Well, this week is a little different than most. This week is all about what it takes to be a current day photographer in today’s society. I have been working as a photographer on many different levels and in many different aspects for almost a decade now and figured that I would offer some insight to anyone looking to do the same. Find out what works, what doesn’t work, and anything else that I think might help you out along the way while I write this up. If you haven’t noticed, the column has been the place to come for original interviews, photo how-tos, and basically anything that I think might help aspiring photographers find their path. It’s been an interesting place for me to do just that. I’ve honestly learned so much about myself, as well as my personal photography since the first column and continue to do so week after week. Let’s see how this one goes.
#1. Be dedicated.
There is nothing more important than this. I can guarantee you that. It’s one of those things where you can’t just put your toes in, and you can’t just test the water…you have to jump right in and find out how it feels after the fact. If photography is something that you love, then you are on the right track. Basically you have to be ready to give it your all and live and die by the camera.
#2. Be motivated.
This step is obviously super important but easily overlooked. I actually have people tell me on a regular basis that they don’t know how I do it, and don’t know how I keep up on all of the projects that I do. Well, it’s simple really; I don’t really have much of a choice to be honest. Especially when you work for yourself. It’s an amazing feeling, and incredibly rewarding to be your own boss but people don’t realize the amount of work that actually goes into it. Sure, you don’t have some weirdo always telling you what to do, but you still have to get shit done. No one is going to do it for you. I’m motivated to succeed, and I’m motivated to do the very best job that I can as a photographer.
#3. Be flexible.
Sure, you might not have been dreaming of shooting weddings or pet portraits but we all have to start out somewhere. I worked in a high volume portrait studio for years and although it was torturous at times, I swear those years taught me so much about dealing with people on a professional level no matter how stressful a situation might be. It’s also one of those things where you can’t sit around and just wait until a project comes along that you might want to do. You have to take what you can get, make the most out of it, and learn from it. Don’t expect the world to hand you the most exciting photography jobs right away, and be open to doing something new if it comes up.
#4. Be marketable.
It’s one of those things where you can’t just sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to go out there and promote yourself and your photography on a regular basis. Get a website, get business cards, be active with social media, try and keep your blog updated with current work. Let people know that you are busy and let people see what kind of work that you do. Having a current portfolio site can literally get you jobs without trying. Whether you are applying for a full-time job or a single day job, having a place for potential clients to go and see what you do is vital. Also, having an actual website just looks more legit rather than a flickr account or a tumblr. Now, don’t get me wrong, having those is not a bad thing, and I’m not saying they can’t get you hired but people want to know that you are all-in. People want to know that you have invested in what you do, and they will be more likely to invest in you.
#5. Be good at what you do.
Again, this screams obvious but it’s not to be taken lightly. You have to offer something that will catch the potential client’s eye. You have to have what it takes to stand out from the crowd. When you are applying for a position, or going after a job, do you think that you are the only person that saw that the job was available? Probably not, so be prepared. Have your work speak for you especially if you’re not that much of a talker. There is no mistaking good photography from not-so-good photography. If you have a site that’s full of amazing photographs, then the client sees just that, and understands that you did that. You created everything that’s on there, and they know and can see what you are capable of.
#6. Be different.
Whether or not it’s your personality alone, or your photography…be different. Try to make it a point to stand out and let the potential client or company know that if they end up booking you, or hiring you, that you will offer up your unique take on it. Especially these days, there are so many people out there will cameras that call themselves photographers. Anyone can go out and buy the newest Canon body and set of L series lenses and show up to an event but that doesn’t mean that they know how to use their gear. It’s all about your unique perspective and the way that you look at things. Try to worry about your own personal work, and instead of duplicating everything you see, work on coming up with your own style.
#7. Be thorough.
This is a step that can easily be overlooked but it’s absolutely mandatory if you want to book more work or simply land a big job. Give more information than you might need to. Make the potential client or employer feel like if they go with you, they will be getting more than just a photographer. Make them feel like they will be booking with something that is responsible, and someone who is passionate and goes out of their way to check in. Communicate as much as possible and try to let them know exactly what you plan on doing, and make them feel comfortable. Thank them after you work for them, and let them know you appreciate the opportunity. This goes a long way and could eventually lead you to something big.
#8. Be someone that people would want to hire.
This one is pretty straightforward. Just be someone that people would want to deal with. Not only on a professional level, but on a personal level as well. Be someone that people will think about after the job is done, or when the next potential job comes up. Be memorable and make a good impression. Again, as I said, anyone can shoot photos these days; half of the battle is being something that people want to be around.
#9. Be creative.
Think of ideas that no one else has. Start a business that is unique and run with it. Take chances and put yourself out there. The only way to find out what works is to try. Trust me, not every idea that you have is going to be a million dollar idea but you never know until you try. Think outside the box and don’t wait around for the perfect idea. Just go after it, and if it doesn’t work, try again.
#10. Don’t give up.
Obviously this is the hardest step in the process but also, it’s one of the most important as well. There will be times where being a photographer just doesn’t seem like the most well-thought out idea in a digital age where every person has a camera phone in their pocket at any given time. Those are the times where you have to push through and give it your all. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be successful and go out there and make it happen. No one is going to do it for you, and that’s the damn truth.
Hopefully these tips help any of you potential photographers out there and help give you some good starting points if you are going to chase the dream. Also, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the eighty fourth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at [email protected] and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jeremypavia.