Just over a year ago I started this series. At the time I thought I'd go about 15-20 topics and then move on to something else, but the more I shared, the more I realized the concepts to help you build a stronger business are almost endless.
Fast Food Fridays, are most often short posts to help you focus, pun intended, on more than just your subjects. Most of you are right-brain creative types, and you hate the business side of photography. You want to capture, create and process and then move on to the next client or project. Well, today's Fast Food Friday while it might be relatively short, is long on work - it's about building your skill set.
Today I'm hitting on the basics, which should have been the very first Fast Food Friday on the menu in the SCU Diner! There are no shortcuts to becoming a great artist. While anybody can get their first client, it's all the others that build a business. Even great marketing and being fun to work with won't do a thing for a new artist if the skill set isn't up to par. You've got have the ability to capture beautiful photographs that keep your clients coming back for more and build trust in your skills as an artist.
You've got to learn the rules BEFORE you have the right to break them!
After forty-seven previous posts on the topic of building a stronger business in photography, I'm embarrassed to take you back to what should have been the very beginning, and your very first step in becoming a professional - YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND PHOTOGRAPHY!
And I'm betting at least half of you who are rolling your eyes right now are guilty of NOT understanding enough about the craft itself. Anybody can grab a shot with a digital camera today. What makes you a pro is understanding how to get the best image, right out of the can, along with what to do when things don't go as planned.
I fell in love with scuba diving in the early '90s. The trick to being a good diver isn't knowing how to dive. Diving itself is easy. The challenge is what to do when something goes wrong. You have to learn to think, not to panic, utilize backup gear and stay close to your buddy.
Being a professional photographer is no different. You need to know what to do when a camera doesn't work. You need to understand lighting and know what to do when a flash misfires. You need to have a network, just like a buddy on a dive trip, to help if your gear's stolen, you drop a lens or an unforeseen event keeps you "on the bench."
Most important of all, again like diving, you need to be efficient. On my very first dive after getting certified, I used up all my air chasing an angelfish for a photograph. In the process, my tank went dry, but my buddy was close by, and I came up on his second regulator. Hey, it was stupid, and I was a rookie - but I never did that again!
Well, new photographers are no different. I’m so tired of hearing young photographers say, “No problem. I’ll fix it in Photoshop later!” You’re kidding yourself, and even worse you’re losing credibility with potential clients! You need to understand the basics, exposure, composition, output and then you can fool around with Photoshop.
Shooting mediocre images and thinking you'll clean them up later is the equivalent of me sucking down air and being an inefficient diver. If you’re spending time cleaning up images, you’re losing valuable time you should be marketing yourself.
Being a successful photographer is all about building relationships and trust with your clients. If you don’t win them over by exceeding their expectations, you’ll never grow your business. They need to see images better than “Uncle Harry’s.”
One easy test: Look at your most recent images. Were they outstanding? Would you hire yourself? If you saw some of your photographs in a gallery would you look at the price tag and consider buying a print or move on to another artist?
And even though today's blue plate special should have been on the menu a year ago, offering it today makes another great point. Technology is continually changing, and today you've got the most number of creative tools in the almost 200-year history of photography. So, staying on top of trends and new techniques is an ongoing process, and continuing education never slows down - so, even if you thought your skill set was perfect a year ago, the game changes every day. You know how to focus on your subjects, but how current are you on your skills?
There are no shortcuts to being a success as a photographer. You need to always keep in mind the importance of understand all the basics. Make sure your foundation as an accomplished artist is strong enough so you can thrive, not just survive!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.