Being a pro photographer seems glamorous at times, but the reality is, we put it all on the line. Our blood, sweat, tears, and most concerning, our personal egos. We can go from being on an all-time high to the lowest of lows based solely on the response to our work.
As photographers, we have to take risks, risks with our emotions, and risks with our businesses. Here are five risks I think every photographer should take at some point in their careers.
1. Get uncomfortable.
It’s all too easy for us to get comfortable in what we do. Put the light here, stand over there, in front of that same wall or backdrop I have shot over and over again. That’s comfortable. It’s predictable. I get it, but how do you grow as an artist if you don’t get or put yourself in uncomfortable situations? The fastest way to growth is to get uncomfortable.
2. Try something new.
As an artist, the biggest challenge I face is stagnation. We all feel uninspired from time to time, but as an active photographer, we have to ensure we are continuously inspired and plugged in to trends in the marketplace. Something cool 5 or 10 years ago is not cool today. In order to remain competitive, but more importantly, to stay inspired, I am constantly trying something new with photography.
I am sure you are wondering what that even means? Think about it this way. What is your style? Do you shoot natural light? Great. Now, get out there and work with off-camera flash. Afraid of flying? Try aerial photography. Are you a wedding photographer? Try senior portraits. Are you more of a traditional shooter? Get out there and try something more edgy. This is the path to success and something we all need to do.
LET GO! Of something. Anything. Photographers tend to be massive control freaks. The funny thing about all that is, no one knows the difference. Yes, we are all a little obsessive, but there has to be a point where we realize it’s to a fault. While this may sound like a risk, and it is, the bigger risk is not letting go. In order to grow our business we have to let go of some of the mundane tasks we deal with in our business.
If you want to grow, figure out what you can let go of. Yes, I know this sounds counter intuitive, but trust me here. Several years ago, I let go of my post-production, including all the basics of Photoshop, and I have never looked back. It was scary, risky, and liberating all at the same time.
4. Look for a mentor.
Being an entrepreneur is no easy task. We all need a coach or mentor. Someone to help us make the big decisions. Someone to help navigate us through the landmines that are out there. Reaching out to someone for help, like an expert in the realm of landscape photography, can be seen as a sign of failure or weakness, but the truth is, it’s a sign of a savvy business owner. Think about this, in the corporate world, they have a board of trustees, whose collective knowledge helps shape the vision and direction of the company. Who is on your board? This is going to cost you money, but that’s ok. It should. Think about it, you are asking someone to invest their time, energy and knowledge into your business.
5. Expand your niche.
It’s easy to shoot what we are comfortable with, but if you want to grow your business and your craft, you have to expand your niche. Get beyond just the beginner basics. Once you do that, you will see how much easier it is to bring in new business. The age old argument is the specialist vs the generalist. I vote for a specialized generalist. I truly mean that. For me, personally, I focus on high-school senior portrait and weddings. However, I will photograph anything that gets in front of my camera. My clients know this and come to me with other opportunities. Expanding your niche could mean even trying something dramatically new, like drone photography Granted, I am not building the business around these odd-jobs so to speak, but it brings in extra revenue to my studio that if I were purely a specialist I might never have the opportunity for.
Being a sole-proprietor is a risk in and of itself. However, that is just the beginning. In order to be successful, the most seasoned of business owners know that you have to continue to take calculated risks in order to grow your business and reach your full potential. Put a list together for yourself and figure out where you can take some calculated risks for you and your business. If you are wired like me, you will begin to realize the biggest risk to your business is fear of the unknown. Now, get out there and take some risks!