War photojournalists feel a deep obligation to portray the horrors of war so that perhaps one day there will be no more war. They risk their lives to this end. The rest of us, under significantly less danger, have the same obligation to tell our subject’s stories. Whether it’s a simple portrait, a sports photo, science stock photos, or afashion shot, we must really see our subjects and document their story in the context of their environment, their culture, their place in time, and history.
Being Your Own Product
Many of us have a tendency to think that we’re selling our images – that our photos are our product. But we are mistaken. When someone hires you for a job, they’re not buying your photos, because after all, you haven’t taken them yet. No, they’re buying you. Your clients/customers think they’re buying your photos and nothing but your photos, in reality they’re buying their experience of you: your conscious and unconscious messages to them about your level of experience.
Having Intimate Relationships
Your clients come to you with worries: about whether they brought the “right” clothes; about whether they forgot their shoes. They need reassurance and encouragement – and, they need it from you, their personal visual artist! And if they don’t get it, it won’t matter if you’re Ansel Adams; you won’t get good results.
You and your clients have been thrust into an immediately intimate relationship and you will come out of it one of two ways – best friends or adversaries. There is no middle ground! Photography is an economic business built on relationships.
Being Ready For the Creative Roller Coaster
The sad fact is that much of the photo business is just not creative. When you’re shooting some jobs, customers often want the same shots. Often, people keep coming to you because of a certain style that you’re known for. While profitable, it’s not very creative.
You start out in this business scared. Sometimes, you’re scared that you’re not good enough; you’re scared
someone will come up to you and accuse you of being a rookie with a camera. But all the fear makes you work more creatively. When you’ve been experienced for a while and the fear goes away, you might not work as creatively anymore, because it was partly the fear that fueled your passion and creativity. Sometimes mastering a new technique sparks a creative surge. That’s why it’s important to keep shooting and to surround yourself with the nuts and bolts and process of your art. Make every effort not to confuse your understanding of photography as art and your understanding of the photo business.