The Power of the Pivot

The Power of the Pivot

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.

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12 Comments

Terry Wright's picture

Are cockroaches not more adaptive than humans?

I don't think so. They don't adapt to their environment so much as are already made to thrive in so many environments.

Przemek Lodej's picture

The first sentence is absolutely laughable. Without technology, clothes, tools and fire we are nothing. Trying to explain this is pointless.

John Koster's picture

And who made the tech, clothes, tools and fire? Hello?

Timothy Gasper's picture

My God...you're kidding - right? Have never in my life seen or heard of any other animal creating fire, clothes, technology, etc by themselves. Only humans. How's that for adapting.

Przemek Lodej's picture

My point exactly. We can't exist without clothing because we'll freeze or burn. We can't live without technology because we wouldn't be able to navigate from one city to another. Some people can't do simple math without a calculator, how sad. We couldn't live without fire because we'd freeze. Animals on the other hand are born into their environment genetically programmed to cope with it. We are NOT. That was my point.

You do realise there are many people in the world living without these things. In terms of evolution we haven't changed from our hunter gatherer days. Humans as a whole are survival experts. Individual humans can be dumb as a post.

Or, for the smart ones live in a place where they won't freeze or burn. If one doesn't care about navigating from city to city it doesn't matter. You aren't making the point you think you are. The point you made is humans have adapted SO damn well that they have essentially defeated natural selection.

Timothy Gasper's picture

I understand what you're saying, but your latter statement says it all..."Animals on the other hand are born into THEIR environment....." That's the point. Take them out of their environment and see how long they last. Man is the only species that can adapt successfully to any environment on our planet.

Timothy Gasper's picture

As for..."genetically programmed to cope with it." We humans are 'genetically programmed to cope with it' via our genetically programmed intelligence.

Brett Blignaut's picture

We can survive without all this stuff, we have done it all already, how do you think we got here to begin with?

If an animal is not adaptable to an environment, it will not be found there. The environment comes first, then the animals.