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How To Break Your Worst Habits

Let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, “large format” cameras created negatives with a 4:5 ratio. Thus, print sizes like the 8×10 became the industry standard.  Naturally, the frame industry that sprung up around photography created 8×10 frames, the paper industry made 8×10 paper, and film developers bought machines that spit out 8×10 prints.  Everything hummed along pleasantly for decades.

Along came the digital revolution, but instead of a 4:5 ratio, these new cameras had a 2:3 ratio.  (Of course, there were already great 2:3 ratio cameras in use, but the advent and explosion of digital has pushed 2:3 to even greater prominence in the lives of everyday consumers.)  And yet, no one started making 8x12s to fit the new ratio.  Instead, we’re taking what should be an 8×12, and chopping it up to keep making 8x10s.

As far as I’m concerned, the 8×10 is nothing but a bad habit, and photographers have been senselessly hacking two lovely inches from their images, for no reason, for years.  No one likes doing it, but the thing about a habit is:

To stop a habit, you have to change not just the behavior, but remove the structures that support that behavior.

In other words, to get rid of the 8×10, it’s not that we need to stop making 8×10-sized images – WE ALREADY HAVE.  Now we have to change the structures that demand we continue to make 8×10 prints.  We have to get frame makers to make 8×12 frames, we have to get paper companies to make 8×12 paper, we have to get drug stores to get machines that print in 8×12 so people get used to the ‘new’ size.  Until then, clients are still going to want 8x10s, and we’re going to keep cramming a square peg in a round hole for absolutely no reason besides dead weight inertia.   

Believe it or not, this post is not about my personal crusade to vanquish the 8×10 (grrr).  This is about ending our worst habits.  

To stop a habit, you can’t just change what you’re doing.  You have to change the structures that support what you’re doing.

When an addict leaves rehab, it’s not just that they have to stay away from the drug.  They have to stay away from people who encourage them to use the drug, they have to avoid situations that remind them of using the drug, they have to keep away from stresses that drove them to use it in the first place.

It’s no different with our bad habits.

If you’re a Facebook addict, it’s not just that you have to stay away from Facebook.  You have to install LeechBlock or StayFocusd to keep you from being able to access Facebook, you have to schedule only certain times when you’re allowed to use it, and you have to fill the rest of your time with productive things that will leave you no time for straying over to the vortex with the blue-and-white header.  You have to change your system so that Facebook is no longer an option.

If you flop on the couch instead of exercising each night, it’s not that you have to just get up and jog.  You have to unplug the TV, pay for an exercise class you feel obligated to attend (sunk cost effect, anyone?), and maybe even pile laundry on the couch so that sitting is not even an option.

If you spend time reading blogs instead of blogging yourself, it may not be enough to just say “I won’t read anyone’s blog until I have written on my own blog.”  You may have to physically disconnect from the internet until you’re done typing, ask someone to hold you accountable for posting by a certain time, and remove the bookmarks from your browser toolbar so that it’s harder to access the sites that tempt you.

Breaking a habit is not just about gritting your teeth and changing what you do.  It’s rearranging your life so that the habit becomes inconvenient, difficult, and unsupported.

For example, it’s not that marketing your business is hard, it’s just that your habit of NOT marketing is easy!  But if you had to pay your best friend $50 each month that you didn’t put out a marketing campaign for your business, believe me – you’d start marketing.

Same with any bad habit, business or otherwise.  So:

Pick your worst habit.  

Figure out what’s supporting it.  

Stop supporting it today.  

Watch it disappear.

**UPDATE:  Yes, 2:3 existed and was definitely used pre-digital, but unfortunately 2:3 didn’t shape public perception or all popular print sizes.  Until the consumer market (the likes of Walgreens, Walmart, etc) deigns to make 2:3 prints and frames as popular as 2:3 images are now, the problem will continue.  Apologies to those who thought I was saying 2:3 didn’t exist or was not available before.  😉  I was writing from a public perception standpoint of what the US consumer commonly sees, buys, and thinks they want.


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  1. Sandy Keys on January 20, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Okay, I haven’t even READ the post yet and already know I am going to LOVE it!! 🙂 I so have “worst” habits that need breaking! lol

    • Jenika on January 20, 2012 at 3:09 am

      Thanks Sandy 🙂

  2. Mark Neal on January 20, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Nice article. Worst habits parts are good. But I’ve been buying 2:3 ratio mats and frames at art supply stores for many years. And printing with a nice photo quality printer on 13×19 photo paper has also been around for a very long time. Just sayin’

    • Jenika on January 20, 2012 at 3:06 am

      Hey Mark, thanks for the comment! Yes, of course I’m exaggerating for effect – it’s not to say that these things are wholly unavailable. However, many clients are in the habit of ordering 8x10s, as that’s still the size common consumer-grade printers offer. Unfortunately, art stores can do whatever they want, but until Wal Mart and Walgreens start stocking 8×12 frames and 8×12 prints (none near me do), people are still going to want 8x10s, otherwise their new picture won’t fit grandma’s frame. They don’t want to have to go to an “expensive specialty store” to get an 8×12 frame. In the meantime, photographers are going to be stuck trying to explain that cropping will result. Or the photographer will forget to explain, and clients get mad because Dad’s head got chopped off.

      All of it is a silly problem to have – unfortunately it’s the consumer market that holds it in place, not the art market that you and I are immersed in. It’s just another case of the primary market moving faster than the secondary market.

  3. Kristi Kvenild on January 20, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Deleting Psychology for Photographers from my bookmarks as we speak. 😉 lol

    • Jenika on January 20, 2012 at 3:32 am

      LOL Kristi! Sorry to be such a distraction 😉

  4. Kelley on January 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    This is my new favorite blog… Thanks!

    • Jenika on January 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Aww, thanks Kelley! 🙂 Have a great day!

  5. Regina Marie on January 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    preach on sister!!!
    I just started working on this THIS WEEK! (That’s how awesome you are!) Yup, I paid for a Zumba class so I HAVE TO get off my behind and move! Actually, got to run for my fist class now!

    • Jenika on January 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      woo-hoo! hope it’s a blast!!

  6. Pierre on January 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm


    I’m finishing an university certificate in Addiction Studies and I was really amused that your article resumes brilliantly my 2 years in the program…

    Keep on sharing!

    • Jenika on January 23, 2012 at 2:03 am

      Hey Pierre! Thanks 🙂 That’s very cool that you studied Addiction Studies – fascinating and difficult stuff. I never had much of a chance to delve into it – psychology is such a wide field. Glad you dropped by!

  7. Bec on January 23, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Good points. and I can say I’m guilty for them all…. Too much facebook, too much blog reading and too much couch plopping. 🙂
    Best time is NOW to fix it!x

    • Jenika on January 23, 2012 at 2:02 am

      Heh, me too! Some of these posts are mostly for myself 😉

      Have a great week, Bec!

  8. Lucia on January 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I found this article so good, I had to share it with my 12 year old daughter and “change management consultant” husband.

    They both read it (success!) and replied instantly full of positive energy.

    We are using the framing theme as an example to see a lot of things in our lives with a new perspective and to define wich are the elements that keep us from moving ahead.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Jenika on January 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      Thank Lucia! I’m so glad you all found it helpful! 🙂

  9. Jenika on January 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Hey Kelly, thanks for writing!

    Yes, as stated in a reply to another comment, I’m aware that 2:3 ratio stuff has been around for a long time. Unfortunately, the industry standards picked up by consumer-grade producers have carried on the 4:5 ratio in some popular sizes, like the 8×10. Though 2:3 has become very widespread (not solely due to, but including the advent of digital cameras that have put cameras in the hands of those who never would have had them before), the consumer-level printing/framing industry has not altered to fit those trends.

    Perhaps I should have written “newly widespread ratio” rather than “new ratio” – that’s what I meant to imply, and I’m truly sorry it didn’t get across that way. What I was trying to say was that until consumer producers (as in Walgreens, Walmart, mass-producing frame-makers) start making 8x12s and other 2:3 ratio products commonplace, we’re going to continue to have to explain to clients who don’t really care about ratios why an 8×10 will result in cropping. Those of us familiar with the industry understand the options, but unfortunately it’s what the consumer market does that communicates and drives what clients buy and what they think they want.

    Again, I apologize for not having written more clearly. I’ve added a couple of updates to the article that will hopefully clarify what I was trying to communicate! Have a great day.

  10. Susan on January 26, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Thanks for this. Really and truly I was trying to figure out how I can stop wasting time on fb. Thanks for the links…

    • Jenika on January 26, 2012 at 3:03 am

      🙂 You’re welcome!

  11. Stephanie on January 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    I love that mpix lets you order prints in 8×12 sizing but it is difficult to find frames/mats for that size unless you specifically go to art supply stores. I think it’s easier for us as photographers to do that but the average consumer might not be aware. I think part of our job is to educate our clients on all possible options and hopefully that will help break the bad habits!

    • Jenika on January 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Agreed! 🙂 It’s great that mpix allows for 8×12 prints – that will go a long way. I still wish it weren’t such a hassle, people’s eyes just glaze over when you start throwing out numbers like 8×10, 8×12, 2:3 and 4:5 😉

  12. lisa brown on February 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Well that explains it! We were stationed in Germany and could only find “odd” sized frames there! The printing companies didn’t offer 5×7 or 8×10. I’ve wondered about this ever since, thanks for explaining it!

  13. katie o. on February 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    What a brilliant post. I may actually print this out so I can read it daily. Doing what’s uncomfortable only makes us stronger, better, and far more productive. Maybe even successful.

  14. Rayleigh Leavitt on February 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    OH!!!!! I always wondered why the heck standard print size didn’t match the actual images size. I didn’t realize film cameras printed at a different aspect ratio. I’m really glad to at least have that explanation so I know why the craziness exists. And I like your post. I think I’m going to just start a new habit of always ordering 8×12’s for my clients instead of 8×10 and encouraging them to buy an 8×12 frame. If they get desperate, they can always cut the photo with scissors to fit an 8×10, I guess.

  15. Kat on May 10, 2012 at 1:40 am

    When I first read your article, I came away puzzled because my camera records images in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

    I then decided to do a quick Google search, ended up on Wikipedia’s web site and according to them, it’s the DSLR’s (and 35mm film cameras) that record in the 3:2 aspect ratio you speak of, whereas most other digital cameras record in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

    So, assuming this information is correct, you may want to clarify this for your readers because not all of us own DSLR’s – yet! 🙂

    (I do get your point though. Because an 8X10 print still would not correctly fit a 4:3 image either.)

    • Jenika on May 10, 2012 at 1:47 am

      Hi Kat! Ah, gotcha. It’s funny, most people who commented on this article talked about the aspect ratio thing…when that wasn’t really what it was about, it was about habits, haha! I should have chosen a different metaphor I guess. Anyway, you’re right – but for those who do use dslrs (especially professionals who sell prints) the whole 8×10 thing is a thorn in the side, plus as you said – an 8×10 doesn’t fit a 4:3 either. So I still think it’s an instance of habits keeping us in a place we may not want to be….that’s the ax I have to grind, really. 🙂

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