With newbies it's often fear, as Michael talks about, but with veterans, it's even more insidious. Procrastination can be the result of frustration, burn-out and apathy. That enthusiasm that once burned brightly has been over-shadowed by challenges in the economy, changes in technology, marketing and consumer trends.
What I love most about this guest post is simply Michael's honesty, a trait of great photographers and educators. If you're looking for a chance to get to know Michael a whole lot better check out the programming for PPE in New York next month. Michael will be presenting a brand new program "Portraiture and Weddings - The Beauty of Commitment" on Thursday, October 24, 2013, sponsored by Fujifilm North America. This presentation will be made twice on Thursday, October 24, 2013 at Fujifilm's booth on the trade show floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Times to be announced. Skip Cohen
A few months back I was named to the faculty of Skip Cohen University, taking my place alongside some of the greatest talent in our industry. I greeted this opportunity with pride, excitement and a promise to Skip to get to work shortly on an important article to add to the incredible library of great resources that make up the SCU knowledge base. Days turned into weeks...then months, and said article still hadn’t materialized.
Excuses took the place of accomplishment. “I’m too busy with my bustling photography business” (an anomaly in today’s competitive marketplace...one which I’m very grateful for). Doubt crept into my mind. “What can I say that hasn’t been said already?” Fear of disapproval started to take it’s hold on me. “What if people take exception to the things I want to say?”
Then the inspiration came to me...write an article about procrastination and write it now. Don’t be afraid...write an article about fear. I needed to write this for myself as much as most of you need to hear it. You see procrastination is a killer, folks. Nothing will undermine (and eventually destroy) your business like procrastination will. The reason we’re all guilty of it is because it’s easy.
It’s easy to come up with excuses not to do the things we need to do, and most of those excuses stem from fears...particularly fear of failure and fear of criticism from those around us. Get over it, get past it and get on with living the life you really want to live. Most fears aren’t even valid because they deal with things that haven’t even happened yet. We fear what might happen. There’s no proof that the things which we fear are even going to transpire. Yet we spend so much time worrying about what the negative outcome of our actions might be. Then we spend a lot of energy (creative energy) coming up with excuses for why we don’t pursue our goals. Instead we should be putting that time and energy into making plans and carrying those plans out. The outcome will be much different...I guarantee it!
OK. Enough of the self-help lecture. Let’s get on with some of the basic things you newcomers can do to launch and grow your photography business while dispelling some of the lame excuses most aspiring photographers are hiding behind:
1. “I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have a strong enough portfolio yet”. Then get some experience and build your book. It’s that simple. Practice! Buying some camera gear doesn’t grant you the privilege of calling yourself a professional (and commanding professional compensation). Learning the fundamentals, practicing them to the point where their application becomes second nature, then combining those proficiencies with your own unique creative style does. Practice every chance you get with every different subject you can coax to stand in front of your lens under every different lighting/weather/environmental circumstance you can imagine. A true professional will create extraordinary images under any scenario...not just the perfect ones. Practice and you’ll be ready to handle anything that comes your way. Back in the dark ages, when I started in this business, practice required spending money on film, processing and printing. Today’s digital environment has removed that daunting obstacle. Get out there and practice & perfect your skill sets.
2. Find yourself a mentor. Again, a trip back to the dark ages of the late 70’s. There was no internet...there were no webinars, DVD’s or YouTube. We learned our craft by associating with established photographers and assisting them on their assignments, absorbing every bit of knowledge we could extract from them while exposing ourselves to a multitude of photographic experiences. Yes, the internet has shortened the learning curve for sure, but there is still no substitute for hands-on experience. There is no “fast track” to the land of accumulating real world experiences. Spend some of your valuable learning time with professionals who are actually doing it...not just the one’s on your iPad talking about it.
3. “I don’t have the right camera, lens or (fill in the blank with whatever gadget/app you think you need) to create the images I want to create”. Again, you’ll get no sympathy from this old-timer. Photography is both an art and a science and the icons in our craft established those criteria long before any discussion of megapixels ever transpired. Yes, the word digital has redefined our industry but it has not rendered a single photographic fundamental obsolete. Concentrate on building your skill sets, learning the basics of good lighting, posing and composition. You can’t break the rules unless you know what they were in the first place. Don’t get emotionally attached to the gear you’re using or coveting. In this ever-evolving digital world it’s already obsolete. That amazing DSLR system you own now is going to be a paperweight in a couple of years. (My friends laughed at me when I said the same thing about their Hasselblad medium format cameras 12 years ago. Some of them are still using theirs...as paperweights...today). I, for one, have already started to transition into the new breed of mirrorless compact cameras. You will, too. You’ll have to. Embrace the craft...not the gadgets.
Get over your fears, get past your excuses, do the right things and DO THEM NOW! Don’t wait for the timing to be perfect. It never will be. Waiting is just prolonging your agony. Contrary to what some doomsayers may want you to believe, this is still a great business...one that will need exciting, knowledgeable and inspired practitioners for many years to come. I hope to see all of you at the top of your creative game.
Illustration Credit: © Kheng Guan Toh - Fotolia.com