So a quick little story before you get to the photos of Maria….
I used to live in Seattle, when I was still working in the engineering world. Seattle, and my position at a major engineering company, was my 1st job out of college. Since I only had 1 friend in Seattle, I had to really put myself out there and try really hard to reach out to the photo and creative communities to build connections (and just make some new friends, at the same time). I had to use modeling websites, email random photographers, models, and even use Craigslist, until I started to get some traction. And since I was new to the area and no one knew who I was, so I had to do some trade work or set up some collaborations with other talent to help build up my body of work and earn their trust that I can deliver some sort of quality photos.
Again, since I was just out of engineering school, my focus was on my job during the week, but my weekends were dedicated to small photo shoots to help build up my body of work. At the time, I was still a little direction-less when it came to photography. I was trying to experiment as lot and trying different things. So I had to find like-minded hair stylists, make up artists, and models, who were open to ideas and cool with experimentation. It was all about what we could do/create together as a team.
It’s a tough but enjoyable process!
I probably went through 3-4 make up artists and hair stylists and countless models, before I found people that I can click with and who were talented, as well. Many of whom were eh, ok. Or some just flaked out, especially the models. Amateur models are probably the worst. You’ll set up a time to meet at a Starbucks to have a small pre-production/pre-shoot meeting and they won’t show up, text, call or respond to emails. But through all of the ups and downs, you start to find a rhythm and style in your photography. You figure out what you like and don’t like and you starting building a rapport with a certain core group of people. For me that group included Leah, Christine, and our friend Todd. The 4 of us were clicking week in, week out.
It was a great team, but sadly, my engineering career took me to Houston, were I pursued a life long dream of working in the Space Program.
Building up a core team of people that you can trust and get along with, takes time. It will not happen over night. But it’s an important part of the entire creative process. It’s a team effort. When I work with them, I rest-assured that the hair and make up will be great! I really miss working with them.
The team has not worked together since I left Seattle, many years ago. So on a recent trip back to Seattle, I decided to re-connect and put together a little photo shoot for old times sake. Here are some photos from a photo shoot with a model named Maria.
This blog post by Seth Godin poses a classic dilemma:
To what extent does someone tailor their work to their audience VS. Producing according to their own personal tastes.
Do I become the photographer (actor, writer, architect, programmer, musician, etc.) clients want me to be because they pay the bills? Or do I continue to forge my own path, regardless of external opinions?
Of course the ideal situation would be if your audience wanted to consume exactly the same things that you want to produce. But, that perfect world does not exist.
In an industry as inundated as the world of photography, you have to stand out and get noticed. You have to deliver the “wow” factor or risk falling into obscurity. But keep in mind that wow to you, may not be wow to me. Close-up action shots of hockey players losing teeth will not impress the photo editor of Joy of Knitting & Basketweaving* magazine, nor will Political Agenda Weekly* appreciate steamy portraits of bikini-clad models (well, at least not in a way that will land you the job). In order to wow your audience, you need to know your audience. Cater to their tastes. Or, better yet, know specifically what kind of photography you want to shoot and then go for the clients who dig your style. It all goes back to a blog post that I did a while back, “Specialize, Don’t Generalize”.
Another way to impress? Do your homework. Wow your potential clients by expressing genuine knowledge about their work and their projects. People like to know that you’re really interested in their magazine, ad campaign, art exhibit, etc. It’s very much like job hunting. When that inevitable question comes up, “Why do you want to work here?”, the candidate who answers with specific references to the company’s products or services will get points over the generalized, nauseating response of “I want to work at a place where I can grow.” <gag>
Do you remember times when you’ve been WOW-ed? I would love to hear some examples.
*Fictional titles created by author of this blog to illustrate a point. Any resemblance to actual titles of publications is pure coincidence.