I sell (and I use that term loosely because I don’t promote them much and thus sell few) t-shirts that say that: Vision = value. You can get one here, if you are so inclined, but that’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m writing it because I wish I had a big, magical, cartoon-like mallet with this imprinted on it, with which I could smack some of you in the head and somehow get the concept into your thick skulls.
Harsh? Maybe, but said with frustrated love.
If you are struggling with your photography business, it is likely that you are not being a visionary. You must be a visionary because without having and being true to your own, individual vision, you cannot survive in the photo business today. So, if you are struggling, either you aren’t developing your own vision in your images or you aren’t promoting that vision well, or both.
Yes, it really is that simple at its core.
You can tell if you aren’t developing your own vision if you do any of these:
1) focus on your gear–especially if you buy new gear often;
2) get defensive about the gear others use, especially when one touts something like the iPhone as a legitimate tool;
3) follow trends like the HDR fad or tilt-shift or whatever is next;
4) try to make work like any other (more successful) photographer;
5) haven’t shot a self-assignment in over a month.
You can tell you’re not promoting the work well if you:
1) spend most of your time in social media land interacting with other photographers;
2) regularly spend more on gear than marketing;
3) have a website with a combination of categories including any variation on “people,” “places,” and “things”;
4) can’t name off the top of your head 10 top-priority targets you want to work with more than anyone and be able to articulate why you want to work with them;
5) haven’t sent a print mailer out in over 6 months;
6) haven’t made any calls to get your book seen in the past two weeks.
Neither of those lists are exhaustive, by the way.
Deep inside, you know if you are wussing out and not going for it full-on. Is it risky to make your work, only your work, and to put that out to the world? Sure. You will get rejected by some (many) and your ego will take a beating.
But it’s riskier from a business perspective not to.
You’ve got no chance to stand out unless you stand out. Again yes, at its core it really is that simple.
So here’s my challenge to you: look at your work on your site. Do you love it–all of it? Does it make you smile/get you excited/make you want to do more of it? Be honest–don’t look at it from its technical side and definitely do not ask “Do I think buyers will want this?” If you do, then look at your marketing.
If you don’t, then get off your creative butt and start making the work that you make out of love and that weird compulsion that makes you do this and not be a 9-5 “normal” person.
Remember, if vision = value then, by logic, no vision = no value. You don’t want to be there.