While the therapist’s couch used to be the place to go to privately work things out, the keyboard now seems to be the place to go to publicly let it all hang out. What some vocal photographers don’t seem to realize though is through their keyboards they are becoming demolition experts in the destruction of their reputation and career.
Do you really want to do what’s necessary to become the best photographer you can be, or are you more drawn to the idea of being a photographer and the trappings that come with it? If you’re just beginning on your path, I think it’s a fair question to ask yourself. And it demands a soul-searching answer. In other words, as my friend Dave Black likes to say, “Are you all in?”
What types of pictures would you choose to make above all others? What kinds of subjects does your camera and soul naturally gravitate toward? And if you pursue that path, will there be people who will pay you for the resulting pictures? A former Life Magazine picture editor has some timeless advice about your career in photography.
Creating a career in photography requires long-term planning and short-term adjustments. It requires the focus to remain in demand for decades without becoming the equivalent of disco or tube tops. It requires removing the expiration date from your portfolio by finding a style that can sustain a career over the long term.
Nearly every successful photographer I know has selected at least one shooter from which to borrow, steal, sample, appropriate, or use as inspiration the lessons someone else has learned. And to be clear, it’s not their pictures that should be appropriated, it’s their wisdom. Modeling is the compass that anyone trying to navigate the business of photography will wisely use to reach their destination with as few detours as possible.
The reluctance for photographers to place emphasis on their value is often the exact thing that prevents them from having a sustainable career doing something they love. It’s a mindset that leads to photographers competing solely on price rather than competing on the superior value of their work. Negotiating value requires deliberate practice and strength, but nothing is more rewarding than hearing the client to commit to a figure that was higher than you were willing to take.