Confessions (and plans)
#TravelTuesday has come around again, and in these times, there’s less travel and more Tuesday. I’m Dave Williams and this week, I have some confessions.
First up, here are two truths: –
#1 – You are not stuck at home, you are safe at home.
#2 – Instagram is a lie.
Let me elaborate. During this time when we are unable to travel, Instagram is demonstrating that it is a version of reality, and not reality itself. It is a way for us to show our art and creativity, but the “time-stamp” element is removed. Instagram is not so much showing us the now; it is showing us the past. It’s much deeper than that, too. Instagram for the majority is a social media, but for us photographers, it’s a shop window. It’s our facility to show ourselves to the world, and that is part of a struggle we constantly face—showing ourselves.
To get booked and commissioned we need clients, and we find those clients in a variety of ways, but it’s certainly fair to say that Instagram has a lot to do with it, particularly with the popularity of micro-influencing. Personally, I don’t just get clients from Instagram, I also utilise Instagram for those clients. But it all starts somewhere, and each successful photographer has a backstory from which they’ve learned valuable lessons about their craft. Here’s some of my story:
We are all struggling. Learning to become a pro photographer and basing an income on it is not all it’s imagined to be. It’s a long, hard slog. First up on the list of reality checks is that it’s actually far less about photography than you’d think. You have far less freedom than you’d think. A lot of photography work is seasonal—think weddings, schools, landscapes, and the like. Maintaining a certain level of work across all the seasons, and dedicating the time to marketing your portfolio and reaching out to clients, you’re likely to achieve greater success, but it will consume your time.
Something that always comes up, and which I’ve seen firsthand even with some of the best photographers I know, is a lack of self-confidence. In certain light, people are happy to call their business a business, but in others, they aren’t. There’s a niggling intimidation in certain company or certain arenas, which drains our confidence (and sometimes our creativity) and even makes us afraid to invest in ourselves. In extreme circumstances, it can even make us want to give up. This tends to be a problem at the start of our profession, but that’s not at all exclusive—it can happen at any time. As I said, some seriously good vets still doubt their work, and a certain level of this doubt is good. Look at it from a Betari Box point of view: we should have the correct level of competence and confidence, and not let confidence outweigh competence.
This lack of confidence caused by self-doubt can be overcome. The first question to ask yourself if this sounds familiar is this: –
What are you losing by not solving the problem?
The longer the situation runs on, and the longer we suffer a lack of creativity or self-belief, the harder it will be to remedy. By not solving the problem, we face a potential loss of clients or prospective clients. We can start to focus on gaining more appropriate clients (read: better clients) by getting better at sending out the right message to show what we’re actually providing. This can be the correct marketing or an effective website. The message we need to send is not only that we’re competent, but that we have value through every stage from planning through to post-production. Attracting and working with better clients is ultimately the goal with this, and the value we provide is the big point we need to put across in order to attract the right clients.
Pro photographers tend to have this nailed, but getting to this point led every one of them down the same path where self-doubt was present and they all hid behind their gear. We will all profess to you that “the best camera is the one you have,” but we all know why we say that, and we heard it, too. Photographers often feel that maybe they aren’t going to be able to produce a quality result because they have the wrong gear. Here’s a secret that my experience has taught me: there will always be a better camera! No matter which camera you have, a better camera with better specs, will be out there, and although the camera does a grand job, it doesn’t beat the job being done by the person holding it. That’s right, the best thing about any camera is the six inches behind it. It’s evident in just a little look at the non-photography world—we all know this one. It’s the people who ask what camera we have when we show them a photo they like. Most of us have learned to just answer the question and take the compliment, but it’s obviously not about the camera, it’s about who took the photo. Some of my favourite photos were taken on my iPhone.
Build your brand and your confidence (in line with your competence). Use this lockdown time to work out a business model and marketing strategy that demonstrates your value and will grow your career in photography.