Your industry will tell you that you must do things in a certain way.
You must realise that doing things “according to standard” will lead to standard results. I will share some of my wins over the last 10 years of using a camera — not to show off, but to show you what is POSSIBLE. Sometimes, the only thing in the way of your wildest dreams is your own awareness of what is possible.
The glamour portrait industry told me that I must charge a tiny session fee of between $100 and $250 — and then have a sales session that could bring in $5000 on average. Because apparently people can’t see the value of photos until they see themselves in them.
… I don’t do session fees, I don’t charge per photo, and I sure as hell don’t insult the empathy and intelligence of my clients by assuming they won’t trust me to deliver incredible timelessness. My income shouldn’t depend on me being a good saleswoman or having excellent prints displayed in front of them — it should depend on the quality of my work. I have a flat rate, and if someone doesn’t like that they can find a photographer they do like. 🙂
The UK photo industry told me that I need to take down my US-rates and fit in with the £100–300 day rate that so many of my peers here seem to charge. There’s also a burn-out evoking trend here to give dozens of photos without charging extra.
… I no longer take on clients for less than £1100, and at that rate I give a REALLY limited amount of images (while my bigger packages include no image limit). I mean… it took me working my ass off, years of feeling like a failure, multiple moments of wanting to give up (in more ways than one), and a lot of trying and failing…. so that’s also something to keep in mind before you glamourise or envy my position.
The general business industry tells me that I must charge according to the market in my area.
… I don’t suddenly go down in quality because I happened to move to a place where people value photography less. I charge the same rate in any location, don’t feel guilty for it (unless portraiture was suddenly at the bottom — along with Lamborghinis and trips to Bali — on the hierarchy of needs??). I also don’t stick to borders I am in — if a client in Tokyo wants me to come over, why do we limit ourselves to thinking that we must stay within the pond we call “home”? I must stress over and over: if you provide a service that 1) has a flavour dependent on who you are, 2) is not a necessity, and 3) is all about quality: you deserve to charge whatever will allow you to be your BEST for your clients. Anything less than that is actually a disservice to your audience and the world in the long run.
The marketing industry told me that I need to make content every single day “even when I don’t feel like it”, that SEO is important, that I must manipulate others by reminding of their “pain points”, and post pictures of myself in Facebook groups with “value” that are pretending not to be an invitation to check out my profile (c’mon guys, let’s be real here).
… I don’t know about you, but I like clients who are emotionally intelligent. Which means they’d see through my group posts, my forced content, and manipulation from a mile away. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve tried that format. I practiced it for a bit. I was left feeling grossed out with my lack of authenticity, and I stopped. Most of my clients show up because they love my expression, who I am, and what I bring to the table SIMPLY BY BEING MYSELF. I don’t post unless I feel like it. I don’t express unless it’s real. It’s a slower form of growth, but all my clients become my friends, and are people I genuinely admire.
The coaching industry told me that I was not enough for just my personal expression — I needed to express how I was going to change a person’s life. I spent so much of my career trying to CONVINCE people my work would be transformative.
… My current sales page is short and to the point. If my work doesn’t give you a visceral reaction and instantly pull you towards me, then we are probably not a great fit — and that says nothing about you OR me. There is space for everyone in every industry — which automatically means that you cannot be the right fit for everyone. Ma$e was right: Breathe, stretch, shake, let it go.
I remember constantly being told not to use certain Photoshop tools because it destroys pixels and is technically amateur.
…I dodge and burn some pixels until they’re utterly destroyed — and have been known to occasionally go wild with the paintbrush and disrespectfully paint some pink into a sky that originally was completely blue, or — gasp — even add a little bit of paint to hair to shape lighting in a way that suits me. Not ONE client has demanded a refund because of the Photoshop tools I so wrongly use.
Note: I apologise to professional retouchers who may be feeling nauseous or offended — I’m aware of why you do what you do, and respect your craft and ways! This was not a knock on your immense skills and 32412543654 hours spent in Photoshop. My point here is that “the right way” for your industry isn’t needed by my clients, and so I don’t spend time doing it when I could be spending time on what truly matters to them.
The scholarly side of the photography industry values technical knowledge and “correctness” over doing what feels right.
… After years of trying to stick to doing things according to what the books and forums and teachers told me — I noticed that the highest-paid artists were the ones who didn’t give a hoot about the rules. They saw what was considered possible, and said “Fuck that”. A metaphor, for those who are willing to see it.
… Or, the Beginning.
If you’d like to find out more about who I am, what I do, or why you may be avoiding my work: click here.