Important questions for photographers.

So this may seem like rather a strange post. But every now and then I get asked to give advice on a portfolio or on how to make yourself stand out as a photographer. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to, I honestly don’t know the secret to success.
I’m not even sure if there is a one size fits all answer for that kinda question either. Also although I have been a photographer for a good long while I don’t actually think my critique of a portfolio is worth anything more than anyone else’s opinion.
But in the interests of general discussion, here is what I would say if asked how to make your photography successful.

Starting at the beginning: Ask yourself the following questions.

1. What do I want to achieve?
In other words, what do you define as being successful.
For some a couple of magazine submissions is exactly what they’re looking for, for others they wont be happy until their photos are paying their mortgage. Both are totally acceptable but the answer to this question fundamentally changes your approach to your photography.

2. What is your USP?
In business studies you are constantly asked this. In essence, what makes your product different? Why should anyone choose you over your competitor?
Your USP can be your personality, your style, your process, whatever you like but it has to be effective in differentiating you from the crowd.

3. What type genre of photography are you wanting to do?
Do you want to do weddings and engagement shoots, or are you only interested in product photography?
Whatever your interest or passion you need to select it and focus. Too many of us try our hand at everything and become a master of nothing.
Specialise and be the best at your craft.

4. Does it sell?
Honestly it doesn’t matter how many facebook likes you get or whatever. If no one is buying your product you don’t have a business. You have an expensive hobby.
You can listen to keyboard warriors critiquing your work all day long, but the ultimate decider is the market!

5. Can you deal with rejection?
If you can’t then this may not be the profession for you. As with fashion, and all other forms of art it will be subject to peoples opinions. And you can bet that at least one person out there will not like it as much as you do. This becomes even more of a blow when you pour your heart into making your latest piece and spend hours setting it all up only to have someone on a forum point out how many things they think you’ve done wrong.
Add to this the amount of emails to editors that go unanswered and clients that will mess you around, you will need a thick skin.

And finally 6. Are you any good at marketing?
In a world of social media and the ability to make your work available to millions of potential clients do you know what you’re doing?
In the case of people wishing to make photography their career this is especially important. After all you can have the best product on the market but if no one knows then no one cares. Simple as that.
You will hear stories of guys and girls that went un noticed for years before they got lucky and someone found them. And that’s awesome! But it’s not an ideal conversation to be having when you need to pay your credit card off.
You can’t rely on organic growth, you will need to market yourself and make those connections happen.

If you can answer these questions you should begin to get an idea of where you are now and where you want togo.
Unfortunately there is no set path and it’s unlikely that anyone will hold your hand the whole way either! But figure out what you are and what you want, specialise and keep on improving no matter how good you think you are.
And for those of you who are embarking on this path I wish you the best of luck and I hope 2015 is your year!

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