The Vital Ingredient Necessary for Your Success in Photography

The Vital Ingredient Necessary for Your Success in Photography

The more time that passes in which I am a professional photographer, the more I distill the various components that have a hand in success in this industry, revealing which are vital and which are posturing as important. Here is a component that I would consider one of the most important, if not the most important.

I read a lot. One area I consume more books, articles, and papers on than any other is business and development. That's a loose category, admittedly, and many of the books I put under this umbrella is to do with finance or even self-improvement. However, I like to make a note of concepts that either feature often or just resonate strongly with me. One which fits both categories is the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. To summarize this very briefly, a management consultant noted that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. He then named this after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who had observed the 80/20 connection at the end of the 19th century.

This idea has been molded into myriad applications and, I'm sure, applied to areas in which it just doesn't make sense. One area that it often does overlay nicely with is the efforts of your work and the rewards you receive from them. You will regularly find, should you break down the numbers enough, that around 80% of the rewards you get for your work, come from around 20% of the tasks that make up your work. Many books I have read on business development cite this principle in the attempt to highlight 80% tasks with little yield. However, there is one factor which I suspect is true of most professions, but it certainly is with photography, and it can mislead the 80/20 principle in the beginning. That factor is consistency.

The Power of Consistency

The value of consistency isn't difficult to spot if you think to look for it. Find anyone, in any niche, that you see as successful and look for the ways in which they are more consistent than you are. Many of the most successful individuals in our industry are posting to social media on a schedule, releasing new content on YouTube or their blog every few days, and ensuring they're consistently in the minds of their followers and growing. It's difficult to do, but it's crucial.

Perpetually divisive businessman and inspirational speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk, speaks highly of this sort of relentlessness in the way that he always wanted to — and still wants to — be ubiquitous with whatever area he's working in. This is a great mindset to have. I personally prefer the Malcolm Gladwell idea in "The Tipping Point" where you're working towards a moment where you build up so much momentum, it begins to carry you forward on its own. Both ways of looking at the pursuit of success sing from similar hymn sheets, and what underpins them is consistency.

But, where should you be consistent?

Consistency of Effort

Consistency in your efforts is somewhat of an umbrella term for all other consistency, but it's also relevant at a meta-level too. That is, consistently put in the same (hopefully high) amounts of effort in and avoid the natural ebbs and flows of motivation. It's never easy to keep it exact, particularly during busy periods, but avoid letting your efforts dip too much as you never know what you might miss when you're taking it easy.

Consistency of Work

I've written on this a few times before, and it is crucial for any artistic endeavor you're looking to monetize: consistency of work. What I mean by this is being able to regularly produce the same quality of the photograph, video, etc. whenever you need to. Potential clients when looking into using a photographer will value consistency as it safeguards their money to a degree. Being able to consistently produce good work, every time you need to is more appealing and more marketable than sometimes producing average work and sometimes producing excellent work. Of course, the standard of work varies from shoot to shoot; some of it will be portfolio worthy and some of it will be par for your particular course. However, aim to raise your weakest work to a good enough standard and never drop below that.

Consistency of Interaction

This is an area that many successful people in all fields promote and it's something I'm actively trying to improve at. The more discoverable you are, the more work you do, and the more content you create, the more interactions you will receive. This could be in something as simple as an Instagram comment, or it could be in the form of a carefully written email to you. Do your absolute best to reply to as many as possible, as often as possible. This sort of engagement is invaluable for growth, but admittedly one of the more difficult to keep on top of, at least in my experience.

Consistency of Analysis

I have a real penchant for analytics. I love to see what areas of my businesses are growing and by how much, what areas are struggling or being neglected, and what is the best financial return on my time. Without analyzing your performances as often as is reasonable to do, growth is hard to measure and stagnation hard to spot. Ensure you are tracking everything you can track and analyze the results.

Consistency of Improvement

Consistency in improvement follows on nicely from analysis, but it's admittedly almost a trope at this stage, but not a false one. Looking for areas of weakness and areas you can improve is a practice you ought to undertake regularly. As the old saying goes, if you're not moving forward, you're moving backward. This could also be called consistency of practice, as deliberate practice with the express interest in improving is a lot of what you would need to do, but I don't want to neglect education.

To illustrate the gains of consistency in the pursuit of improvement, here is my first ever attempt at a low-key, simple product shot of a watch. Earlier this year I had to do a similar style to show off the extra-bright lume for a watch brand. I hope as time progresses I can use the "after" shot as a "before" too.

My very first attempt at a low-key product shot of a watch.

A low-key product shot of a watch in 2020.

Are You Consistent?

What areas do you find it most difficult to be consistent in? Is there an area where you are consistent which has yielded great results? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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5 Comments

Steven Weston's picture

Great article, Robert. Consistency is a key to success. An inconsistent driver or an inconsistent car will probably DNF at Le Mans.

I was sorely reminded of my product shooting experience by your closing photographs. Kind of like it's the watch, not the watch band, and that the setting has importance also. A fine closing.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Thank you, Steven. Glad you enjoyed it. Great analogy with Le Mans.

Tom Reichner's picture

Robert K Baggs asked:
"What areas do you find it most difficult to be consistent in?"

I find it difficult to be consistent in ...... every part of my photographic endeavors. This article was quite convicting, as I represent the classic "artist" and not the classic "businessman." Almost everything I do, in all of life (not just photography) rides the ebbs and flows of motivation, energy, and enthusiasm.

When there is some wildlife to shoot, I get wildly impassioned, and my life revolves photographing the animals for as many days as they are present and present good image-making opportunities. When they move on, or take to the brush, I stop photographing them, as days afield will no longer yield quality photos.

When I get a spurt of motivation for enhancing my stock photography portfolio, I will sit for a couple hours a day at my computer, processing, uploading, submitting, and keywording images to the agencies. Then as soon as my back pain arises and it is painful to sit at the computer, my efforts stop altogether, and it may be months before I once again submit anything to the agencies.

Truth be told, I simply do not like having to direct my mind to think in a focused, disciplined manner, and would much rather just surf the internet than force myself to upload and keyword. Hence, 90% of my marketable images just sit on my hard drive, while only 10% of my images are "out there" making money for me. I have passed up on thousands upon thousands of dollars of income simply because I do not like to sit at my computer and submit images to stock agencies. It is not enjoyable, and my life is defined by doing what I enjoy, rather than doing that which will yield a return.

Robert K Baggs asked:
"Is there an area where you are consistent which has yielded great results?"

I can be very consistent ..... for short periods of time. LOL. I suppose that is oxymoronic. But when there is wildlife to photograph, and it presents quality photographic opportunities, I give a very consistent and extreme effort to be out there from dawn to dusk, every minute of every day (when the light is favorable), day after day after day,

I photograph Whitetail Deer for a full month, every year in the autumn during their rut (mating season). I do lots of research all throughout the summer so that I know which place in the U.S. will offer the best deer photo opportunities, then I travel to that destination in October or November, and spend the entire month photographing the deer. I am out there in the woods and meadows every day before the crack of dawn, and I do not leave until the sun sets. Every single day. For 30 to 32 days straight. My only purpose is to photograph the deer (and the other wildlife that inhabits their environs), and I do not waver from that purpose whatsoever.

This month-long dedication and consistency has yielded many quality images, and there is no way I would have all of those images if I did not exercise the consistency of effort that I do. I am only able to be so consistent and to maintain that level of effort because I am so excited and impassioned about Whitetail Deer. If it wasn't so exciting, then there is no way I would stick it out for so long. I live by passion and enthusiasm, not by discipline.

Pedro Calado's picture

Very good topic and insight! Top one!

Timothy Roper's picture

"Double down & triple down on your strengths"--Gary Vee. I think if you do that, the rest will follow and show through. No sense in being consistent with something that's not going to work out.