As part of my Sleazy SEO campaign I need to write more blog posts that have titles which promise numbered lists containing information which will make your life better. I came up with this one while stuffing my face at Nordy’s in downtown Fort Collins. Nordy’s is not paying me for this blatant advertising but the $10 all-you-can-stuff-in-your-face BBQ buffet is too good to turn down. I hit that now and then and and always regret eating too much food. But what can I do?
Well, I could stop eating so much. You are right about that. That’s what I could do.
So what are these five wonderful things I think every photographer should do to improve your photography?
(Notice that ultra smooth transition I made there?)
1. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Keep your perspective fresh.
Keep doing different stuff. If all your photographs start looking alike it’s time to do something different. I frequently catch myself taking the same picture over and over again. That picture looked pretty good the first seven times. After that . . . it’s poop.
When this happens change something up so you have to think different. Stop shooting landscapes and shoot people. If you do mostly portrait orientation flip the camera and shoot landscape orientation. Shoot in black and white or colour, which ever of the two you don’t usually shoot in. Spend a day taking photographs sitting on the ground or standing on a ladder.
Much of my fashion photography is very brightly and evenly lighted. I have a tendency to set up all four of my strobes and throw light all over the place. To change my approach I’m currently focusing on using two or only one light and being very selective about what I’m lighting. It’s all about doing something different.
If your art all looks the same to you then it’s gonna all look the same to everyone else. That is bad. Very bad.
2. Don’t undervalue yourself, your knowledge or your art. Know what you are worth and call it like it is.
This one especially goes for all artists and business owners. Whatever you are doing you are doing it because you love doing it. Because you love doing it you are passionate about your craft. You are most likely better at your craft than people performing your craft for minimum wage at some corporation.
Who do you think knows more about photography, the person trying to build a photography businesses or the college kid who works part-time at the Sears Portrait Studio?
As a photographer you have spent years learning photography, spent a ton of money on equipment and work your ass off to complete a shoot and leave behind some quality images. Don’t be one of those idiots who gives up hours of your life and all the images for $20. Don’t price your fine art prints at cost, or below cost, thinking that’s gonna make ’em sell. You know that print is worth hundreds, maybe thousands. Price it that way.
Don’t be the cheapest. No one gives a shit about the cheapest unless they are Wal-Mart customers. Be the best. People want the best and will pay for the best.
Except for Wal-Mart customers. They want cheap. Unless you enjoy pain you don’t want them.
3. Talk with business owners who are not photographers.
If you are retired and doing photography for fun that’s great. If you like working 50 hours a week in a cubical and doing photography on the side so you can play the role of the starving artist that’s fine for you. But if you are wanting to make money with your photography so you can do this all the time you you need to get a very important concept thru your mind.
You are a business owner and photography is a business. If you think your art is not a business then you have already failed.
Talk to other people who own businesses and learn from them. You have the same challenges they have. Marketing, accounting, contracts, customer relations, taxes, legal hurdles, idiots, logistics, all these and more. You need to deal with ’em. Associate with others who have been there and are succeeding.
If you are fortunate enough to have a strong coworking community in your area investigate them and join if they are not sketchy. Here in Fort Collins we have the Cohere Coworking Community – of which I am a member. One of the best business decisions I’ve ever made.
4. Hang out with other photographers, ask them questions and answer questions for them.
Don’t have the attitude that other photographers are you competition and are going to steal something (ideas, clients, your 500mm lens) from you. That’s wrong.
Other photographers are not your competition if you have developed your own style. If there is something unique about your photography that reflects in your images then no one can compete with that.
Take opportunities to teach things to other photographers and non-photographers as well. Being seen as a teacher means being seen as an expert. Being a teacher builds your reputation and visibility. Being a teacher gives you a chance to help others and when you help others, others will help you.
You will learn many things from other photographers. I happily give credit to some of the gang in Northern Colorado Profession Photographers for teaching me. We also get together monthly to critique each others photographs. This is one of the best things ever.
Which brings me to . . .
5. Get other photographers to critique your art and listen to what they say.
I decided I better add “listen to what they say”. And then I’ll tell you that listening to what they say and acting on what they say are two different things. I always listen to what other photographers say about my art but that doesn’t mean I agree with them nor that I change what I’m doing because of them.
Listen to all feedback but be selective about how you respond to it. Who is the feedback coming from? What is his style of photography? Does she understand what you are trying to achieve? Have you actually seen this photographer’s work? Is it good? In order to judge the value of feedback you are getting you have to have some understanding of the frame of reference the person providing the feedback operates from.
Furthermore, don’t limit yourself to critiques only from other photographers. Get artists who create in other mediums to critique your art and listen to what they have to say.
Other creative people work with a similar process. They start with materials, tools, time, ideas and then using a process – creativity, skill, knowledge and experience – the reduce, mix and multiply those resources in order to create that which didn’t previously exist. What can you learn from their perspectives?
Note that I include among creative people writers, programmers, web designers, business owners, cooks and a whole batch of other kinda folks that are not traditionally thought of as “creative” in the way a painter or sculptor or photographer is.
And here is a bonus:
6. Post all the intimate and boring details of your life on Twitter.
Okay, I’m kidding about that last one. Don’t do it.
Apply the first five ideas and it will help improve your photography. Apply the sixth idea and you’ll waste a lot of time.