You can't blame us, can you? Technology now iterates at a pace faster than most of us can wake up in the morning, and the barrage of new gadgets has only increased our intuitive nature towards fast-moving technology. With the advancement of a device like the iPhone, and the incredible camera it sports (have you seen images from the 7plus?), the barrier to entry to become a photographer has dropped to a historic low, and the advancement of tech and software makes the learning curves one of the most shallow line graphs you could plot.
Of course, I don't think this is bad. At all. If it weren't for these massive advancements in the last 10 years, I wouldn't be typing this blog right now, and I more than likely would have replaced the life I live now for staying in the construction trade out of high school - my family's chosen line of work. If it weren't for the iPhone, the internet, the 5D Mark II, the Nifty-Fifty, Adobe Photoshop, LimeWire, and the rest, I doubt I'd have blossomed in to the creator I am today. Even the advanced and vast access we have to the information regarding these things is something to stand in awe of.
However, it still comes at a cost. If you've ever read my blog before, you might know that I originally started my photography journey in large-part because I wanted to become famous, because I saw that it was possible. I wanted to be someone, like someone else that I saw on the internet. Like a ton of people I saw on the internet. It wasn't all malicious - I loved photography then, and I love it now - but it was that desire to appear some way, somehow, as some "thing" or someone that destroys us and lacks all the creativity and moving forward of culture that we should be practicing.
Instead of creating something unique out of my life, I just wanted to imitate what had already been done because I had the tools and the software and the gear. I didn't care about uniqueness.
That was the primary problem with my desire to be a photographer. And to be fair, as humans, we learn through imitation, all of our life. I was young and I saw something cool, sexy, and exciting - and accessible. I can't blame myself for wanting it or even for trying to get it. The issue is that this mindset still lingers around us for ages and ages and ages. It infects who we are, it infects our shutter finger and it's a copy-paste virus in our Lightroom catalog. Our Instagram feed and Facebook page. It takes us over. And we become too focused on how we want to appear to others, rather than delivering the best product and the best price with the best service and communication.
I call for, instead, a slow-down to 50% and an audit of why you and I are even in this business. Is it cool and sexy and fun to be a photographer? I cannot truthfully say that I am less excited to be a photographer than I would be as a port-a-potty salesman. I get it, because I'm there and it's awesome. The problem comes when we want to portray a version of ourselves that just isn't true or accurate. Then a client or a fan sees that, and there's a disconnect and a confusion because your internet-persona doesn't line up with your day-to-day.
Vulnerability and honesty in your business and media presence will push you further than you could think. There's no need to construct walls that feign your success.
I still have a TON of things to figure out. A lot of students and photographers from my community will occasionally say things like "oh, how could you have "x" happen, you're x/y/z, that I don't get it." In those times, I realize that I haven't communicated my vulnerability well enough. I haven't been transparent enough about who I am. Is it all my own fault? No, not at all. I think I do a good job of breaking down the successful, famous, amazing photographer stereotype that sometimes comes with this job, because I am not any of those things.
What I am, instead, is someone that cares about other people.
I am someone who is creative and ideas-driven.
I am someone with a hard work ethic.
I am someone who loves the morning clouds and doesn't care about driving a sports car.
I am someone who will intently listen to what you have to say.
I am someone who wants to see the light in this world outshine the darkness.
And the problem with our photography culture is that WE ARE TOO AFRAID TO SAY WHO AND WHAT WE ACTUALLY ARE, and too quick to deny what we aren't, because we can hide behind our Instagram accounts and boost our ego while pushing people away and not letting anyone in to our lives. It's a vicious cycle that I've been a part of, but quickly learned to break apart. We need to stop trying to "be someone," we need to identify our strengths, and we need to share those strengths with the world.
Want to grow your photography business faster? Stop focusing on what you want to appear as, and start focusing on what you can do better than anyone else.
The root of this issue is that too many of us don't understand how to identify what our strengths are. Let me explain in 3 points:
1) I'm a tactile learner, so I've had to try and fail at a lot of things in my life (even to this day!) to understand what I'm good at and what I'm bad at. Trying and failing, going and doing and auditing myself and writing down the things I do well and the things I do not-so-well has truly pushed me further than I could have ever gone had I not done that and had I not continued doing it to this day. It requires a humility and openness with oneself.
2) I'll also often audit myself and see what I'm doing well at by asking my wife or my friends what my strengths and weaknesses are. Just a couple weeks ago, I asked Kiara, my wife, what she thought my strengths and weaknesses were and what areas of creativity I should specifically focus on. Her recommendation was to continue blogging - and that my writing exceeded even my ability to capture images.
3) If you're looking for a very practical way to learn your strengths faster than the above mentioned practices, the Strength's Finder book is massively helpful to many people who want to identify their strengths and weaknesses so that can have an anchor to focus on. The book is a bit expensive, but is highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn their strengths and employ them fast, quick, and effectively. Here's a link to purchase the book:
When we start to identify our strengths in our creativity and business, we can focus on THOSE things, instead of trying to figure out everything we need to do to bring our weaknesses up to par, just so we can poorly manage them in our business.
We can delegate, partner, collaborate, and otherwise outsource the things we're not good at, and leave the awesome, fun, life-giving stuff that we ARE good at to ourselves. For me, I know that I'm very ideas-driven, I communicate incredibly well, and I'm very structured and organized. Those are my strengths. My weaknesses are a laundry list, but two of the weaknesses I'm beginning to start focusing on delegation are creative execution and confidence in my work.
It may sound weird to delegate those things, but for me, it makes sense. My ideas are usually 100x bigger than what I am capable of executing alone. So, instead, I use a team or, with Talley Media, I send work off to other creatives. This also detaches me from the final outcome and helps me have more confidence in my work, because it's not just mine.
When we figure out what it is that we're good at, we stop pretending to be good at everything, and we stop portraying a version of ourselves and our business that just isn't true, only then do I believe we can truly succeed in bringing our vision forth and shaping a new and unique culture around who we are and what we bring to this world.
I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.