket and square. You hit me up in the DMs, you tell me how much you want this career to work, and I believe it. And I feel it. You're dreamers. With fire in your eyes. And you want to work with those dream brands. Y'all tell me, oh, I would love to work with so and so.
Man, it would be so awesome if I could do this with that client. You tell me that, and doubt creeps in sometimes. Sometimes you ask, will they even notice me? Will they even care? Do they even see me, the work that I'm doing? What's the [00:25:00] point of doing all this? What's the point of posting on Instagram? What's the point?
The only thing I can say. The only thing I can encourage is to keep doing those personal projects. Keep doing those shots you take from the heart. That's your foghorn. That's your, hooty hoo! Every click, every frame, is you shouting out to the universe. Yo! Here I am! Look what I can do! And as you should, boo!
As you should! You should be loud. You should be putting your work out there. You should be throwing this out to the world, unafraid. So take charge. Be fearless. Build your milkshake. Bring them clients to your yard.[00:26:00]
The entire time I was saying that, I could just see, uh, what's her face doing her little dance in the video. My milkshake brings all the boys to the uni I'm gonna play that in my next test shoot. Just on repeat. My milkshake brings all the boys to the uni
And your girl was dancing like a hussy to that song in the clubs. It did not stop me. It's a good song.
Oh. Really though, do those personal projects, y'all. Schedule them. Weekly. Trust me. When you do, the universe will sit up It will notice. Those floodgates, they'll open. Those opportunities. Those dreams. They'll come to life. Alright, y'all. My warriors. My creative warriors. [00:27:00] Time to wrap this baby up. I'm out of coffee.
I'm out of time. I'm out of jokes. I'm out of dignity.
I'm out of it all. But before I go, I want y'all to take a moment. I want you to close your eyes. I want you to put your hand over your heart. I don't know what side of the body it's on. I think, I think it's on the right. What, what, what hand do we use to salute? Whatever hand we use to salute, feel that heartbeat.
Look for that heartbeat. Feel it. That steady, the thump. That's your purpose. That's your drive. That's the echo of every dream you've ever had. And it's calling out to you. Y'all, when the nights are long and... It's just, things just seem [00:28:00] like they're steep, they're endless, and it's just this constant uphill battle of bullshit, and fuck, I can't do this anymore.
I want y'all to remember this episode. Remember this conversation we're having. I want y'all to remember that every passion project, every midnight oil you burn, every risk you take, it's all leading up to something phenomenal. Your why is powerful. Your why is valid. So if you don't know what your why is, go find it.
Go find it. Go write it down. Go etch it. Get it tattooed somewhere. Have it right there, present. Because it's in those moments when you have nothing left to give, you can look at your why, your purpose, and you can see that it's worth [00:29:00] chasing.
For real, for real, I'm about to leave. Like, for real. And I got one teeny, itty bitty, tiny, little bit favor task to ask of you. I don't ask for a lot. I'm gonna ask for this. I want you to pick up that one project you've been hesitant about. That one idea that's been tickling the back of your mind. The one where you're like, Eh, I don't know if I can do that.
That seems a little crazy, or... The one that's like, uh, but I don't know if anybody's gonna really like it. I want you to find that idea. And I want you to dive into it. Head first. Like you're an Olympic diver. Just dive into it. And give it your all. Because the world doesn't know it yet. But, it's waiting.
And it's eagerly waiting for what you've got to offer. Remember [00:30:00] BooThangs, you're not just any creative. You are a force to be reckoned with. A tidal wave in a sea of sameness. You're that purple zebra in a sea of black and white. So, don't diminish that light. Don't ever do that. Don't ever diminish that spark.
And if you feel yourself fading, come on back here. Shit, I'll give you a pep talk of a lifetime. We'll fan those flames together. Until then, keep shining, keep dreaming, keep creating. You've got this. The world is waiting. I'm waiting. So y'all, I'm sending all my love, all my positive vibes your way.
Stay bold, stay true, but more importantly, stay you.