Quick Tip: Lean in to Your Weaknesses as a Photographer

Quick Tip: Lean in to Your Weaknesses as a Photographer

What is the one part of your photography business that you enjoy the least? The one aspect that, while necessary, bores the living daylights out of you. Now, what if instead of trying to avoid that thing, you instead chose to lean in to the activity and make it your own?

If you’ve had a chance to read any of my essays in the past, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard me refer to my fitness routine as a major influence on my approach to business. Not because I desire to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, but because I often find so many parallels between the lessons I needed to learn to reclaim my fitness and the lessons I needed to learn to stake a claim with my photography career. Well, I have one more thought experiment for you today. It's a quick one, but one that I find useful.

Think for a moment about your own workout. What are the exercises that you enjoy the most? What are the exercises that you enjoy the least? What are your go-to moves? The exercises that you never tire of that you perform every time you slip into your gym sneakers. What moves do you avoid like the plague? While it may seem counterintuitive, it is highly likely that those exercises you least enjoy are precisely the exercises you need to do more. Conversely, those exercises you enjoy the most, you could probably afford to skip every now and then. Why on earth would I do that, you might ask. The answer is to grow.

Our bodies are much smarter than we are. It can master even the most challenging of movements given proper training and effort. Over time, as we repeat that movement over and over again, it will begin to learn how to make the move easier. The body will become more efficient, it will learn how to recruit (often without us noticing) participation from other muscle groups to contribute to the lift, and it will learn how the cheat its angle here or there to ease the motion.

Suddenly those burpees that used to kick your butt now seem like just a warmup. You make sure to include them in every workout because you know about their fat burning potential and remember how much weight you lost when you first started doing them. Only thing is, despite dutifully sticking to the same routine, lately you haven’t really lost any weight.

Meanwhile, you absolutely hate running. Ever since you were in grade school wheezing uncomfortably through braces and a reversible P.E. uniform, the absolute last thing you ever wanted to do was run for more than ten seconds at a time. This phobia has extended itself into adulthood, and while you run a bit here and there just to say you’ve done it, that part of your workout is always the first to go when time gets tight.  

But even you have to admit that every time you do manage to drag yourself out onto the open road, you suddenly find your waistline a bit slimmer in the days that follow.

Is it because running is a superior exercise to burpees? No. It’s because your body isn’t used to it. The muscle memory isn’t as developed for a task you perform once in awhile as it is for something you do everyday out of habit. So, every time you go for a long run, you body is essentially having to “figure it out.” It is having to figure out which muscles it needs to recruit to complete the task. If it doesn’t have the muscles, it starts to build the muscles so that it will be more prepared for the next time. In short, it grows.

Growth, either in the gym or in the photo studio, requires us to develop muscles through training and repetition. Mastering a particular move isn’t enough. If we hope to continue to grow and succeed, we have to then find ways to make the task harder. To become a complete athlete or a complete photographer we then have to put an equal amount of effort into developing in the areas where we are weak in addition to dwelling in places we are strong.

Once you’ve mastered a certain lighting technique, now would be the time to try out a different modifier with which you have little experience. Strong behind the camera, but weak on the business front? Time to spend a bit less time coming up with test shoots and devote more time to perfect your cold calling. Booking shoots, but slacking in your bookkeeping which leads to lost revenue? Dedicate a bit of time each week to learning more about accounting.

It may not be fun. But strengthening the areas where we are weakest will more often than not produce the greatest results.  

Think about your own business. What are the tasks you know are necessary but always find yourself trying to avoid? What are those things you know you need to do, but delegate as little time to accomplish as possible?  

Now ask yourself, what would happen if you offered even 10 more minutes each day to those tasks? How could developing those muscles help your business grow? How could being strong in all areas, not just the ones you like the most, put you on the path to success?

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Bernd Stoeckl's picture

That is the most hilarious advise I red for a long time.
Your weakness is always in connection to your strengths.
It is a known fact that if you concentrate on your strengths you will progress much faster - plus you will enjoy it and get great results.
Someones weakness has to do with their abilities and talents - and not necessary laziness.
If you truly listen to yourself and reflect your work you identify what you enjoy and what is easy for you - and THAT is what you should prevail - of course my humble opinion after sixty years of life only.

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

Actually, I felt he made valid points. It's not necessarily laziness that leads us to certain actions and routines. Even being busy can be sort of a blessing and a curse, at least to me. It can be tempting to rely on the "greatest hits" rather than learning by exploring new things.

Bernd Stoeckl's picture

There is a difference in exploring new things - which you cannot be bad in because you never did it - would you agree - or improving your weak side which are very obviously not your talent.

Elan Govan's picture

I would add access as a contributory factor in slowing down progress and skill level. My mother in law lives in a small village in Devon UK . Her village broadband is so slow it is not worth its name. No amount of abilities and talent will fix that in a hurry. Wise to look at all factors.

true. My weakness is TIME, time it takes to set up a shot, I always feel insecure about telling my client to wait while I change something, move something, adjust something, because some cheaper low budget places are all set up and ready at a moments notice, but MY results are far better than someone who takes less time, I'm sure. " why do you need a seven foot umbrella, cant you just use a phone ?"

" why do you need a seven foot umbrella"," can't you just use a phone ?"