Pratik Naik is one of the more recognizable people in the photography industry, with tutorials across numerous educational platforms. But what most people don't know about Pratik Naik is that he was never supposed to be a retoucher.
Rather than a career in the arts, high-end retoucher, educator, and photographer Pratik Naik was supposed to be a hotel manager. He was set to take over the family business by majoring in hotel management, with a minor in marketing. But, before he could settle in, his family got out of the business. It was then Naik realized that retouching, which was only a hobby at the time, could become a new source of income.
He took advantage of his education in marketing and promoted his retouching work on social media, which caught the attention of the Fstoppers team and eventually landed him his first major teaching gig with CreativeLive. Since then, Naik has been a mainstay in photography education, teaching photographers and retouchers how to make their images look amazing. He also created a series of post-production tools for the industry and regularly hosted creative retreats where members of the industry can get together, network, explore new places, and create together.
And while many photography teachers have to remain aloof from their communities in order to maintain some semblance of personal space, you can often find Naik actively engaging with the community, even on the busy show floor of conventions. He effortlessly deals with both business and networking, so it's no surprise he has a degree in management. What is a surprise is how someone who is so recognized within the industry can be so generous with their time. During the course of the interview, Naik explained why he makes himself available and talked candidly about marketing, how to deal with detractors, outsourcing, and how to network and engage with people in authentic ways that are also profitable for everyone involved.
So how does one become good at marketing? According to Naik, it’s about focusing on the people and engaging with them in honest, authentic ways. “Most of the good marketing,” Naik said, “comes down to connecting with people.”
But it's important to note that growing your business and marketing effectively isn't just a one-man show. Naik says It's best if you can reach out to your network to find people who can take over responsibilities you don’t have time for. “Don’t be afraid of asking your friends for help,” Naik said and pointed out that while the hardest part of delegation is giving up control, people will flourish in their own ways when given a chance, and bring things to the table you couldn’t have expected.
One could argue that outsourcing things like marketing or social media and business management are a luxury only those who already have a large income can afford, but Naik says that's not the case. He said that photographers are creative people, and they need to look for creative solutions to their problems. “Keep in mind that a lot of the community is interested in helping in some way, granted there is something you can give back to them.” He said photographers should not be afraid of reaching out for help, even if they don’t have the funds on hand. “You can let people know, this is what I’m looking for, and this is what I can offer you. It’s not monetary, but it’s time-based, and right now, I have more value in that to give you than money available. And that can flip to where you have more money than time available.”
Initially, such an arrangement may sound like exposure bucks, but Naik is careful to clarify that there is a difference between trading services and working for free. When two people agree to trade services, they are both getting something valuable. Those things cannot always be measured in dollars but can be measured in things like increased influence, broader community reach, trading goods or services, or growing in skill. But the largest advantage is the way these arrangements grow meaningful, advantageous friendships and networking relationships. According to Naik, this is an important concept to grasp, because if you have only yourself to rely on, it will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to ever realize your full potential. One person's time and energy only go so far, and photographers shouldn’t forget how valuable their knowledge and influence can be to others. “If you’re actually contributing and spending your time benefiting someone else in return for their time benefitting you,” he said, “then it’s an equal exchange of services.”
No matter how well you do, though, there will always be detractors, and Naik has experienced haters just like everyone else. When dealing with negative feedback, Naik says, “The only thing that really matters is do they have the experience necessary to actually communicate something worthwhile and did I ask for that opinion?” But he cautions to keep in mind that not everyone who gives negative feedback is a troll. Sometimes, people just don’t have skills in communicating or they want to engage and get your attention, but don’t go about it the right way.
Even when dealing with detractors, Naik is generous, and in the spirit of that generosity, he also shared a personal trick for advancing his skill set. “I would say the way that I actually learned most of my advanced techniques was looking at tutorials of other genres that I had no business looking at.” He would pick those tutorials apart and look for ways to fit those tools into his own workflow. This is great advice for any artist in any discipline and has clearly served Naik well over his career.
I'm incredibly grateful to every creative who joins me for these conversations and doubly grateful that Pratik took the time to share his experiences and allow us to learn more about his past. It's a powerful reminder that creative powerhouses can come from anywhere and have any background, even one in hotel management. If you’d like to learn more about Pratik Naik, you can see his retouching work on his website or follow his photography on Instagram.
All images shared with permission of Pratik Naik