WHY BEING GOOD IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH, by Sarah Williams
7 December 2017
Let’s face it, the competition is fierce. There’s no denying that being an artist in any form is a tough path to take. To be working in the world of visuals you have to be passionate about it. If you want to succeed you cannot be half hearted.
If you are lucky enough to be making money, I salute you. Because photographers these days are expected by clients to do a lot more for less. This can really detract from being creative which is why, I suspect, you got into this in the first place.
You can create the best work out there, produce the most beautiful heart stopping images, but if no-one knows they are there, what is the point because without recognition there is no money and you have no business. One way of getting recognised is to work with others. I’m becoming more and more of a believer that we are in a world of collaborating. Collectives are popping up everywhere. People are much more willing to share, not only their images, but their contacts, their expertise and their experiences. It’s more about joining forces than competing.
Photography is fundamentally a creative industry, be it fashion, advertising or editorial. Being creative and creating images that are A) beautiful & B) you’re proud of is definitely something worth shouting about. You never know when you are going to meet your next big client, and turn what you thought was an insignificant interaction into the biggest commission of your life.
Commissioners come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just art buyers and picture editors. It can now be driven by creative teams, PR companies and more frequently, brands, who are commissioning directly. Because these commissions can come in any form, in such different areas, you need to be present on all the different platforms where they might be looking.
On top of this, you need to be a nice person. If you Google ‘Why are photographers so…’ the most searched term is ‘arrogant’. Luckily I don’t see much of that, but that’s because commissioners won’t stand for that attitude, certainly not in the commercial world. Everyone wants to work with people who are easy to get on with.
I see a remarkable difference between people who are savvy enough and somehow have the time and energy to use every conceivable platform available to put themselves out there, (be that, creating a zine, finding content for their Instagram, updating Facebook, regularly contribute to a blog, attending events and meeting people in order to show their work) and the ones that don’t. The ones who do undoubtedly get more work. They are more present.
Ultimately, it is self promotion and if you work for yourself, you need to be your own brand and PR manager. Never forget, you are a brand and that’s what people are buying into when they invest in you.
A vast amount can be done from the comfort of your studio. These days, you can create an entire reputation and persona without actually slipping out of your bathrobe or leaving the house. Your brand having an online presence is as important as seeing people face to face. If you can do both, then you’re winning.
I’m fully aware that being creative and focussing on your work is a full time job and if you happen to be shooting all the time or have a family, then when on earth do you have time to create a zine? The answer is simple. Get help. There are scores of uni students out there who are tech savvy and keen to learn. I promise it’ll pay off. Not only will it help you give something back to the industry it leaves you to focus on doing what you do best. Shooting.
Going back to my earlier point about using every conceivable platform; having a website or portfolio filled with your Taylor Wessing winning shots is not enough. I’m not just talking specifically about photographers here. If you work for yourself, if you’re an artist, an agent, a small company, we all need to be doing more to be seen. And the lovely thing is, everything we need to put ourselves out there is literally at our fingertips.
That’s not to say portfolios are dead. They are very much alive and it’s important to keep them up to date and relevant with your most recent work. A portfolio is a gateway for potential buyers, who’s next step will be to go straight to your website, Instagram and Google you.
Something that has always made my mind boggle; Vincent Van Gogh only sold 1 painting in his lifetime. Which is staggering, because today 4 of the 21 most expensive paintings ever sold are by Van Gogh. I can’t help feeling if he had the equivalent tools we’re lucky enough to have today and was willing to use them to promote himself, that this would not have been the case.
You might be the best photographer in the world, but if you don’t shout about it, who will?
Thanks to Sarah Williams