The Strategic Photographer: Business Ed for Photogs

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Is your ego killing jobs?

“Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”― Ann Landers

Is your Ego getting in the way of your success?

 How does pride manifest itself in the life of a photographer? My mind is spinning with faces and personalities I have met over the years who are no longer with us. They aren’t dead. They are only dead to photography. I myself have had a few near death experiences with pride.

Case #1 The graduate

    I will only share one of my stories dealing with students who have graduated with a college degree in Photography. I photographed a wedding for a bride whose sister had just weeks earlier walked at her graduation and received a bachelors of art in photography. The sister was a little upset that SHE was not consulted or regarded as the expert in wedding photography and therefore treated me like a maggot. She had however photographed some images of her sister for a bridal session and the images were displayed at the reception. 

    As the hired photographer I took pictures of all the decorations including the bridal images. I later uploaded the images to my smugmug account and sent the link to the bride. Within a day I received an email from the sister telling me that I should immediately take the images I had taken of the bridal photos (mixed with decorations) down from my site. How dare I? What kind of a professional photographer would take pictures of another photographers work and try to sell them to other people? She wrote. At first I thought it was a joke. Could she seriously think anyone would buy an image of her sister that was at an angle, has bushes and napkins next to it and is obviously part of a reception decoration? Wow! The arrogance. I wondered if she knew that her sister was the only person I had sent a link to the gallery and it had a password. No matter.

    At the bottom of her email was a link to her webpage which was completely set up but was completely void of images. I wrote an email back, biting my tongue and wished her luck in her career as a photographer. She is now a school teacher. 

Entitlement is a killer! News flash. No one really cares about your pedigree, your past education or even awards. 

Case #2 Waiting on the world to change

    As much as I like that song by John Mayer it is absolute crap. Waiting for the world to change is a recipe for grief. A long time friend and photographer complains every time I see him that work is slow and all these new people are ruining everything, etc… He came to my house one day to pitch an idea. He wanted to put a few thousand dollars into a movie theater campaign ad that would change public opinion to favor “professional” photographers. I thanked him and told him I would think about it. I did. I thought it also was crap. I would just assume try to stop a wave from hitting shore at North Beach. The amount of effort people go through so they don’t have to change is amazing!! People buy new equipment, pay for expensive advertising, and most of all complain. Not being willing to change is completely rooted in pride. It is damnation to a business. All progress stops. 

Case #3 Devoted to the craft

    While it is true Michelangelo was a genius he was also a jerk. He once wrote:

"I am here in great distress and with great physical strain, and have no friends of any kind, nor do I want them; and I do not have enough time to eat as much as I need; my joy and my sorrow/my repose are these discomforts,"

He had a ton of money but never spent it and just obsessed over making more of it.  He fought and scraped and whined and complained to get his way. One look at the statue of David and you think "Maybe he was right." Quality is a great policy. There are those however who are so anal about the details and are so unwilling to budge that they would rather be broke than do a job that is "below" them. If I can’t do it my way I won’t do it at all. Unless you are an absolute genius this is not always a good policy.

In the early years I was turned down on a position to help the biggest photographer in my area to do digital work on his sessions. He declined me for the position.  He wanted someone that knew more than him and frankly I wasn't very good. So I went over to his competition and offered my services. With no hesitation he hired me and taught me what he wanted me to do in one day. We discovered that the other lab (who we were friendly with) had hired a graphic designer who was so anal about each image it took hours for this person to get through a session.  I have some friends who are incredibly talented but no one wants to hire them because they are so difficult to work with. Literally thousands and thousands of dollars are lost to this form of pride. 

The greatest photographer I ever met was a man named Don Blair. He was world renown as a photographer/educator. I was fortunate enough to meet this gracious soul at a Las Vegas conference in 2001. He was dressed head to toe in and eccentric cherry red, shoes and hat included. I went to shake his hand and he grabbed me and smiled and said, “GEE WHIZ, ITS GOOD TO SEE YOU!! GEE WHIZ!!” I learned then why he was so great. He made everyone feel like a million bucks. They were putty in his hands.    

Recommended reading:How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It is a classic for a reason.