Monday, June 15, 2009

Do professional photographers love their job?

Pierre, framer and artist, Ostend, Belgium.

“Photography is my passion,” is an often used phrase. I’ve noticed that many amateurs are particularly enthusiastic about being photographers and dream of turning professional.

But when you look at a survey like the one done by the reality of being a professional photographer hits home. You may be forgiven, after reading professional photographer’s blogs that every single one of them is as happy as pig in the mud. However in the survey which rated the top 200 careers photography only came in at number 125 behind jobs like bookkeeper (39), librarian (43), typest/wordprocessor (54), cashier (110) and telephone operator (115).

“Moving further down the rankings reveals an eclectic mix of jobs which either suffer from intense physical demands, such as veterinarians and construction machinery operators, or, as in the case of photographers, post mediocre scores in work environment and stress while offering exceptionally low pay,” writes

So having established that once you become a professional photographer life is not necessarily a bed of roses let’s take a look at what I think is the essential difference between those in the profession doing a job to put food on the table and those who are living the dream.

For me the fundamental differentiator is loving what you do. Through circumstances you may currently be doing wedding photography and you’re stressed out, tired and doing your best to deliver high quality work, but deep down you’re not loving it, and you’d far rather be photographing your favourite sport or fashion, or something else. Or it may be the other way round and you’re currently shooting fashion but long to get out of that slightly unreal world and work with ordinary people and share their emotions on the biggest day of their lives, their wedding, so you like to be a wedding photographer.

Every one of us is drawn to something in particular and the trick to being happy in what you do is to recognize what that is and then work towards making your job all about the photography you love to do.

The benefits are exponential because once you’re doing something you love you’ll be more enthusiastic, more dedicated and you’ll get better at it and more clients will want your work.

If you’re a professional photographer and you don’t love it then for heavens sake go and do something else. Follow your dream! And of course the same goes for photographers not currently shooting what they love. I urge you to do everything you can to rekindle the passion and love for what you do on a daily basis. It will bring you enthusiasm, energy and enhance the quality of your work.

Take the first small step soon. Go make a picture of something you love.
I don’t follow trends. I don’t chase after the latest money making ideas. I do what I love. It’s the only way to get ahead. I’d rather be making trends than following them.

Till soon,


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Achieving success through improving communications

It’s never been easier to communicate; phone, email, text, instant messaging and traditional post. Information flows freely back and forth in blogs, magazines, tweets, forums, websites, podcasts and videos – the channels are many and varied.

However when I look at what is communicated I wonder about the real value of much of this information. When someone announces on twitter that they had a cheese sandwich and cup of coffee for lunch, I have to ask, “Who on earth cares?” I certainly don’t. By the way I plucked this example from thin air, so if you tweeted about your lunch please don’t take it personally.

Then there’s the endless regurgitating and recycling of information. I just did a quick search on Google for the ‘golden mean in photography’ and got 1,280,000 hits. Anyone who thinks they can add anything of value by writing about this topic again needs their head examined – total waste of time. But I bet right now there are people researching the golden mean by reading some of those articles and then paraphrasing them and rewriting the same stuff which has probably been written 20 times better in the past.

I know I’ve done this too but from now on I resolve to try to tackle things from a fresh and original perspective. I want to contribute something of value – not just add to the noise.

The other thing that bothers me is the quality of writing we are subjected to these days. The internet enables anyone to publish their words without the benefit of the slightest editorial control. Correct grammar and punctuation have become alien arts. People forget that there are reasons for rules and conventions. While I am not a language purist by any means I do recognize that the purpose of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation is to enhance the clarity of the message the writer is trying to communicate.

The reason why professional writers are successful is because they use language effectively to communicate ideas clearly – and that means conforming to the rules or bending them in a way that does not detract from the clarity of the message.

I receive numerous emails from students wanting to work with my company. Often their punctuation is poor, they don’t use capitals, their grammar is appalling and there are loads of spelling errors. In the worst cases they use phone text abbreviations. They forget that all I have to judge them on is a few sentences. What do I see? The student doesn’t care about making a good impression, can’t be bothered to put the effort in and pays no attention to getting detail right. Would I give them a chance ahead of someone who shows more diligence? No I would not.

The same logic applies to others who are trying to market their services. For example I often see photographer’s websites with appalling language errors. Again it indicates to me a lack of care and poor attention to detail. Immediately alarm bells start ringing. Would I trust an expensive shoot to this person? Not likely.

On the other hand I have tremendous empathy with people for whom English is not their first language. It’s a huge challenge to communicate in a foreign language and I can only praise their efforts.

Ultimately I believe that readers appreciate a carefully crafted and well written piece. The writer’s reward for putting the extra effort into their writing will be readers who are prepared to match their effort with their own effort to understand the ideas the writer is trying to communicate.

Success as a writer or photographer is far more likely if you communicate something of interest to your audience with absolute clarity.

Till soon,

Follow me on twitter