1: Constantly research and study your market, and work to know, satisfy and please your customers…leave the “I do it my way” and “I photograph to please only myself” advocates to wallow in the mire of wannabes, or to paraphrase the classics; the photographer who works to please himself, has a fool for a client.
What sets a photographer apart from the rest of the teeming unwashed throng of wannabes is the ability to think on the move, solve any and all problems, (based on knowledge, past experience and creativity) and deliver the highest quality work to satisfy customers and clients, and acceptable (with no problem causing glitches) to graphic designers, printers, and other downstream technicians, and within budget.
2: Realise that the only competition you have is yourself…but you are only as good as your last job, so strive to be better tomorrow than you were today. The only “photographers” who fear and amplify the idea of “competition” are fauxpros, amateurs and fools who are are obsessed with their particular journey to the bottom.
3: Always continue learning as much as you can about technique, photography in general, it’s history and passed masters, exposure, composition (there are approx. 123 aspects of composition more important and relevant than the “rule of thirds” fix-all), and the ever changing requirements of related downstream techs such as designers, printers, and publishers. This should take at least several lifetimes, and things will have changed immeasurably by then anyway.
4: Find and develop a viable niche for yourself, something that isn’t done, or at least overdone by everyone else, but does have a potential market; become the go-to expert in it, and master it totally. That way you only have to be bloody good at everything else.
5: Be a trend setter, not a blind follower…don’t waste your time and energy, copying, recreating or being “inspired” by other people’s work, especially copies of recreations of copies of imitations of “inspos” of copies, as seems to be rife today.
And believe it or not, some of us who have worked with photographs for more than a week or two, actually recognise low quality crap versions of stuff obviously derived from original work from the 1960’s, ’70’s and ’80’s, and not just the incessant repetition of concepts that were regarded as overworked clichés even forty years ago…no everything old is not, and doesn’t deserve to be new again, especially in a low quality, rip off versions.
Likewise don’t waste time in directions or genres which have no commercial value…keep the amateur glamour girls, flowers, and sunsets for “personal projects” only. Remember people can die from “exposure”, so can careers.
6: Curb your ego. Free work for “exposure”, vanity online magazines, zombie* microstock sites, facebook “like” gathering, rights grab competitions (almost all competitions in the past 30 years), incessant forum posts and arguing from a low knowledge base, following “expert” ebook marketing guides (all written with seemingly little grasp on literacy, let alone marketing) are all examples of photographer egos being exploited due to their arrogance, for absolutely no gain, and usually for great loss, mostly of money, time and credibility.
Believing your work will live on after you have gone is the biggest ego conceit. According to a wide variety of internet commentators, every photographer pre digital is “old stuff” and apparently nameless and forgotten, with the exception of course of Ansel Adams whose name is bandied around on every forum on a daily basis…but you would be hard pressed to find one of these “experts” who knows any of his pictures, or has read and understands any of his theories.
Beginning to sound a bit like a real business, isn’t it?
*zombie microstock sites are those which promise the world, and deliver nothing, are usually low quality snapshot heavy, offer all kinds of member benefits and apparent perks, subscription memberships, frequent give-aways of free pictures, weekly competitions in which every entrant wins (nothing useful or tangible of course, except maybe bragging rights for a day), is run by incompetent management and administration, but does nothing to attract actual picture buying customers (the “built it and they will come” syndrome), and usually few or no actual sales.
My personal research shows that all but the top seven microstock picture agencies have enough zombie aspects to make them a complete waste of time dealing with.
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