Chapter 19 and 23 from the book: Don’t Shoot | 66 Reasons NOT to Become a Professional Photographer

Pic Wisely and Special Eyes…

Pic Wisely, Chapter 19 — 

In a rut? Are you showing exotic food photos from around the world on your website but you really want to stay home and photograph dressed-alike families? It’s within your power to change your focus. If you wanna shoot families, you gotta show families.

Did you know it’s “Crackers’n Cheez” not Cheese and Crackers?

When I started charging for my photography I photographed the low-hanging fruit too: head shots, weddings, even the occasional dressed-alike family (I’m not proud of it). This is a great way to pay for equipment and learn your camera and lights but it’s also an easy way to get stuck in a ten-year rut doing bar mitzvahs when all you really want to photograph is food or cars or whatever.

How do you get the work you want instead of the work you have? Show what you want to do.

On your website, in your blog, in your book, on your phone at parties, on your Flickr, IG, and Pinterest pages … hang it on the wall of your house, studio and your favorite coffee shop, put it EVERYWHERE you can. If you want to branch out and photograph other stuff too, think seriously about whether cultivating new markets will dilute your energy and your brand. Some photographers have multiple brands/websites so their boudoir sites look romantic, while their motorcycle sites look macho. Just don’t put your creepy zombie portraits at the bottom of your wedding website … it’s only gonna confuse the brides.

“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”        — Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

Special Eyes, Chapter 23 —

I’m sure your phone’s photo album is just brimming with photos of sunsets, your cat, your car, your lunch, a double rainbow, 344 selfies, and maybe even your junk. This is fine, your style can’t find you if you dive into a specialty too quickly.

But eventually your portfolio better show one thing, and that thing is: One Thing.

Our photo heroes aren’t generalists. I’m not interested in Atget’s puppy portraits, Weston’s wedding albums or the landscape photos of Hurrell or Horst or Hiro. The photographers we admire are very discriminating about the things they photograph. If you want to be special, be a specialist. This means you’ll need to make a decision (scary!). Great photographers may be good at lots of things but they are usually known for one. They are passionate about photography but that’s not all; they are admired because they are also committed to their subject matter. They chose to focus on one idea and made a conscious decision not to do all the other stuff. I do buildings, so I try to avoid weddings, pets and babies. Atget may have known how to do portraits but he is famously known for a lifetime of photographing one city, Paris, in stunning black and white.


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