In the past 10 years I was able to work and see the industry from so many different perspectives: as a celebrity shooter, as a photography writer, as a photo-consumer and as an agency photographer. All these years I have heard so many tips and so many "rules." You know, stuff like "know who came before you," or "it's not about the equipment." Now It's my turn to give tips - and mine are way weirder.
Now, before I start, it's important to say that some of these tips may not relate to you personally. But they are all things I believe in, things I learned along the years and things that helped me with my business.
Think in the shower*
Being a photographer that shoots on location everyday, and then come home and sit in front of the computer for many hours everyday responding to emails, uploading photos, captioning images, updating social media, editing, watching videos, reading articles and on top of that talk on the phone with potential clients, it’s very easy to forget many of the tasks needed to be done.
Sometimes I feel like the only place I can really think is in the bath. The only place no one is going to occupy my mind with random emails, or facebook notifications. No one will be able to call, and no one will ask me anything. It’s the only place I can just think. The bath for me is the place I usually remember so many things I needed to do and forgot. I suddenly remember I had to send an invoice to someone, or reply to a new potential client i totally forgot about.
*Bath is my place to think clearly - for you it may be the bed, or the bus with your iPod. But the idea is the same. Find that place, and use it.
Photographers Are Your Best Friends, Not Your Competition
Many photographers I know treat other photographers as a direct competition and nothing more. They will stay away from many of them because they feel like they are competing against each other, and that’s a big mistake. Yes, we’re all in the same market competing for the same (or similar) clients, we’re all trying to book the same great gigs and we all want to become successful, more than anyone else of course.
But this is all false. Photographers are your best friends. I can’t even tell you how much help I got from my photography friends in the past few years - from helping with lending equipment I needed, to sending clients my way. I can say that about 50% (if not more) of my paid gigs come from other photographers I’m "competing" with. Yes, we are from the same industry, same niche, and even many times from the same location. But we still help each other, and both sides win.
Any time I get a gig I can’t shoot, instead of just saying to the client “sorry, I cant. Next time”, I always respond something like “Sorry, I can’t this time, but I would highly recommend ____ for this job”. This way I know my client is happy, and I know I helped a friend make some more money. I know he’ll do the same next time he can’t shoot.
Stop treating other photographers as a competition. Your only competition is you.
Take the time to imagine
Doesn't matter how much equipment you have or how much experience you have, you can never fully anticipate what is going to happen on the set of your photo shoots. You can plan, write tasks, even draw mock-ups. But here is something probably no one ever told you before: imagine.
Just sit back, close your eyes, and imagine. Picture your set, what could be done to make it work better. Imagine how your talent/model/client might act and what you can possibly do to make it work. Imagine the final result you’re trying to get.
My favorite basketball player ever once said that other than practicing for hours everyday, and learning anything he could about the next opponent, he would just sit back once in a while and just imagine playing. Imagine new moves, imagine how he could maybe crossover Michael Jordan or shoot over Shaq. He then came to the court with many new ideas and unique movements, and was able to make his imagination a reality. It’s no different in photography.
Stop forcing yourself to be inspired from photography
Too many photographers I talk to keep telling me that they look at fellow photographers work to get inspiration. In most cases it’s not inspiration, it’s just stealing ideas. If you ask me, you should look for your inspiration elsewhere. Looking at other people’s work is great, but to a point.
People always ask me to name photographers who inspire me. There are none. Don’t get me wrong, I love many photographers and their work. I enjoy looking at their work, but none of them inspire me. So where I get my inspiration from? Personally I get it from music. I get my inspiration listening to Queen, Michael Jackson or The Beatles. They make me think, they make me ponder different ideas.
Find what really inspires you. The fact you’re a photographer doesn't mean you have to force yourself to be inspired by photographers. It might be movies or sports. Maybe reading and maybe watching theater shows. Find what really stimulates your brain and creativity. I think it’s healthier and better for your work. Don’t copy ideas, create them.
Money Is Time; Do more than expected
Many times I hear how photographers proudly claim how they don’t do ANYTHING other than what they signed on. If the client is requesting anything, small or big, that was not discussed ahead of time, they ask for more money, or refuse to do it. Some people see it as a money-making decision. But in most cases it’s not the way things work. Of course you might make $100 more that day, but good chances you won’t get the the client again. So is the $100 worth more than the $5000 you'll make over a longer period of time?
I’m not telling you to double your workload for free, or retouch additional 300 photos for free. But if the client wants you to stay for additional 30 minutes, or snap few more photos on top of what you already did, just do it. Don’t make a fuss over every random request. Do more than expected.
In many of my shoots, aside from the discussed images, I try to get photos of things that I know might be helpful for the client. So what if they never requested them? It takes few minutes of my time, and in the end of the day I know my client will be happy. Happy clients come back. Stop thinking about the money you’ll make today, start thinking about the money you’ll make over time.
People keep saying "Time Is Money." That's true. But in my opinion people should also think about the opposite: "Money Is Time." Take the time to do your work in the best possible way. If you rush things just to save time, it will show. Spend the time to edit, spend the time to shoot. Time Is Money, but Money Is Time. Find the balance.