- Great product doesn’t “sell itself”. I see a lot of very talented photographers with fantastic universe of works and yet not having almost any recognition. Normally they get to around 500 followers on IG and then just stop growing. I know other people who's work is rather famous (10000-50000 of followers), but they are having trouble making any money - people are used to look at great images for free these days and you need to bring other type of value to get paid. Many people dream about working with big brands or selling their art in prestigious gallery, but the goal is so remote that they don't know where to start. I learned that you have to dedicate time to promote your art. It's boring, it's hard, but if you don't do it no-one will notice your existence. You need to be smart too - it's easy to get cheesy or spamy or look desperate when you are not sure what value you can bring to people who would feature you or pay you. Try to look at things from their perspective, ask what they can get from working with you and then try to provide it the best you can.
- Don’t try to make “everyone” like your work. Here is a very strange thing with creatives: 1 bad comment out-weight 1000 of good for us. I have a fb page with 100k followers and around 1000 "likes" for each photo. But when even if I have 2-3k "likes" and "loves" and one "angry face" I will be wondering what made that person angry. Another example: I gave a lecture in Kiev School of Photography and the school promoted the event with some of my pictures. For one picture (editorial featuring gorgeous designer dresses, published in prestigious magazine) I got a negative comment from a beginner photographer that he "can not regard it as fashion photography". And it really upset me. I know he doesn't have an experience yet to say if it's fashion or not, even if it's good or not, but it hurt me all the same. So believe me when I am saying, I know the feeling of wanting everyone to like my pictures and, by proxy, myself. But in reality it's much better to have some people love your work and some people hate it then to be neutrally nice for all. Because people who love your work will become your clients, collaborators, people who feature you, people who buy your prints or books; people who hate your work will become unwilling promoters too in maybe cases; but people who like or "don't mind" your work will look at it and move on to the next photographer because people don't view art for "nice", they want to be in awe or be enraged, to express their views through their reaction to your photos.
- Don’t plan for fast success. Let me explain this with an example of models because they have faster career cycle. I worked with dozens of agencies and hundreds of models and what I often see is that models who really succeed are the ones who never stop promoting themselves, looking for cool projects and keeping in touch with their agent. I saw many beautiful girls who signed the contract with an agencies and decided that now it's time to relax and wait to be promoted to a star - it very rarely works! From the agencies point of view they have a few dozens to a few hundreds models and maybe dozen of agents. Agent can put their time into promoting models who just waits or into promoting model who already does most of the work herself. Who do you think is more effective to promote with limited time? And who do you think is getting most of the jobs? For photographers things are even more dramatic. If you are signed with an agency (and they sign maybe several photographers a year, max), for the first few years you will be redirecting to them all your clients and giving them the percentage of your commissions without them sending you new clients at all. The reason is with big clients the cycle is really long and the stakes are high so they need to really get to know you and make sure you are reliable and will deliver. So you need to build yourself before (and after) someone will trust that they will profit from building you up. If you just do your thing and wait to be discovered ("Maybe this or that person will see my pictures and be impressed and will call me up and sign me"), you need to know it might happen (we all know the story with Kate Moss for example), but the probability of this is way too small for you to bet your career on it.
- Local and global scale. I always thought this problem was uniquely mine, but the more I talk to people the more I see it is actually quite common. I was thinking something like that: "How dare I apply for this job/bother this designer/show my work to people" when my pictures are much worse then pictures in Vogue/much worse then pictures of Peter Lindbergh or even some "local celebrity" blog photographer. And then I met a client who we became friendly with and he was more from business world. He saw way more clear than I did how much I sabotaged myself with this thoughts and he proposed a model of 2 scales (which I fine-tuned since). There are 2 scales: one is your global full-life scale and another is here-and-now scale. On full-life scale you have Vogue, galleries, your favorite photographers and honestly, on this scale you are still quite low - how could you not be, it's your 2nd or 5th year as a photographer and Newton or Leibovitz had decades of talent and hard work and luck before they produced those pictures you worship. This scale is your ambition for your career as a whole, only you see it. What clients and collaborators need to see is you on here-and-now scale, because that's what is relevant to them: where are you in relation to other photographers on your location, in your niche, in your price range. I bet on this scale you are quite successful! And if you play your cards right and let your clients and collaborators see it, they will help you to build yourself up on your full-life scale as well.
Lessons Learned (My Favorite Of Budapest Questions)
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