Raising the Industry Bar
Raising the industry bar.
Today’s photography world is burgeoning with Do-it-yourselfers, like most industries, trying to save themselves a dollar by skipping hiring a professional. And why not? Today camera’s are so sophisticated, I believe, you could give a camera to anyone…..regardless of their age…..put it on auto, F22, multi-shot, and just let them go…..Let them take 100 shots of any event in 10 seconds….I bet there is an breath taking shot in there somewhere….what do you think? So what are we to do? Many people ask me…”Greg, what shutter-speed should I use? “What ISO do you think is the best?”And I reply: “What kind of image are you trying to create?” So I am asking you (the photographer) Is it about the settings? Is it about the camera gear? So many times people see a beautiful image and the first thing they say is “what kind of camera do you use?” and thats all they care about. I am here to tell you that it is not about the camera or what settings you use….it is all about you…..you make the difference. In today’s photographic world how do we separate ourselves from someone that just happens to be holding a camera? If we as photographers want to raise the bar we need to keep it fresh and differentiate ourselves.
Staying “Fresh”, I believe, is underrated and yet one of the most crucial ingredients of being a successful photographer, especially in West Michigan. We are living in an economy where every penny counts and our potential clients in West Michigan today do not have the disposable income they did 10 years ago. So how do we stay fresh in an area that by nature is very conservative and currently going through a down economy? There are three key things, I believe, that will help keep you fresh: be different, stop, look & listen and push the envelope.
So how do you differentiate your self from everyone else? I will give you an example, The “blue bridge” in downtown Grand Rapids. For anyone not familiar with the blue bridge….it is a pedestrian bridge (which is blue) right between the Van Andel museum and the L.V. Eberhard Center at Grand Valley State University. On any given Saturday you will surely find at least one if not two or three or six wedding photographers down there (I might be one of them). But think to yourself…what can I do to be fresh and different from everyone else that comes here week in and week out? It is very simple…just shoot differently. Think of every possible angle…every combination…every different type of lighting technique…think of shooting a different bridge…Shoot the green bridge or the rusty bridge by the railroad tracks and hit it! I mean, hit the ground running…have tons of energy…believe me, your clients will really feed off of that…Remember….Everyone wants to be unique. They do not want their photos to look anything like the ones you shot last week.
What do you mean Greg, to stop, look & listen? I mean, we live in such a conservative area, we need to STOP what we are doing, LOOK at the trend setters and LISTEN to our clients. We don’t need to just get out of our comfort zones (stop what is routine)…..we need to get rid of them all together! Almost every magazine that is on the newsstands has high-end high-fashion in them. The photographers that shoot for these magazines are on both coasts and overseas. They are your trendsetters. What are they doing? How can we do what they are doing? How can we make it better? Lastly we need to listen to our clients. What do they want? What are they looking for in their photographs? They want to look the best they have ever looked in their life. They want to be unique and stand out from the crowd. Brides especially want their wedding day to be a fantasy….our job is to amplify that fantasy!
Push the envelope? What do you really mean anyway? How do we do that? My meaning is….do not be afraid to ask for something…you just might get it! Sometimes when shooting you might do or say something and people might think: “what a weirdo”….but I say, so what? I say, make fun of yourself…have a great and goofy time. The more you loosen up the more your clients will do the same. I will make a fool of myself all day if I have to in order to get the shots that I want to get. I know that sometimes we might think to ourselves, “I would love to do this or that with my client but I know they won’t want to…I say, ask away! The worst thing they are going to do is say no. More times then not, if you ask them to do something they will. Especially if you have made them feel comfortable and confident with you.
Also, I want you to think about sacrifice and inspiration. Do not sacrifice your quality because of the economy we are in. A poor economy should not equal a poor product.. There are so many different labs out there. So many different places to go to get different products for your clients. You have tremendous options to choose from. Remember that in the image industry; image Is Everything! No matter how wrong it might be….the product you deliver is going to be a direct reflection of you and the rest of the industry.
Stay inspired folks; it will benefit you, your business and the rest of our industry. Think of a photographer whose work you admire. You could be intimidated by them but why not be inspired by them? The next time you are shooting, ask yourself, what would (fill in the blank) do in this situation? So many times we fall into the trap of who is the best. And sometimes we defeat ourselves or berate ourselves by thinking “I am not as good as so and so”…or we get caught up in thinking we are better than someone….Photography is such a subjective industry that there really is no such thing as the best. Know you are good at what you do, teach those who are not as far as you, learn from those ahead of you. And don’t bring anyone down in the process.
So when getting ready for your next shoot…keep in mind that it is not about the camera or what settings you use….it is all about you…..you make the difference. Remember to hit the ground running…have tons of energy. Know that people want to be unique and they want to look different from you last client. And remember to keep it fresh: be different, stop, look & listen and push the envelope. Together lets raise the bar of our passion.
Until next time……