In the past 10 years I was able to work and see the industry from so many different perspectives: as a celebrity shooter, as a photography writer, as a photo-consumer and as an agency photographer. All these years I have heard so many tips and so many "rules." You know, stuff like "know who came before you," or "it's not about the equipment." Now It's my turn to give tips - and mine are way weirder.
Now, before I start, it's important to say that some of these tips may not relate to you personally. But they are all things I believe in, things I learned along the years and things that helped me with my business.
Think in the shower*
Being a photographer that shoots on location everyday, and then come home and sit in front of the computer for many hours everyday responding to emails, uploading photos, captioning images, updating social media, editing, watching videos, reading articles and on top of that talk on the phone with potential clients, it’s very easy to forget many of the tasks needed to be done.
Sometimes I feel like the only place I can really think is in the bath. The only place no one is going to occupy my mind with random emails, or facebook notifications. No one will be able to call, and no one will ask me anything. It’s the only place I can just think. The bath for me is the place I usually remember so many things I needed to do and forgot. I suddenly remember I had to send an invoice to someone, or reply to a new potential client i totally forgot about.
*Bath is my place to think clearly - for you it may be the bed, or the bus with your iPod. But the idea is the same. Find that place, and use it.
Photographers Are Your Best Friends, Not Your Competition
Many photographers I know treat other photographers as a direct competition and nothing more. They will stay away from many of them because they feel like they are competing against each other, and that’s a big mistake. Yes, we’re all in the same market competing for the same (or similar) clients, we’re all trying to book the same great gigs and we all want to become successful, more than anyone else of course.
But this is all false. Photographers are your best friends. I can’t even tell you how much help I got from my photography friends in the past few years - from helping with lending equipment I needed, to sending clients my way. I can say that about 50% (if not more) of my paid gigs come from other photographers I’m "competing" with. Yes, we are from the same industry, same niche, and even many times from the same location. But we still help each other, and both sides win.
Any time I get a gig I can’t shoot, instead of just saying to the client “sorry, I cant. Next time”, I always respond something like “Sorry, I can’t this time, but I would highly recommend ____ for this job”. This way I know my client is happy, and I know I helped a friend make some more money. I know he’ll do the same next time he can’t shoot.
Stop treating other photographers as a competition. Your only competition is you.
Take the time to imagine
Doesn't matter how much equipment you have or how much experience you have, you can never fully anticipate what is going to happen on the set of your photo shoots. You can plan, write tasks, even draw mock-ups. But here is something probably no one ever told you before: imagine.
Just sit back, close your eyes, and imagine. Picture your set, what could be done to make it work better. Imagine how your talent/model/client might act and what you can possibly do to make it work. Imagine the final result you’re trying to get.
My favorite basketball player ever once said that other than practicing for hours everyday, and learning anything he could about the next opponent, he would just sit back once in a while and just imagine playing. Imagine new moves, imagine how he could maybe crossover Michael Jordan or shoot over Shaq. He then came to the court with many new ideas and unique movements, and was able to make his imagination a reality. It’s no different in photography.
Stop forcing yourself to be inspired from photography
Too many photographers I talk to keep telling me that they look at fellow photographers work to get inspiration. In most cases it’s not inspiration, it’s just stealing ideas. If you ask me, you should look for your inspiration elsewhere. Looking at other people’s work is great, but to a point.
People always ask me to name photographers who inspire me. There are none. Don’t get me wrong, I love many photographers and their work. I enjoy looking at their work, but none of them inspire me. So where I get my inspiration from? Personally I get it from music. I get my inspiration listening to Queen, Michael Jackson or The Beatles. They make me think, they make me ponder different ideas.
Find what really inspires you. The fact you’re a photographer doesn't mean you have to force yourself to be inspired by photographers. It might be movies or sports. Maybe reading and maybe watching theater shows. Find what really stimulates your brain and creativity. I think it’s healthier and better for your work. Don’t copy ideas, create them.
Money Is Time; Do more than expected
Many times I hear how photographers proudly claim how they don’t do ANYTHING other than what they signed on. If the client is requesting anything, small or big, that was not discussed ahead of time, they ask for more money, or refuse to do it. Some people see it as a money-making decision. But in most cases it’s not the way things work. Of course you might make $100 more that day, but good chances you won’t get the the client again. So is the $100 worth more than the $5000 you'll make over a longer period of time?
I’m not telling you to double your workload for free, or retouch additional 300 photos for free. But if the client wants you to stay for additional 30 minutes, or snap few more photos on top of what you already did, just do it. Don’t make a fuss over every random request. Do more than expected.
In many of my shoots, aside from the discussed images, I try to get photos of things that I know might be helpful for the client. So what if they never requested them? It takes few minutes of my time, and in the end of the day I know my client will be happy. Happy clients come back. Stop thinking about the money you’ll make today, start thinking about the money you’ll make over time.
People keep saying "Time Is Money." That's true. But in my opinion people should also think about the opposite: "Money Is Time." Take the time to do your work in the best possible way. If you rush things just to save time, it will show. Spend the time to edit, spend the time to shoot. Time Is Money, but Money Is Time. Find the balance.
Wow, really nice man.
beautifully put - especially maintaining your photographer friendships - people get so bent on competition they forget to be a human being.
really well done, love it!
I never told anyone that when I was a teenager, I spent lots of time in the shower imagining inspiring photographs.
The inspiration one is BIG. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with drawing inspiration from other photographers (so long as you're not merely ripping them off), but I find myself more often drawing inspiration from film and television. I know this isn't quite your point, but I've found that watching films and television featuring great cinematography and processing can really rub off on your photography in a good way.
I agree. Movies with great cinematography defiantly inspire my photography.
Yeah, I agree with you. Just to be clear, i meant you should not force yourself to be inspired by other photographers. Too many people think they have to be inspired by photos because they are photographers, but it's not true. Be inspired by what inspires you.
And yeah, great cinematography can really be inspiring sometimes.
I love using film and television to see how the directors of photography use light. My wife and I were commenting on shows like revolution and black list where it's so dark and they are enhancing the scenes with mood and just showing their faces. Great comment!
that was a nice topic.
Great. Allow me to share it on my blog :)
There is a big difference between sharing and ripping off...
Ok I understand it. Sorry, just only one way to share on personal blog is copying and keep all information of the author. I did it but I'm going to delete it anyway because it makes you're not happy. Thanks for answering me
"5 Super Weird Tips" for the story title? Sounds like one of those spam links..
Thank you! You Rock!!!!
These are all great tips. I absolutely agree with "Think in the shower", or for that matter, anywhere else creativity strikes.
My vocation is programming computers, which also involves creativity. I have thought of solutions that I was trying to solve while driving home, sleeping, and yes, while even in the shower.
Thinking on the toilet is the best way haha...
I keep a waterproof notepad in my shower, because that really is when I get my best ideas!
In line with your last tip. Two weeks ago i did a commercial shooting for a big Bed & Brakefast. The owner had a list of 55 shots she want me to do. But walking around i saw shots potential that was not on her list, i was there anyway, so i took the extra shots.
Wen she saw what i did she was trilled. One thing that was clear at the end, is i will have repeat buisness with her. So like you say money is time.
Very nice article... I love that your tone is "sharing, from a wealth of experience" rather than the "telling, because I'm so much better than you" we so often see in these kinds of articles.
As for the title, I don't think your tips are "kinda of weird"... I think they're common sense, though the kind of common sense that some of us need to be smacked in the head with before we recognize it.
"Photographers are your best friends"
I love this tip. I feel that most of the local photographers that I know are reluctant to share their expertise with people based on the lack of time. I have heard this excuse so many times. So I stopped asking people for help and just started doing.
I researched things myself and learned. Thank you for this awesome post.
i'm on the fence with the last one. as a project manager we call it "gold plating" i.e. adding more to the scope than what was asked for. If you feel it will help you get more business, explore and take cool shots they might not have asked for. But I've seen it 100 times, give an inch and they'll take a mile. If someone asks for some free shots additionally, it often leads to, well last time you did x and y and we didn't pay for it. So now they expect it.
Like I said, can be double edged. If you do awesome work and the client gets what they pay for, they WILL hire you again. As the writer mentioned, if it's small, takes 5 minutes, do it. Just use your judgment.
i dont get it
Highly educative and inspirational!
I wouldn't say that other photographers are best friends. I often find other photographers very rude and abusive, especially if you're young. They think that "you're just a little boy, go play with your beginner DSLR since you can't take pics..."
I think that other Pro photographers are like wolves to others. Sorry but I have to disagree with that tip, unfortunately!
One for those trying to sell fine art or wall art: photographers seldom buy prints.