Understand there’s no such thing as “just do it”. Nobody “just” does anything; even the folks that make it look that way. I used to watch old Fred Astaire movies and he always made dancing look effortless and easy. But he worked every day of his life on perfecting his skills. It takes a lot of hard work to make a life “your own”, rather than follow a more conventional path. If you want to sustain yourself financially with a profession like photography, you have to be prepared and willing to do what it takes to make that happen.
Don’t just say no – come up with alternatives. About a decade ago, photographers started rallying together to stand up and say no to bad contracts. It didn’t work and still doesn’t because there’s always going to be somebody that will say yes. The problem with “just” saying no is that photographers are only focusing on the problem and not coming up with better options or solutions. These days photographers have the benefit of technology that has made possible a variety of new options photographers can use to promote and market their work. If we all start focusing on what we can do, instead of just saying no to bad deals, we’d all be better off.
Collaborate/Partner with other creatives. Photographers have always been fiercely independent creatures. That has its benefits creatively but can be a real detriment in business. These days it is a lot easier to connect and collaborate with others, even virtually, and in the process we become stronger as a team of creatives. Think about teaming up with people who are good at skills you don’t possess, whether it is video or CGI or graphic design.
Walk the Walk – Don’t Just Talk the Talk. If you have something to say, then by all means say it. Don’t be a whiner or hang around other whiners and say, “somebody should do something”. If you don’t like what is happening around you – then do something about it. I am on the board of directors of my trade association, ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers). I feel that my role on the board is to share my knowledge and skills at this “table” so our members may benefit and the industry stays healthy. I can only do that if I have something to share and that means I need to be walking the walk – not just talking the talk. If you are an ASMP member and feel you have something to share with your colleagues, I encourage you to run for the board and become part of the solution. You can declare your candidacy up until December 31st.
Don’t aspire to be part of the status quo. That just doesn’t work in photography. You need to be better than the rest to stand out. What does that mean and how does one do that? There’s only one way – listen to the voice inside you – and shut out the “noise”. If you can remember to be true to who you are, you’ll knock the socks off the status quo.