Guest Blog: Commercial and Editorial Photographer Nicola Harger
The Story of Working with Square (and how luck can play into landing your dream job)
Like all the best and very worst stories, this story begins with Twitter.
I opened my phone one morning to see that a few friends had tagged me in a long Twitter thread asking for photographer recommendations across the country by one of the creatives running socials at Square, the San Francisco-based tech company who manufacture and process credit cards though the little white credit card readers and iPad stands you see everywhere.
Given that this was such a broad ask and the list of photographers was so long already, I didn’t think much of it – I tweeted my website back, sent a thank you to my friends, and promptly forgot all about it. About a month later, I saw I had a direct message from the official Square Instagram account, asking if I was interested in taking on a project with them and if I could hop on a call in the next few days. Hello and yes!
Fast forward a few weeks, and I learned that Square had been creating a series highlighting small businesses across the country and partnering with local photographers in honor of commemorative months. I was so impressed by their dedication to storytelling for both small business and minority communities and I was instantly on board.
My dream work is when photography is combined with social issues and radical movements that I deeply care about, and that is truly what brings so much meaning and substance for me behind the camera. Our project was going to be profiling a woman owned small business to highlight Women’s History Month for March 2020, and it was so fun when Laura Lemon of Lemon Laine in East Nashville was chosen. See the full set here!
Something that isn’t talked about much in creative circles is how random it can be to land a job like this. Sometimes (honestly, often) it really comes down to luck in our industry – like being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right person, or having a friend of yours grab drinks with someone who works at x company, and they just so happen to mention that they have a new campaign where they want to hire a new photographer (enter you). Or the right designer seeing your name tagged somewhere in a shoot you did three years ago and never thought it’d see the light of day, but then you get an email about a new project with their studio because they liked the feel of the images. Or your name gets thrown out in a giant Twitter thread and somehow it sticks.
I always feel both a little bummed and relieved when people talk about luck influencing creative opportunities – it can be a partial breath of fresh air to feel like getting these big jobs is little out of my control, but also it can be incredibly frustrating to feel like all of your hard work alone isn’t getting you as far as you want it to. However, I’ve learned that there’s so much we can do to make sure both you and your work are ready for when those opportunities drop into your lap.
Three quick bullet points of advice —
- Keep showing up. As frustrating as it is that luck is a player in this game, you can make yourself as ready as possible when the right people find you. Trust that the work is good in the meantime! And continue to make it better – keep pushing, keep learning, keep developing your skill set in the meantime. And, make sure your online presence and website is ready for those people to find you — if your dream client were to land on your website today, would they see the kind of work they need in order to reach out to you? Keep going.
- Be a good hang. I stole this from my husband who always says this about the music industry, but you and your personality are just as (if not more sometimes) important as your work when a creative team is considering hiring you. Remember, if you get hired, you’re probably going to be hanging with these people on a set for hours at a time. Make sure they’re excited to be around you as a person as well as excited about your work.
- Invest in the people around you for the sake of the relationship. Are there photographers in your community that you’ve been following online for years but have never met? Reach out and connect beyond socials! Same goes for creative directors, photo producers, art buyers and more. Start with a simple email, and then see if they’re available to meet in person so you can hear more about what they do and how they do it. Not only will this absolutely lead to some great connections and maybe even a few stepping stones, but more than any of that, relationships are a meaningful life value that goes way beyond photography.
If something like this can happen to me, it can definitely happen to you. Over the last few years, I’ve found a lot of freedom in letting go of control (did I ever have it?) of trying to force my dream jobs to manifest. Instead I’m choosing to trust that if I keep showing up to the work wholeheartedly and investing into relationships in my community, these jobs will continue to show up too.
And sometimes it pays to have friends that are on Twitter more than you.