As equally important to success in photography as knowing your camera, equipment and light – and being a good marketer – is developing within yourself an attitude of success. It’s something that separates and elevates the photographers that are popularly admired today including Chase Jarvis, Jasmine Star and Joe McNally, to name a few.
I wanted to use this post to give extra attention to two skills I think sometime see less awareness than other components of photography – kindness and hard-work. Combined, the two are an incredibly powerful force. The reason behind this post came after asking a few Facebook fans what I could help them with from my own experiences as I continue to forge my own path into the professional arena. The overwhelming response was, “How to make a buck with a camera.”
The variety of marketing plans and methods to get your work seen where it will sell, seems as varied as each photographer. Social media, hard portfolios, promo cards, word-of-mouth and more all fit into the puzzle. All important information to know, but to answer this question what I really wanted to hone down on was the principles of successful people, and how you can bring them into your own photography.
Give more to get more
On January 20, 1961, American President John F. Kennedy took to the podium for his inaugural address and delivered a phrase that holds a deeper meaning as a core principle of success – “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” In essence, instead of simply seeking out how other people can help you, learn how you can help others. Apply it to your photography. By doing so, I guarantee it will open new doorways for you.
Personally, it has given me an incredible amount of opportunities in a very short time period, and the chance to have a dialogue with many of the photographers I admire most. What I’ve taken from those conversations and opportunities has been invaluable. What I’ve also found pretty consistent among those photographers I admire most is they want to know how they can help me as well. It’s an attitude that’s served them well throughout their careers. Apply it to yours.
Show up to every job
Here is the crux. Be prepared and ready to deliver the help you offered with hard work and enthusiasm. Take a moment to reflect and be ready with a great attitude. Be persistent in following-up, but don’t be a pest either. If you offer to help a photographer, art director or someone else you admire, be sure you can actually deliver on that offer! Don’t propose to assist a photographer and then flake on the day of. Consider your chance with this photographer or team blown for good if you do. Prove you are good to your word and prepare to be there with your A+ game.
The same goes x10 for any client you book. These are the people or groups putting out their hard earned money for your product. Earn it. That small $500 client may be connected to a buyer or newly engaged couple that has the potential to book you for a $5,000 wedding or $25,000 commercial job. People pass along the word when you deliver not only a great product, but a great experience as well. Don’t just be there, show up for them.
Position yourself in ways to give back
It’s unrealistic to expect to get accepted by every photographer you ask to assist or art director you’d like to work for. These are incredibly busy people and the higher up the “food chain” they are, the more often they receive offers from enthusiastic and good-natured people just like you. Or you may just not fit the mold of what they’re looking for. Don’t be discouraged. Find some way to stand out amongst the pack. Always ask yourself, “What is it that’s unique about me that I can bring to this client or team?” Pursue the opportunities that will put you in a position to help or just say, “Thanks.” Give without any expectation of receiving.
One of those opportunities allowed me to get in contact with a photographer who has been a big inspiration behind my own work, Nick Onken. Being a writer for Digital Photography School has given me the chance to review his upcoming book, Photo Trekking, as my thanks for the great information I’ve learned from reading his blog. If you’re interested in the world of commercial and travel photography his blog is a must read.
Opportunities like this are available to each and every one of you if you search for them. Believe it! Being an arm-chair activist won’t get you there though; seek out the positions or unique skills that will elevate your game wherever you can.
Learn from Conan
Be open, be engaging and be kind. Good things come to good people who treat others well and live positively. I firmly believe that. You’ll notice you admire your favorite photographers not only because of their great work, but because they are genuinely great people too. We gravitate towards individuals who bring the right energy and attitude each and every day.
Conan O’Brien said it best. “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”
Work hard, be kind and soon you will find yourself on the path to both photographic and personal success.