Guest Blog: Product/Still Life Photographer Tom Medvedich
The Gary Vee Quote That Changed My Life
It’s been four years since my last Guest Blog– wow, does time fly! A lot has changed for me since 2014. I went from shooting personal projects in my mom’s garage in Jersey, to getting my first real studio in Brooklyn in 2016, and now I’m moving into a studio that’s twice the size of the first one. Let’s examine what simple, yet impactful changes I made that might help you move in the right direction as well.
My last post focused on why you shouldn’t put yourself in a box and why you should be able to shoot across multiple disciplines in terms of portraiture, product, etc. Well… I’m back to say that we should rethink that concept. As time went on, it became increasingly clear to me that the big name photographers really specialized in one, two, or even three categories. While I was staying busy with shooting both product and portraits, I felt that I’d be able to take my career to the next level if I did in fact pick a lane and stay in it. Art buyers are very busy and they’re looking for a quick solution to their “who’s going to shoot this project” question. The answer is usually that they want the _____ photographer. (Fill in the blank… splash, sports, food, etc.)
Around that time, I heard a quote from Gary Vaynerchuck in which he more or less said that people should spend less time trying to get better at their weaknesses, and instead should be tripling down on their strengths. Find the thing you love, and get tunnel vision. Wow. That had me scratching my head. I gave it a ton of thought and, as much as I loved photographing people, I felt that it was time to refresh my site and drop the portraits altogether. I switched from Aphotofolio to Squarespace and was able to choose a layout that displayed my existing work in a whole new way, which actually made it look like a whole new body of work.
The great thing about dropping the portraits, was that potential clients would only see still life images and understand that I was focused on that, but my existing clients knew that I could shoot people. I also built a hidden link with a gallery of portraits to easily show any potential clients that might be curious if I could shoot portraits as well. Once you have a rapport with a client, it’s much easier to say “Hey, I also shoot ____, ya know!” And there will be more trust that you can execute the images.
I decided that I would focus on beverages, cosmetics, and jewelry. Tunnel vision. What was the worst that could happen? I could always add the other galleries back. It was time to create some new work. So my friend and I did some cosmetic testing in my studio and I posted it on Instagram. Shortly after, I was hired to shoot some projects for Covergirl and Maybelline. I also did some splash testing with beverages and it led me to shoot for The Fat Jewish’s wine brand.
In addition to narrowing your focus and specializing, I would also strongly recommend that you shoot what you love. Yes, you can shoot food, alcohol, etc. and make a ton of money. But if your heart’s not in it, it will be apparent in your work and your attitude on set. What excites you? What type of shoots do you daydream about? Be honest and embrace the things that turn you on, and steer clear of things that you don’t want to shoot. (And just to be clear, I’m not saying to turn down work and suffer. I’m talking about testing and trying to acquire new clients and jobs.)
Outside of photography, my hobby is collecting pocket knives. I started an Instagram account for it called @notoriousedc just to see what would happen. I quickly gained thousands of followers, outpacing my photography account in a matter of months, and I’m now over 31,000 followers in just a couple of years of posting. I ended up landing the biggest knife company on the planet, Victorinox, as one of clients and they have been absolutely amazing to work with. I think my passion for the hobby really came through in my photos, as well as my engagement with other members of the community. In turn, that helped build the following and kept me super excited to make the hobby a more serious creative outlet.
I truly believe that putting your passion in the spotlight will make you way more excited to create new and better work. I’m super excited to dive much deeper and develop some new skills. I want to build on my body of work, as well as shooting some new personal work and also get into motion. Now that I’ve narrowed my focus, I feel excited about photography all over again. Staying in only a few lanes has really helped me think of new concepts and lighting techniques. I attribute this to not being scatterbrained and being able to concentrate on these specific areas. There is that old phrase, ‘the jack of all trades and the master of none.’ It’s got some validity to it. I’d love to hear what you guys think about this approach. Please feel free to drop me a line on Instagram @tommedvedich!