So You Want to Be a Photographer?

 

 

 

 

With this infographic that I came across on http://www.fstoppers.com, the guys from http://www.fotoseeds really nailed some of the key challenges that we face as photographers and as an industry. Their message of sustainability and avoiding burnout is one that I can’t emphasize enough.Fstoppers-So-You-Wanna-Be-a-Photographer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Review and Real World Experience with the Fuji X-T1

I should start out by saying that this really isn’t a review in the sense that I’m going to go through the camera and point out all of the features and give it my thumbs up or thumbs down. Instead, my goal here is to lay out my experience in working with this camera in the real world of professional photography so you can decide if this is a system that’s worth investing in.

For those not familiar with it, the Fuji X-T1 is the newest camera in the Fuji lineup. It’s a mirrorless camera with an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) which means that you don’t look at the scene through a mirror, instead the viewfinder consists of an LCD image of what the image sensor is actually seeing. What you see is what you get. If the image is over or under exposed, you’ll see it in the viewfinder. If nothing else, the EVF helps to make for very consistent exposures.

mireles_san_sandiego-1222

18mm f2 lens shot wide open at 1/60 sec, 800 ISO

Edited to add: In my initial testing, I failed to realize that the EVF preview in the Fuji X-T1 is not necessarily reflective of the actual image exposure. Also, the histogram in the EVF is based upon the image preview, not the actual image. For example, when shooting with the camera set to auto-exposure outside on a sunny day at 200 ISO at f1.4 with the shutter maxing out at 1/4000, the EVF shows a properly exposed scene. However, in viewing the image afterward, the scene will appear two stops over.

This can be overcome by shooting in Manual mode and setting the camera to preview actual exposure via one of the settings in the Playback menu. This is a major demerit in my  book. Sony, in their mirrorless systems, shows the actual exposure regardless of the mode you’re in. I’m baffled as to why Fuji would choose to base the histogram on the EVF exposure, not the actual exposure.

My first experience working in the world of mirrorless cameras was with the Sony NEX system (first the NEX 7 and then NEX 6). I opted for the NEX instead of the Fuji mostly based upon price – Fuji lenses are at least double the cost of equivalent Sony glass. Ultimately though I decided to trade in the NEX system because the Sony lenses just aren’t sharp and fast enough for professional use. One thing I do miss about my NEX system is just how light and small it was. I hardly noticed the camera when it was slung around my neck.

This image from Panang, Malaysia  was shot with the NEX 7 and the Sigma 18mm f2.8

This image from Panang, Malaysia was shot with the NEX 7 and the Sigma 18mm f2.8

The X-T1 is about one-third the size bigger and about double the weight. It’s still small and light though. When I’m out street shooting, it’s small enough that no one really takes it seriously. Little do people know…

In purchasing this camera, my main concern was image sharpness. I need images that will hold their own with my Nikon D800e. Although I’d seen DPReview the tests, I followed up with some of my own. My first results with the Fuji 18mm f2.0 lens were actually quite dismal. The image came out looking far softer than my NEX lenses. “Why did I sell my NEX?” was my immediate thought.

Then I learned that Fuji offers both firmware for their cameras and their lenses. I performed an easy upgrade to the lens firmware from 1.0 to 3.something and bada-bing, the image popped into focus. Note to Fuji users: Check your lens firmware regularly!

mireles_san_francisco-1221

Crop taken from above photo. Straight out of camera, no sharpening.

mireles_san_francisco-1221-2

The Fuji lenses definitely live up to their reputation. They’re deliciously sharp but render soft out of focus areas in the background. Most importantly, they’re sharp wide open. The Fuji X series of cameras all wield APC sized sensors – which means a 1.5 crop from full frame. In practical terms what this means is that, at the same aperture and lens size as a full frame camera, more of the image will be in focus than when shooting full frame. Where the background of my full frame camera image might be rendered in soft focus when I’m at f2.8, the same scene might have an in-focus background when working with an APC sized sensor.

Fuji gets around this by offering a lineup of fast lenses, specifically, the 18mm f2.0, 23mm f1.4, 35 f1.4 and 56mm f1.2. Shooting wide open at f1.4 creates the soft buttery backgrounds preferred by pros. Now, the 35mm f1.4 (equivalent to the 50mm on full frame) won’t match the 50mm f1.4 full frame in terms of blowing out the background since the full frame will always win in this department. However, in practice, I rarely use f1.4 with my Canon or Nikon glass because, sadly, the cameras rarely nail the focus wide open. I’m usually shooting at f2.0 or more because I don’t trust the camera.

One advantage to the mirrorless cameras, Fuji included, is that it’s possible to zoom in on the image at five times magnification to actually see if the subject is in focus. It’s a lifesaver when shooting wide open. I recently did a lifestyle shoot with product and the focus had to be tack sharp on the product. Using the focus preview, I was able to nail the focus. Score one for Fuji.

Color 
Fuji cameras are famous for their color renditioning and the X-T1 lives up to that reputation. Even in really bad awkward light, the color straight out of camera is dead-on. There were many scenes that would have required tweaking the color balance on the raw files had I been shooting with my Nikons but looked great with the X-T1. There’s different film styles in jpeg mode that bump up the contrast and add a little saturation. The jpeg images actually look really good.

If there’s any camera that can produce great straight out-of-camera images, this is it.

World’s Fasted Autofocus?
Fuji advertises their X-T1 as having the world’s fastest autofocus. That’s complete and utter nonsense. If the two were cars, the D4s would be a Lamborghini and the Fuji a Prius. The Fuji lenses take time to rack in and out. The focus is usually accurate but not always. I don’t own the 56mm f1.2 however I have played with it – it’s closer to moped than speedster as it pushes all that glass. The 18mm is pretty fast, but not as fast as I’d hoped. The reality is that fast glass takes longer to focus and the Fuji X-T1 is no race car.

It’s fast enough for most use, but I was definitely missing shots when trying to chase down my little two year old nephew. When it comes to fast moving scenes, my Nikons still have their place.

_DSF1231

Though the focus isn’t as fast or as sure as that of my D3s and D800e, I do like that I can select focus points throughout the entire frame, not just ones clustered in the center. Overall though the focus does take some getting used to. For example, I like to use a back button for focusing instead of relying on the shutter release. You can do this with the Fuji when it’s in manual focus mode. However, the focus area is huge so when you’re doing a headshot, the camera doesn’t know whether to focus on the nose or the eye. Instead, I’ve taken to using the back button to lock and hold focus. Where I would focus and release with my Nikons, with the Fuji I focus and continue to hold the button down. Put this one down in the semi-awkward workaround department.

For this quick headshot I did with the 35mm f1.4 wide open, you can see that the camera missed the focus. Not sure what happened or why, but the focus is on the shoulder not on the eyes. Irritating. Background is rendered nicely though.

_DSF2326

 

It did better here.

mireles_san_francisco-1103mireles_san_francisco-1103-2

The Low Light Hero
Where the camera comes into its own is in low, low light. The X-T1 will focus and nail exposures in dark places that my Nikons can only dream about. While I do prefer an optical viewfinder in daylight, in the dark, it’s useless. The Fuji on the other hand comes alive in the dark. Not only will it lock focus, but it nails the color every time.

Image below taken with the 18mm at f2.0 at 6400 iso.

mireles_san_francisco-1374

The lighting in this bar (image below) was dim enough that I could barely read the menu. Taken with the 35mm at f1.4, 6400 ISO. As with any camera, the X-T1 focuses best when there’s plenty of contrast with the lighting. The lower the lighting and the less directional the light, the slower the focus. The X-T1 is the best low light focusing camera I’ve worked with – but it’s not perfect and will rack back and forth as it tries to lock focus, sometimes unsuccessfully depending on the light.

_DSF1165

Quirks and Quibbles
When it comes to the feel of the camera, it’s got its quirks. The layout of the buttons on the back is poor. I’m often groping for the focus point buttons or the focus magnifier. Usually, I press the wrong button. (The NEX by comparison was much better – and it was no marvel of ease-of-use.) It seems like every time I change the ISO, I knock the drive lever from single to high speed continuous. Fortunately though, the auto ISO feature works great – rarely do I need to set the ISO as I just let it do its thing.

The X-T1 chews through batteries and memory. The 16 megapixel raw files clock in at 33 megabytes (compared to 23 megabytes for the NEX’s 16 megapixel files). My 8 gig cards are too small for this memory pig. I’d suggest 16 or even 32 gig cards. After about five hours of tourist style shooting where I turned the camera off after every shot, the battery completely died. That means if you’re out shooting for a long day, plan on three if not four batteries. I have two but will be picking up at least another three.

There are other kinks too. For example, I pulled out my hair trying to get the flash to work until I realized that it won’t work when the camera is in “silent mode.” At a recent shoot which required a radio trigger to fire my strobe ,the camera did its silly amateur beep each time it locked focus. Only later did I realize that it’s possible to turn off silent mode but kill the beep separately. Not sure what’s the point of silent mode. The camera is very, very quiet on its own. Its shutter has the softest click of any camera that I’ve ever handled. A true joy for street photography.

As of this writing, Adobe doesn’t support the X-T1 raw files with its Lightroom or Photoshop software. To get around this, I’ve taken to changing the EXIF data of the files to  show that the images come from the X-E2 which has the same sensor and is supported by Adobe. It’s an extra step but not that big a deal.

One thing that I love is the ease of use of the wireless connectivity. Using the Fuji app, I can upload jpegs within seconds to my phone for sharing. It’s easy to setup and easy to use. It’s not 100%; sometimes a camera restart is required to gain a connection, but it’s pretty darn good and far easier to work with than the Sony NEX 6 (which offers wireless connectivity but is so poorly setup that I never bothered). Nothing like snapping the photo, uploading it to the iPhone, tweaking it in Snapseed and then posting it to Facebook and Instagram all within a minute. This is the era that we live in so it helps to have a camera that can keep up.

The following image was shot at 18mm at f2.0, 1600 ISO. Great detail and color straight out of the camera.

mireles_san_francisco-1288

Closing Thoughts
A fair question that can be asked is what about the Sony A7 or A7r full frame mirrorless cameras? They are about the same size as the X-T1 but don’t require sacrificing sensor size and the A7r offers double the megapixels. (16 for the X-T1 verses 36 for the A7r). The problem with the Sony system as it currently stands is that it doesn’t have the lenses. They have a 35mm f2.8 and a zoom lens or two. Sorry, but I want the speed and look of faster glass. Once Sony fills out its lens lineup, then it will be a system to contend with.

Without a doubt, the X-T1 is a great walk-around general use camera. If I were traveling abroad for vacation, I’d leave the big cameras at home. But is it ready for prime time in the life of a working pro photographer? I say “Yes” but with reservations. It’s not for every shoot, the camera does take some getting used to and it won’t perform with the same ease-of-use and speed like you’d expect from a Nikon or Canon SLR. Expect some compromises and work-arounds to your normal shooting flow.

mireles_matt-dufour_hardrock-1143-XL

18mm at f11 1/180 sec shutter speed, 200 ISO.

Before I’d consider using this as a primary body at a wedding, portrait or commercial shoot, I’d want to be sure that I really had every element of this camera down. Now you may wonder why anyone would want to use this at a wedding. The answer is simple: it’s small, light and the files are gorgeous. For those crippled by the weight of their gear after an 8 hour or longer wedding, mirrorless cameras such as the X-T1 are a godsend.

Though I’m definitely loving my little X-T1, it’s certainly not the nirvana that I’d expected from all the glowing reviews and first looks. My suggestion is to get your hands on one before you buy it. Just tinkering with it at the camera store is not enough. Get out and shoot with it. My friend Joseph Victor Stefanchek bought one along with several lenses and ended up selling it off after a few days because of its ergonomics. (He’s an Olympus OMD fan.)

Finally, just remember that great images are not about the camera, they’re about what’s in your head. The X-T1 is a great tool, but like all such tools, it’s only as good as you.

Posted in Equipment, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Advice for an Aspiring Artist

I was recently asked by a young photographer how he should invest his time in pursuing his career. Here is my advice:

There are many paths to greatness… yours will develop in your own way and in your own time. The best insight that I can offer is that a life in the arts does not exist absent a life immersed in commerce. The two are intertwined.

That means that rarely is it enough to be an amazing artist. Talent in and of itself gets you to the starting line but won’t win you the race. It’s the combination of artistry and business acumen that ultimately enable you to create the art that you love.

I’ve encountered so many “starving artists” over the years. For whatever reason, they never master the business skills necessary to succeed – which ultimately means that they can’t create the art they love either. Art needs the means by which to create it.

If you love your art, you will do what you need to bring it to fruition. My suggestion is to focus on the money part because that comes harder. Learn to create a sustainable life first and foremost.

A few years ago, I attended the opening of a one-man show at the Museum of Photographic Arts. The photographer was the former CEO of the NASDAQ stock exchange. He made his millions, retired early and then took off to India for a few months to shoot a series of images that was the subject of the show. Because he had money and had access to more money, it was easy for him to run in the circles of people who could buy his art and open the doors to the art world.

Meanwhile, most artists who just focus on the art go their whole lives without the big museum show and without the opportunity to travel and experience the world as this man did.

Art is the easy part. Money is the hard part. Focus on the difficult and the easy will come.

Since I first wrote this, it’s been pointed out to me that creating art is in fact difficult. I don’t disagree. In fact, I’ll say that creating unique, meaningful work that can stand out from the plethora of darn good work being created every day is a serious challenge. It’s not easy especially for someone starting out.

But the fact that so much work is being created is only evidence of the fact that the act of creating art isn’t really all that difficult. Millions of people post their photographic art to Instagram, Twitter, Flickr etc every day. Of those millions however, only a handful actually make enough money from their art to provide a sustainable income.

So yes, creating noteworthy art is difficult, but, what the artist has going for him or her is their passion, that entrenched desire to express themselves through their medium, be it photography or otherwise. An artist will figure out how to create their work no matter what.

Unfortunately, no such passion exists however for the business of photography. I’ve never yet met a photographer who yearned to make a cold call to a potential client or burned with desire to knock on a gallery door. As difficult as creating great art is, selling it is tougher still.

Posted in Art | 2 Comments

Why Print Sales Matter

My recent post “I Declare War on David Jay” has taken off way beyond anything I expected. I’m grateful for all the supporting comments but also thankful for all the opposing voices as well. A healthy, professional discussion benefits us all.

Lest you think that I’m just a bitter old schooler who hates change, I’m going to get into the specifics of why I think PASS Prints is a bad idea.

Let’s look at some numbers; let’s say you’re a wedding photographer who charges $2,000 for coverage only. If you’re like most photographers, your profit margin from that wedding, factoring the time/expense of post-production editing is about 70%. Here what the numbers look like:

Coverage Only Price $2,000
Profit Margin 70%
Total Gross Profit $1,400

Now let’s look at the numbers from selling an 8×10 print at $25.

Sales Price $25
Cost 2
Margin 1,250%
Profit $23

$23 in Gross Profit for a print isn’t a huge amount of money, but let’s see what happens if we scale that number upwards. Let’s say we book 30 weddings and, on average, sell 3 8×10′s. (Keep in mind this is an average, you might sell six to one customer and none to another.)

Here’s the Gross Profit calculated for selling 3 prints per wedding:

Number 8×10′s Sold 3
Total Sale $75.00
COS $6.00
Gross Profit $69

Now let’s multiply out the Gross Profit from 8×10′s over our 30 booked weddings:

Number of Weddings 30
Gross Profit from 8×10 Sales $2,070

Given that our Gross Profit from a Coverage Only wedding is $1,400, earning an extra $2,070 from selling 3 8×10′s per each wedding is like shooting an extra 1.3 weddings per year – but without doing any of the work!

Now let’s factor in the cost of the pass system for 30 weddings:

PASS Price Per Wedding $29
Number of Weddings 30
Total Cost $870

Based on the numbers above, if you use PASS Prints, you’re potentially losing $2,070 in sales plus you’re spending $870 per year to use the service. That’s a loss of $2,940 per year which translates to the profit for more than two whole weddings per year. That means that the PASS photographer must shoot two more weddings than a similarly priced non-PASS photographer just to earn the same amount of money.

Now, I’ll grant you that competing services such as Zenfolio, Smugmug etc do cost money – but they’re a third of the cost or less.

“But Our Clients Love It!”
Finally, I’ll address a point that seems to be made over and over. That being that “Clients love it!” First, let me say that because clients love PASS doesn’t mean that they won’t love another service. Secondly, of course clients love free stuff. They’d love it if we shot their wedding for free. Does that mean it’s a good idea for your business?

Of course not.

In this debate, people have brought up iTunes/Napster etc. These technologies are great for the consumer, terrible for the artist. Unfortunately for musicians, they had no choice when it came to downloadable music. Insofar as PASS is concerned, we do have a choice. We don’t have to support businesses and technologies that negatively impact our bottom line.

John Mireles

Posted in Knowledge | 42 Comments

I Declare War on David Jay (and his Self-Serving PASS System)

Hopefully, you know me for my level-headed and impartial analysis of the photography business. Forget that. Today I’m going to go off on someone who is not only doing a disservice to the industry that he purports to serve, he’s actively working to destroy it. In the words of The Dude (from The Big Lebowski): “This aggression will not stand!”

I’ve written about David Jay before. Over a year ago, he released “The System” where he attempted to teach new photographers how to enter the world of wedding photography. Though it had a few useful points, for the most part, it was a dismal failure insofar as being a worthwhile tool for the newcomer.

Sure, many photographers thought that it brought the industry down by virtue of encouraging new photographers to “spray and pray.” While I won’t argue the point,  I personally viewed The System as more of an nonsensical annoyance from someone pandering to make a buck.

Despite – or perhaps because of – The System, David Jay remains a popular figure within the photography world, and as such, his voice continues to hold influence upon many working photographers. Maybe because he was once a photographer himself, he’s viewed differently than your average CEO trying to make a buck marketing to photographers.  David Jay still has that “man of the people” aura about him – which I suppose helps him to attract photographers as customers.

None of that however has anything to do with why I declare war on David Jay. The reasons for that lie in his PASS System. For those unfamiliar with the PASS System, it’s a web viewing platform for event photography whereby the photographer uploads the photos to the system and then the images are immediately available to the client for using as they wish, including sharing on Facebook and other social media site. It’s all part of his Shoot and Share method that is supposedly the new way for photographers.

But it’s not just the basic PASS System and this Shoot and Share ethos that’s got me convinced that David Jay needs to be put out of business. It’s his latest venture, PASS Prints, as well as his accompanying philosophy that is just plain bad for photographers. David Jay has gone from being a nuisance to actively working to destroy the industry that spawned him.

With PASS Prints, clients can now order prints from images uploaded to the PASS System much like they can any other service. The catch lies in that prices are set by PASS at $1 for a 4×6, $2 for a 5×7 and $4 for an 8×12. In the FAQ section of the PASS Prints website, the question is posed, “Can I make money off of the prints?” The answer is “Yes” since the photographer makes 50% of the sale.

I’m sorry but receiving 50 cents per print is not “making money” as a photographer. I think the technical term for this is “chump change.” The website goes on to emphasize that “PASS takes no commission on the total sale.” Well, duh, they don’t need to since they’re marking up the prints already. They buy the prints for 19 cents then charge the photographer 50 cents. I’m not sure whether to sarcastically thank David Jay for not charging us twice or to be insulted by the fact that he thinks we’re too dumb to realize his little game.

And while this is bad enough, it’s the ethos behind his message that I believe is truly corrosive to the industry. In his introductory video to the PASS Prints system, David Jay states, that “PASS is not a way to mark up your prints and make as much money as you can off of them.” He goes on to add “That’s just a different business model.”

And what is this “different business model” that he’s referring? Oh yeah, it’s called Earning a Profit! So if Pass is not for photographers interested in maximizing their return on their business efforts, who is it for? Those interested in working for free? Not making money is not a business model; it’s a hobby at best and recipe for failure at worst.

To be fair, Pass is all about those photographers who “don’t like to sell” and just want to “shoot and share” (as though they are part of some free loving hippy commune). Now if you’re a photographer who just likes to shoot the wedding and then wash your hands of it, that’s your prerogative and I respect that. It’s just important to know that you’re leaving a significant amount of money on the table. The difference between a sustainable living and one where you’re constantly working to get ahead but never quite do is in all the stuff you deliver after the wedding.

My problem isn’t with those who choose to operate their businesses as they see fit, it’s with someone, specifically David Jay, who promotes a product and a philosophy which works against his customer’s business interests just so he can make a buck. I don’t know if the term “con man” is the term to use for someone who smiles as he takes your money but stabs you in the back – but it’s the best description that I can come up with.

And it gets worse. Not only is David Jay promoting a product and ethos that is harmful to the profession, he also takes the time to personally browbeat someone who choses to leave his service. I’d heard about a Facebook message that he sent to a former user where he did just that. I took the time to track down the recipient and, fortunately for us, she’s a fan of the Business Coach so she forwarded to me the message in its entirety. (A screen capture is posted below.)

David Jay sends a Facebook message to a former user of his service

From the above: “Shoot and Share photographers are making it really difficult for sales driven photographers to continue marking up prints to high heaven so I’d suggest making the switch to a service based business quickly even if you don’t use PASS. The days of massively marked up prints are over.”

Wow. First, I have to wonder if David Jay is that desperate for customers that he feels compelled to take time to essentially guilt this former customer into staying. Perhaps the PASS system isn’t the cash cow that David Jay had hoped for. Instead he finds himself clinging to every last customer like a desperate lover wailing “Please don’t leave me!”

Regardless, I take exception with his claim that “The days of massively marked up prints are over.” This idea that photographers “massively mark up prints” is absolutely ludicrous. It’s an insult to every photographer out there who’s ever worked hard to create a product that the client will love for years to come. Yes, many photographers may charge $25 or more for an 8×10 with a physical cost of $2. To the uninitiated, that may appear to be a substantial markup.

But that markup does not include the time and often times years of expertise that it takes to prepare the files for printing nor does it include the overall profitability from the wedding. I’ve yet to meet a wedding photographer who was just rolling in cash from his or her “massively marked up prints.” Photographers charge the rates they do because that’s the bare minimum required to operate sustainably.

The subtext to this message is that David Jay is essentially telling us, “I am enabling the race to the bottom among photographers by significantly undercutting the market. If you don’t undercut your fellow photographers, you will be left on the chopping block.” Unless you feel that what this industry needs is more undercutting and lower prices, you can understand why this whole attitude leaves me livid and with nothing but contempt for David Jay.

Fortunately, the days of photographers charging profitable prices for their work are definitely not over. There’s no question that times are tough, however I meet with plenty of photographers who charge healthy rates and incorporate profitable pricing throughout all aspects of their businesses. Good business practices are certainly not dead.

Though I can’t say that I don’t wish the same about David Jay’s business. My recommendation to all photographers is that they avoid using PASS and spread the word that others do the same. If you’re a PASS user, I suggest switching to a service that is not working to destroy the very industry that you’re a part of. Though we can’t do anything about the fact that digital cameras are everywhere and the economy continues to remain a challenge, we can do something about who we choose to support with our hard-earned dollars.

My suggestion is don’t use those dollars to pay David Jay or his misguided PASS system. Like a bad virus, let’s stamp it out before it spreads.

John Mireles

PS: Since originally writing this post, I have followed up with another Why Print Sales Matter to explain why this issue of print sales matters to photographers.

Posted in Knowledge | 198 Comments

A Great Lesson in Setting Prices and Understanding Costs

I’ve been in the middle of writing my latest book, “How to Price Wedding Photography” so it’s been tough for me to switch gears and update the blog here. I just came across this New York Times Small Business section article entitled “Will This Business Ever Make Money?” and had to pass it along.

It almost echoes word for word one section of my book where I talk about the typical path taken by small business owners. It’s a short and to the point article but worth the read.

John Mireles

Posted in Knowledge | 2 Comments

Thoughts on Continued Success in the Photography Business

We used to say I could walk all night, and we could and we did
Down that gravel road, to that tiny town, and the door always opened
Now we say I could walk all night. It’s not true
We can’t walk all night, no, because we don’t want to
We want a bed and a blanket, some light breakfast, sometime tomorrow
We want a bed and a blanket, some light breakfast, sometime tomorrow
And I sing it now, hey hey, hey hey, who woulda thunk it
Hey hey, hey hey, who woulda thunk it

Greg Brown from his Song “Who Woulda Thunk It”

This morning, as I reflected some recent forum discussions about the challenges facing wedding and portrait photographers, one idea kept coming to mind. That’s this notion that because established photographers are in trouble, the entire profession is therefore doomed. Maybe it’s not that the profession is doomed that’s the problem. Maybe it’s just a simple matter of new photographers being in a better position to respond to the realities of a changing market?

I recently saw a sales video of a presenter telling the story of a young man eager to succeed in the world so he sought out the guidance of a successful guru. The guru took the man to the beach and had him walk out into the water. When the man got to the point that he could barely hold his head above the waves, the guru suddenly grabbed the man and forced his head under water and held it there.

Surprised and not ready for this dunking, the man fought to get back to the surface. The guru however wouldn’t let him. The man struggled with all of his strength and will until finally he was able to break free and gulp air from above. Afterward, the guru told him that he must work with every bit of his strength, just as he did when he was struggling for air underwater, if he was to succeed in business.

When I was getting started in the photography business, I would actually “walk all night” as Greg Brown would say. I’d not only bust my ass for every buck, I’d make huge sacrifices along the way. I remember traveling to San Diego to a trade show. I had enough money to pay for either gas or food, but not both. So I didn’t eat for a day and a half. So what? That was just part of what was necessary to force my head above the water.

Am I willing to make the same sacrifices now? No. I’ve gotten used to a certain level of comfort and work. I want that “bed and a blanket, some light breakfast, sometime tomorrow.” Nor am I alone. It’s hard for people who have become successful based upon doing things a certain way to give that up. The problem is that the established pro is competing against new photographers who are fighting with all their might to succeed in the profession (even if in so doing, the profession itself becomes that much harder to succeed in).

Standing-near-window4

Established pros do have many things going for them however. We have a list of established clients, advanced photographic skills, greater business knowledge and, if we’ve been playing their cards right, money in the bank. Doing the same thing as we’ve always been done absolutely will not work. Instead, we need to use our strengths and our resources to figure out new ways of meeting the needs of our existing markets and/or adapt our skills to succeed in other markets.

Established pros also need to bring to the fight what the French call “la rage de vivre.” That singularity of purpose and will that we all have but only kicks in when we realize that we are fighting for our lives.

John

Posted in Knowledge | Leave a comment