It’s Jamie again. Don’t blame Todd for this one, as I’m on a tear and can’t help myself. Although, he’s pretty ranty, so it’s only fair that I get my turn too, right? Here goes, today’s rant as brief and to the point as I can make it:
In mainstream, popular photography education, I keep hearing the same thing over and over:
“Be Different!” “Be Unique!” and all too often “Do what I do and you’ll be different, too!”
I think it’s pretty obvious how frustrating it is to try to follow that advice- you might as well go bang your head against the wall a few times and be resigned to fact that things are going to pretty much stay how they are now, no matter how dissatisfied you are.
Sure, you can go chase down other people’s ideas and spend money on all of the suggestions that have brought success and wealth to somebody else, and things might improve a little, but I would bet that it won’t bring you the same “successful” results that you were hoping for.
Or maybe you can just spend time to “Find Your Style!”- What does that even mean? Sure, there’s something to be said for working out what your photography looks like and what you like to do, especially when you’re just starting out, but I still don’t think that’s the answer. You may think your style is beautiful and unique, and unlike anything anyone has ever seen before, but (and I really hate to burst your bubble) with so many people occupying the marketplace, and with so much sharing and access to others’ work (and I’m not even suggesting the sharing part is a bad thing), you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a style that doesn’t look pretty darn close to somebody else’s (who is no doubt offering it for less than you)- especially to the untrained eye (and most of our potential clients eyes are not nearly as trained as ours are.) I consider myself to have a well-trained eye, and y’all are looking just about the same to me. I’m really glad I got married years ago, because I would not want to be a bride right now and have to weed through hundreds of wedding photographers’ websites to try to figure out what was different about each and which one was the right one for me. It’s nauseating to even think about.
And- you may have a lot of “styles” and love all of them, and not want to give any of them up. So being required to “Find Your Style” and stick to it would be like having to choose which one of your four children you love the best and give the rest away. You might be completely ADD and need something to do something different every day or week or month to keep you engaged and excited about your work- so, for you, trying to solve the problem by limiting your photographic style is going to put you on a direct path to career dissatisfaction.
So, it’s like we all know there’s a problem. We all know that there’s something missing, but we don’t know how to fix it.
The problem is we’re just not digging deep enough. All of these solutions are only on the surface (think of them like Band-Aids). They are the last 5% of how you build a brand. All the Band-Aids in the world aren’t going to fix the wound if there’s a festering infection underneath (sorry for the graphic nastiness).
To fix it, you have get to the root of the problem. You have to dig deeper.
You will discover the root and the feel good answer for everything in your business once you figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing in the way that you’re doing it.
The answer can’t be found from external sources. You have to stop following and chasing and focus on within.
Why do you do what you do?
What do you stand for?
What do you believe?
Make everything tie back to that and you will have your answer of how to “Be Different”.
You’d be surprised and relieved to know after a couple years of working with photographers and digging deep to find what is at the root of their brands, no two have ever said the same thing.
Here’s a hint: it probably has very little, if anything, to do with the photography.