Feel the fear…and do it anyway!
I’ve recently come back from a two-week holiday in southeast France. It was hot, jam-packed with mountains and I ate too many croissants. Oh, and chocolate. I also went up a mountain telecabin (Prorel) that scared the living daylights out of me. It was a bit windy, but nothing terrible. The strange thing is I went up the very same telecabin in February last year skiing and it didn’t phase me. Not one bit. Of course, being a man, I felt the fear and did it anyway. Now that sounds very brave but, to be honest, there is no choice like no choice!
Why was I so fearful? Yes, I suffer with vertigo but…? I came to the theory that in summer I could see vastly more detail in the terrain - the rocks and deep valley - it all looked vastly higher up to my brain? Whereas, when covered in 10ft of snow the landscape is softened and evened out; it looked far less threatening. This situation got me thinking…
A wise person once said: it’s the knowledge of what could happen that creates fear. How often as adults do we look at a situation and because we approach it with ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ we agree it’s too difficult, too dangerous or too expensive and end up not doing it? Rather too often, methinks. When I started in photography I read as many books as I could, took out subscriptions to magazines I loved for their photography and writing, and gleaned as much information, help and knowledge a pre-internet generation could. The only ‘training’ available to me was landscape workshops through the then far fewer enthusiast magazines on the newsstands. I was a news photographer so they didn’t appeal. There were ‘formal’ A’ Levels or those new-fangled GCSEs, and that’s about it. I ended up going through the NCTJ system, passed with merits and distinctions and the company I was working for offered me, wait for it, an additional £500 on my already very poor salary for 18-months hard work. Right. Okay, five-hundred quid… Freelance it is then.
Today, training for photographers has become an industry in itself. Many pros offer brand extensions for their genres; some call them workshops others training days or one-to-ones. Most of which are tuned to enthusiasts, some to professionals. Now, one of my hang-ups as a pro was the feeling that me going on a workshop was admitting to a weakness: surely, as a pro, I should know everything there is to know about lighting, lenses, my camera body and composition? Oh, and as long as I covered my costs at the end of the year that was enough because as I was a photographer I was doing it “for the love of it” right? Website? Nah, that was for massive corporates and would cost 150-grand. Social Media? Didn’t exist. Brand? Say what…
As a photographer you are in sales. Full stop. Your products are the images you sell, your time and your style. Yep, clear. But what about all those extras you can sell? Prints, albums, books, framed prints, wall art and gifts, to name a few. Do you have a strategy and training for these? And what about selling in general – how many of us have come from a industry outside of the arts and believe a website and a few social media posts will be all that’s needed – oh, and all those referrals from brides, families and all their friends. It’s far, far more complex than that in the shark-infested, bloody waters that are the pro photography market.
I myself blindly fumbled along hoping that my talent and reputation (as it was) alone would keep my rent paid and gear updated. For the large part it did; add in hard work and tenacity, plus always over delivering, all played their part. I don’t mind admitting that I was good, and loved what I was doing. I lasted ten years, moving sideways into writing magazines about photography instead. However, I do wonder whether I could have had far greater success if I’d have had access to the sort of training and advice available to pros now: branding, sales, marketing, service diversification, styling, lighting, social media training and web development.
I am a true believer in the power of education; I went to university as a mature student to study chemistry (geology) after all, and have attended numerous night courses in subjects that interested me over the years. I felt the fear - being considered ‘old’ and not very smart amongst the 18-years-olds there - and did it anyway. But I love learning. In fact, I am considering studying again, perhaps an OU course this time… history perhaps. Maybe even a marketing qualification.
It is my firm belief that we should never stop growing. We should never stop learning. We should never stop re-inventing ourselves creatively as photographers. And, in my opinion, the best way for us as photographers to build these solid foundations on is with training and education. So I would urge you next time you mouse hovers over that ‘Buy Now’ button on the training website, that webinar slot or that online course, do it. Commit to it and believe in yourself and your path. There are two things in life that we can never have too much of: love and education. And cake.
By Adam Scorey - One Vision Imaging