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Simple, yet revolutionary

July 21, 2010
tags: business, Photography, thoughts
by Hannah

it caught my eye... {going places…}

I had sort of an epiphany this week.
I was reading a local arts magazine that I picked up at my favorite vegan restaurant, and I came a across a full page ad for another local photographer. This photographer is obviously getting a lot of the opportunities that I really want- working with local artists and musicians and businesses. I will be honest with you here- business has been pretty slow. I feel like I am still in the process of starting my business, even though I will be celebrating 2 years officially in October. I have been frustrated and discouraged. This is my passion. Photography is what I do- it is part of me. I want this passion to also help to support my family, and I know that it will if I work hard at it.
So, back to “the other photographer”… I was so ashamed at myself for the twinge of jealousy I felt as I read her ad and browsed her website. I am ashamed to admit that found myself comparing our work in my mind, but then I just stopped myself, and thought about it. She is very talented, and she is just in the process of starting out too. It is clear that our styles are very, very different, and would appeal to different clients. Jealousy gone, I just feel a kinship with her, because she and I are in the same boat- owning a creative business in an economy that is no longer thriving the way it was, in a society that (as a whole) does not value art- especially photography- the way it deserves.
Reflecting on my emotional reaction to all of this, suddenly something just clicked for me.
I have to be different.
When I first set out on this journey, I looked at the work of other photographers, gathered ideas from what I saw others thriving in, and stored up knowledge from online photography forums. I tried to figure out how to emulate what I saw. Many others seemed to be doing the same- there is a similar look that many photographers have, especially for babies and children. They tend to follow certain trends. Their business models are all pretty similar as well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the things that they’re doing, and obviously they each have their own creative voice (so I’m not saying that they’re all just copying each other- there is really a massive amount of talent in each one of the businesses I’m referring to), but I never really connected to that way of doing things.
I was mistakenly thinking that I should style by business and my work a certain way to attract clients, and that success in this business had a specific formula to be followed, when really I need to be myself, to stand out as offering something truly unique. This is what people are drawn to, and not just any people, but the people who are the clients that I want- not just someone who wants some pictures taken, but someone who loves my style and wants me to create art for them.
For me, that uniqueness comes in the form of natural, unposed sessions that highlight the raw beauty of my subject. Very few props. Natural light. Locations that inspire. Some of the trends out there- uber-posed newborns and faux wood floor panels for instance- are just not me.
Another huge part of it is about my love for film. It is how my love for photography began- it still feels more real and tangible to me, and some of my favorite pictures I have ever taken have been with film. I have had the idea in my mind for a while to use film for my professional work, but I didn’t pursue it- because I didn’t think anyone else was anymore. Not only do I not care what everyone else is doing now, but after a little research, it turns out that there are some absolutely amazing professional photographers out there shooting 100% film (for weddings and portraits, not only fine art work). In fact, a few of them have been some of my biggest inspirations for a while now and I just didn’t realize they weren’t using digital. Shooting in a combination of both formats, I believe, will make me a better and more well-rounded photographer, and will add a unique aspect to my business that will set me apart from “the competition” (though I really dislike referring to fellow artists that way- I suppose because I am very non-competitive by nature…)
So that is the simple, revolutionary thought that dawned on me- that the key to success in running an independent business is to be different from everyone else, to stand apart, and allow my personality and passions to shape my brand into something unique and lasting.

{p.s.~ The super talented and successful film photographers I referred to include Jose Villa, Jonathan Canlas, Brandon and Brian Wright, Tracey Tesmer, and the photographer whose work first inspired me to do portraits and weddings- Elizabeth Messina.}

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Phoe permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:13 am

    I am just just starting, I have put the idea in words and thoughts, now to get it into action. But I do find that what I want to do is completely different from what others in my area are doing. Which is great… and not great. I wish I were more confident of finding the sort of people who will appreciate what I can do. But you’re right, it’s about being genuine.

    • Hannah permalink
      July 21, 2010 11:51 am

      Definitely. Best of luck on your journey. You are very talented.

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