Whether you're new to the business or a veteran working to expand your skill set; diversify into a new specialty or experimenting with a new approach - confidence is a key.
Today's "blue-plate special" is the equivalent of the big buffet at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The entree is confidence with twenty-two sides to choose from.
While everyone can look like they're confident, this is an industry where you'll never be successful trying to fake it 'til you make it. The more you know and understand the process, whether it's capturing an image or a customer, the more success you'll have at exceeding client expectations.
This is an all-u-can-eat lunch today, so return to the buffet as many times as you need to!
Twenty-Two Ways to Build Confidence
in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror.
I can take the next thing that comes along."
- Read your camera manual. Get to know every button and setting on your camera. Experiment with different settings, understand depth of field, exposure and know all of your lenses and the coverage each one will give you.
- Attend every workshop you possibly can. And, always attend a few programs outside your comfort zone and away from your specialty.
- Attend every convention. From the big national conventions to your state PPA affiliate conferences, each one offers an opportunity in expanding your skill set, network and building stronger relationships.
- Spend time in the booth of each vendor whose you use, including your gear manufacturers, lab, album company, frame company, software, etc.
- Listen to podcasts, webcasts, webinars on topics related to your specialty including those outside of comfort zone.
- Understand lighting! We all love natural light, but this about you having control over your environment and being able to capture the look and feel you want in a portrait at any time of day.
- Be a second shooter as often as you can, especially in your first few years. You might be surprised to hear about the number of seasoned veterans you consider icons, who will periodically be a second-shooter just to fine-tune their skill set.
- Enter print competition. This isn't for everybody, but it's a terrific learning experience.
- Attend print competition judging, even if you didn't enter. You'll learn a lot from the various judges. It's like having a private critique as the judges share their view of each print.
- Jump onto YouTube.com and watch the videos of iconic photographers in your specialty. There are a ton of great videos out there, some long, others just a few minutes.
- Look at magazines outside photography - this is about understanding what's hot and what's not. While it's not a confidence builder on its own, paying attention to what's going on in the commercial world is going to help you better interpret requests from your clients.
- Join a guild, PPA chapter, camera club...and, go to every monthly meeting. This is about expanding your network, and many of the camera clubs host some pretty remarkable guest speakers.
- Attend a networking luncheon: In most communities, somebody has established a networking luncheon to help business owners meet and talk with people with similar interests and challenges.
- Rent gear you think you need but haven't invested in yet. Before you stress out over cashflow on big purchases, rent what you need and go for a test drive. Worrying about cash flow created more pressure and why deal with the stress if you don't have to?
- Practice, practice, practice - Make every image you capture a "wow" print, but remember Roberto Valenzuela's message..."Practice doesn't make perfect. What if you're practicing it wrong? Only perfect practice makes perfect."
- Talk your friends or family members into modeling for you. You've got to practice, and often friends and family are the best way to build your portfolio.
- Join some of the online forums that are in line with your specialty and your goals in professional photography. And, don't just be an observer. Get involved, ask questions, be a contributor.
- Share images in the forums, but have a thick skin. Listen to the suggestions and ignore people who behave badly. Stay focused on those giving you constructive criticism.
- Do a portfolio review. Many of the conventions and workshops offer portfolio review. It's a great way to get an objective opinion on your work.
- Hands-on workshops are one of the best ways to build confidence. Pay attention to the speakers you've heard the most about and then check out where they're teaching. A great hands-on workshop means twenty people or less with one instructor.
- Build and use your network - especially your inner core of the people who are closest to you.
- Practice your sales pitch. One area so many artists have a problem with is closing the sale. You already know the objections that scare you the most. So find a friend and role play, developing a good response to objections, especially in regards to pricing.
One of the biggest challenges with a lack of confidence comes from fear. The more experience you get, the less there is to be afraid of. Don't let fear get in your way. Get to know your gear, the craft and listen to your clients.
Ralph Waldo Emerson