Marketing in Your Own Way
So with daily life sessions, I've realized in Denver that I have to do the same thing and with even my one hour documentary sessions I have to still market to the general audience because most of them don't know that this is what they want; they have to see it. So that's my point: you can't convince anyone, but your photos can speak for you and if they connect with your photos on your website, if it makes them laugh, it makes them envision their own family's heads on the photos you've taken, if it makes them think, oh my God, that one time when, you know, so and so got food all over the house, like, if I'd had a photo of that, that would've been amazing. Like, you want something. If it's something like, really like, kind or loving or nurturing and it touches them, you just want them to connect somehow to the pictures and the other thing is, the great thing is there's not very many people that are really good at this so if you work really hard and have really good photos, they're going ...
to stand out amongst everybody else that's shooting in your market. It's just how it works. So this is my come to whatever Higher Power you believe in talk. (audience laughter) I hear a lot of students, photographers interested in this that after a year say, "I just, I can't get any clients. It's not happening." Well, the thing I need to tell you is you're not good yet. You're not good enough. You shouldn't be good, really good in a year. I think what people don't understand is this genre is not for everyone. This, in my opinion, is the hardest type of photography that you can do and I think that photojournalists will agree. They don't even recognize family photojournalism as being like, an established or respected genre because their work is so hard, what they're doing. This, like I told you, or did I mention this? You can't learn a formula for this. This isn't like you just learn about how to set up your lights and how to pose people and then you can go out there and be making, you know, pictures that are going to stand up to everybody else's. The reason why I talked so much yesterday in the beginning about the evolution of photojournalism and your own perspective is because that's what this genre is about and it's not for everybody. But I don't do this to make money. It helps that I can, you know, support my family, but I do it because I really love it. I'm like, super committed to this. This is something that speaks to me and I believe the only reason that I'm getting clients is because I'm doing everything that I talked about yesterday. I'm really injecting myself into my work. It's fine. There are two types of people I think in photography. There's the business people and there's the artists and artists will always have a harder time learning business and business people, I believe, will never really embrace the art of photography, but it is an art-form. It's fine, like you can be an awesome business person and I have friends that are like meh, I just make photos that are decent enough, good enough, I got a lot of clients and I make a lot of money and I make a lot in sales. I'm not going to be able to tell you how to do that and I'm very open about that. There's other amazing business people out there that I refer and Mark Janson is one of them and before the end of the day I will put up his information 'cause he has a great portrait workshop coming up for sales, but it's for lifestyle and documentary family photographers. It's basically like, this sales class for people that don't want to be car salesmen. He's so much better at it, but he also is working in a market locally so he can teach you all these tricks. I've learned that I can only do what works for me and you can only do what works for you and just take whatever you think that I teach you that you can apply. This genre requires a lot of you in order to make good photos and that's just the bottom line. It's true. True hardcore photojournalists like Ami Vitale, she told me once that she gave up any idea of getting married and having kids because all she wants to do is travel the world and tell people's stories. She is not doing that for money, I can guarantee you. James Nachtwey, one of the best war photographers of our time, he is still on the road 24/7 shooting. So is David Alan Harvey. Like, they do it because they love it, because there's something in them that makes them want to tell people's stories and that's what this genre is about and if that doesn't resonate with you or with people at home, then that's fine, but then it's gonna seem like anything I'm teaching you is gonna be for nothing or that it's all ... Wish I could swear. (audience laughter) (laughter) But really, it's just gonna seem like crap, right? Some people think this is the worst class ever (audience laughter) because they're not getting it, and that's fine, but all I care about is making good pictures, allowing photography to feed me and fuel me because it does as an artist inside and I'm really committed 100% to helping other photographers make good pictures. It's like, really like, what I care about most. So I press this concept over and over again with my students that you're not going to be good in a year. You're going to be way better than I was. Do we recall some of the photos? (audience laughter) Because no one had ... I didn't have anyone to teach me about this. I'm giving you everything I have so you are like, eight years ahead of me, but you have to make pictures. You have to, have to, have to. You have to F up a lot. You have to make a lot of really bad photos. You have to make a lot of really horrible mistakes and learn from them photographically and then you have to be brave enough and you have to feel confident enough to allow yourself to feel something while you're shooting. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable and that's why I'm vulnerable whenever I'm teaching or speaking. That's why I talk about body parts. That's why I talk about crappy things that have happened to me in my life because I'm asking you to be vulnerable, but how can I do that if I'm not vulnerable myself? That's not fair. So with this genre, I want you to remember the average professional goes to school for six to seven years after high school. This is crazy, I just looked up this average, and now invests over $80,000 a year for education. $80,000. All I'm asking you is for the first three years or so, do a lot of work for free, but it's free for you. It's not free for your clients, it's free for you. It's free education and is there anybody in this studio audience who is married whose husbands have put pressure on them to start bringing in money soon? Okay, well I have this ... Felicia, poor Felicia. (audience laughter) So Felicia and I have come to whatever God you believe in talk and I promised her that I would say this to everybody at home, especially moms that love photography and they've decided to go back into the workforce 'cause this is who I work with a lot and their husbands are on them within a year. "Why are you still doing free shoots?" "Why aren't you bringing in the money?" Well it's hard and think about it, like, they got to go to school for eight years to learn a craft and then get some terrible position in a company and then it takes them a while to work up there a few years to get good. The federal government gives you eight years to be in the red as a business. That means they're telling you the average business takes eight years to be profitable. So if you can even be making decent money in three years or four years doing this, you're cutting that time in half. So what I say is to my lovely, supportive husbands at home (audience laughter) please be a little bit easier on your wives 'cause they're learning something that is so hard, but if they put their mind to it and their heart into it and if you give them that space to allow them to get good, they'll bring in all sorts of money, but putting the pressure on them is also gonna be hurting them internally and questioning and putting self-doubt in them that they should be doing this quickly. Does that make sense? And I'm not talking to Alex just 'cause he's the only man in here. (audience laughter) I'm talking to you, Alex. (audience laughter) You tell your wife to lay off a little. (audience laughter) To just give a little bit of space, give you a little bit of time to learn.