Humans are the greatest adaption machines in the world. We are, by nature, made to adapt.
Put a human in any kind of stressful or competitive condition and eventually, over time, the body and mind will adapt and learn to overcome that situation. This is our superpower, and not enough people use it efficiently. I believe there are two key things needed to survive in this industry: persistence and the power to adapt/pivot. That is it.
There are many industry tips, hacks, and advice handed out on blog posts and social media alike all around the world. Most of them are usually along the lines of why a photographer switched from Nikon to Sony. But one thing I do not hear of, hardly, if ever, is pivoting. What is pivoting, and how can we use it in our photography business? A pivot is a change in strategy. It is not always a drastic change, as some people think, but it can be just one element that you switch or an area that changes direction.
When I first bought my camera seven to eight years ago, I started my little photography adventure off as an Urbex photographer. For those of you who don't know what that is, its pretty much trespassing and taking photos of decayed buildings. As I progressed, I went from Urbex to Urbex composites. This led me to horror photography, which then led me into the world of alternative model photography. I then pivoted from alt models back to horror, where I crafted my composite skills. From horror, I transitioned to movies and entertainment. Finally, I became an entertainment and advertising photographer. And recently, I have been phasing out the entertainment to focus on advertising.
Now I know what you are thinking, and it is probably that I change my mind more than a child in a toy shop with a 20-dollar birthday voucher. Trust me, I have been there, and it is a form of slow torture. But what I did was pivot my career into a specific direction. I can call it pivoting, because I was aware of what I was doing and why. It was a calculated change of strategy. And that, my friends, is what pivoting is. It is being aware of your surroundings and adapting.
I switched from alternative model photography because the industry in my area was dead. No money was trading hands. People expected free images. Looking at the larger picture, not many alternative model photographers were very successful or if they were, it was within a small circle. Now, if we want to make enough money to escape the starving artist moniker, this is probably not the best career direction to move in. Horror photography opened doors for me. I bagged one of my bigger commissions with Eli Roth's Crypt TV. But as time went on and I adapted, I learned that horror again is a niche market. The work was scaring off bigger clients, and again, the majority were in the starving artist bracket, apart from the big players in Hollywood movies. Time to pivot again, this time to movie posters and entertainment. I could still be creative, but open myself up to larger clients and bigger productions. Standing in an L.A office, being interviewed by the company that creates The Avengers posters, I thought I had cracked it. Again, over time, you learn from experience and you adapt. From the outside, this direction seemed perfect, but all is not as it seems. The larger agencies have most of the high-end jobs, and with in-house designers at their beck and call, the likelihood of being called upon does not give us the greatest odds. This leaves the independent production companies who are always trying to cut back on a budget. Resources are tight, so image assets usually sent are of very questionable quality. And you lose creative control, which more than often leads to bad art direction from a faceless person who does not care about the result. Time to pivot.
You see, each move I made was a calculated assessment of where I was and where I wanted to go. Pivoting is not about jumping from one thing to another without a care in the world. It is a thoughtful strategy tactic and one you should use more often. I took what I learned from previous strategies and brought the knowledge along with me, compounding each and every time that I adapted.
If you currently feel stuck, maybe it's time to pivot. Unhappy? Then, it is time to pivot. Broke? Then my friend, it is time to pivot. Do it as soon as you can; time waits for no one. Just be sure that when you pivot, it creates opportunities for growth. Think about where you are and where you want to go and prepare, because life is about to get really interesting.