Understanding Your Skill Level and Your Market
What are your strengths? I kind of touched on this a little bit earlier, is that you need to identify the things you do well. I'm gonna talk about portfolio or social media, for example. If I look at your Instagram feed, am I gonna know what you're good at? Ask yourself that question. Because if I can't, if I look at your Instagram feed and I don't know what you're good at, clients aren't gonna know what you're good at. If they see a landscape, a picture of your dog, three food pictures, a picture of the Christmas tree, travel pictures, you have to treat those things, and I will go in depth about this later, you need to treat everything you present yourself as an artist with with a consistency. If you really, really feel strongly that you wanna exist in two or three different venues, have two or three different portfolios, under different accounts, because I want to hire you as a food photographer. I wanna see what you do best. If it's lifestyle, fill that thing up with lifestyle. If i...
t's tabletop, fill it up with tabletop, because if you don't, you're going to find that people are confused. This is age-old in our business, in that, if I present a portfolio to an editor, especially at a newspaper, which was my experience, I make it harder by that newspaper if my portfolio's all over the place 'cause they, "Oh good. This guy, "we can just send him out to do anything," but then you will never graduate from that. You will always be that guy, or that girl, who goes out and does whatever. What happened to me was after a few assignments, I realized that I was good at one thing. I was good at this right here, in this little space, and that was my space, and I owned it, and I got really good at it, and then I started getting further away from the table, and then I started getting into the bigger scene. It's the other way around in food photography, or any photography. You start macro and work out because if you start out here, nobody's gonna know what you do. You gotta be honest about what you're good at. If you're not sure about what you're good at, consult your friends; consult the other artists; consult your Facebook friends, "What do you feel I do best?" I've had many friends in the business who have had to completely flip their portfolio because they were blind to the fact that what they did best, so I had a great friend who was a portrait photographer, he was super proficient and really technical, but it didn't have that life, but his lifestyle work and his reportage work was amazing. It took kicking and screaming and throwing him on the ground and shaking him, "This is your best work; promote that work," and then, all of a sudden, it started to unfold for him. It's very clear, you have to be able to know what your strengths and weaknesses are in the business and what you wanna do. Sometimes those things don't match up. Sometimes what you really wanna do and what you do the best are different, and that's when you get into that, you're cross-wired, and you can overcome that, but you also have to understand why is the client hiring you? Why do you want them to hire you? You want them to hire you for your art and what you do well. I'll talk about this a little bit later, you also don't want them to just hire you 'cause you're the cheapest person out there. That, unfortunately, is a motivating factor for a lot of clients. I want you to be able to come away from this with a confidence to know, "I do this really well, and I'm gonna, "promote this thing that I do very well consistently." Here comes the reality check. All of that stuff said, you need to basically be able to be realistic about what you can do at this particular phase in your career. A lot of people overshoot the mark. As soon as they feel like it'd make the picture, they're throwing themselves out there into the open market. When you're a good artist in a small market, and all of a sudden you think you can throw yourself into the global market or the national market, you're gonna get overwhelmed, and you're gonna make a mistake in the things that you think you know, but you don't know yet because you haven't experienced it, you haven't learned it, you haven't put it into practice. Depending on what we're talking about here, are we talking about advertising? What is advertising? We're gonna go over that. Are we talking about editorial? Are we talking about publishing? Are we talking about social media or branded content? All of these things are different in our industry. All of them have different price tags. All of them have different expectations. All of them have different legal protection. If you have this sense that I wanna be in this particular venue, I wanna be in editorial food photographer because I get more creative freedom, and I really like the way this operates, or I wanna be in advertising, okay, fine. All of that is a continuum as well, so you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish. I've seen this happen; I've seen somebody who had great skill and lacked experience and got in over their head with a really big client and got embarrassed. It set her back. It set her back in her career because then all of a sudden her confidence was shot because she realized just how much she didn't know. She lost that client, and it's taken time to build that back up because then, of course, reputation follows you too, especially if you have one bad job with one big client. I've experienced it as well. I've had that experience as well, where you get in a little over your head, and you make a mistake, and then, or something happens, and maybe not even a fault of your own, but it was something you couldn't foresee, and you end up losing the job. That, you wanna go out against. That's where all the things we're gonna talk about throughout this whole time is gonna be a lot of over layers, a lot of overlapping, to teach you that all of these things are intertwined. The more we talk, the better.