First Byte: First Bytes are 1-2 minute summaries and suggestions that tie directly to a specific blog post. I'm hoping they're helpful in expanding the topic of the post itself.
While this is sort of a mini-rant, it's not without substance and suggestions for those of you who think you can "fake it 'till you make it!" The reality is that any photographer can get their first client, but it's the second, third and fourth who are the most important. It's having clients who not only tell their friends about you, but insist they meet you.
A few years ago Sheila and I were privileged to be guests at a book-signing party for Michele Celentano. Her new book had just come out and in fact, I referenced it in a post earlier this week. There were about forty people at a private dinner for Michele. A fun little exercise, suggested by my wife, Sheila, was to go around the table and each guest talk about how they knew Michele.
Over the half the group were past clients. They were people who had hired Michele for a family portrait and over the years became friends, close friends. Over and over again people joked about how much Michele had cost them in the past, but at the same time you could see how much they were looking forward to their next portrait session. Michele made herself habit-forming through a combination of two primary qualities - being the best portrait artist she could be and building relationships with her clients.
There are no shortcuts in understanding all the various aspects of photography and business, but once you understand all the rules, then you've got the opportunity and the right to break them...
- Get to know your gear! Read the manual, experiment and practice constantly. Get to know every button on your camera and understand each focal length of every lens. Start following some of the icons who use the same gear you do and visit the manufacturers' websites and blogs.
- Understand light! Stop telling people how passionate you are about natural light as an excuse for the real problem, being afraid of studio lighting and not understanding it. Right here on the SCU site there's a ton of great videos from some of the finest photographers in the world, all thanks to Profoto. Watch them over and over again. Listen to suggestions by Gregory Heisler, Matthew Jordan Smith, Michael Corsentino and Charles Maring, just to name a few.
- Attend every hands-on workshop you can find the time for and forget about the cost. You can't afford NOT to attend. This goes together with shooting with friends/associates at the various conventions. For example, Shutterfest is all about hands-on and being able to raise the bar on your skill set.
- Attend meetings of your local professional photographers' group and share ideas on how to raise the bar on your own images. Understand what the standard is for what makes a great image.
- Practice, practice, practice - nothing can replace your complete understanding and comfort level with exposure, composition and presentation. But just watching videos and reading books won't make you a professional, any more than you could learn to drive a car without ever getting behind the wheel.
- Build Relationships! Once you truly understand the craft, then it's time to follow Michele Celentano's lead and build relationships. Make yourself habit-forming. Make working with you an incredible experience.
Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework."