Why are you a photographer? Why do you pick up a camera each week? What’s your purpose behind photographing the world or the people in it other than the fact that it excites you? Of course you care about both, but which do you care about more—money or people? Why?
I wake up each day with these questions constantly poking me from the inside out, and not just from the wedding photography side of things, but for life in general. I grew up not questioning much of anything. I was taught what I was taught and I operated within that spectrum, never imaging the idea that maybe what I was being taught wasn’t the best way or possibly even the right way of going about life. Belief is a powerful right that we each possess and what our philosophies are made up of really dictate everything we do in life and in business. As the world has progressed rapidly over the last century, we’ve gone from being extremely surface level and selling products based on what they are, which typically encompasses the features and functionality of the product, to now seeing the most prominent brands owning the marketplace because of the purpose behind their product and/or company.
As a wedding photographer, I ask those few questions everyday because I understand and fully believe that the people who buy why you do something are really the people who fulfill our purpose for the trade. Almost weekly I do one-on-one mentor sessions with photographers across the globe as well as host a year-long mentorship for creatives, and one of the big fights I hear and often get asked about is how to find and book the right clients for their specific brands. I think the first step in approaching this is to question yourself and what you think about the world. Your WHY is your purpose, it’s what you believe about life and the people around you. Once you’ve defined that and written it down (writing down is essential) it begins by communicating that WHY with every avenue available to you and with every chance you can. Once you stop talking about what you do and start sharing about why you do it, others who believe in what you believe in will start to congregate around you. THOSE are the people you want to come to you for business. THOSE are the people who will truly value you. The moment you find these people is the moment you will start to build a following. I believe when creatives don’t take this route, even if they are successful in building a large number of people who follow along with them based on the WHAT (their work, their editing, etc.), their followers end up tagging along for “inspiration.” However, loyalty isn’t built within the following because no deeper reason exists. I can talk all day and get asked often to speak about specifics of photography or business such as marketing, pricing, social media, editing, organization, client management, etc., but these are always topics I shy away from speaking about outside of my mentorship or workshops because they are all rooted in a specific purpose. If my purpose isn’t first defined or shared about, then people will only understand the WHAT behind my brand. When you only understand what someone does, it makes you want to do what they do, but when you come to understand why someone does something it shifts you to understanding how you can then take that knowledge, apply it your business and make it unique to your brand. It allows you to realize then how you specifically stand out in a saturated market.
When I started to question everything and dug deeper into the education I was handed, I revealed some truths that changed my perspective on life. My philosophy of life—more than just business—came down to people and to connecting with them in such a way that they are no longer mere subjects through my lens, but lives that I have the opportunity to impact. Truth be told, they impact me far longer than just a single wedding day. I discovered the true value of who I am as an artist and how I stand out with what I provide uniquely to this niche industry when I decided to start focusing my intention toward these thoughts. If you are struggling with business, whether that involves booking more clients, defining your brand, shooting better, or anything else that we as photographers have to focus on, take a step back and ask yourself WHY about every single part of what you do. It will drastically shift your business into that thing you’ve always wanted it to be, or it will reveal to your need to do something else with your life. Either way, you’ll be better off and you’ll feel more fulfilled with how you lead your life.
I recently wrote a book for creatives in which I dive much deeper into this world of business and people. It’s called POSER and it’s a book about business, but also about posing and how I’ve come to find that the two are really one in the same in terms of a successful approach to bringing more meaning to my art. If you are struggling with either of these things, I think it could serve as an inspiration as well as provide some how-to’s for you to step up your game in the coming days. The feedback I’ve received so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and because I want to share about what I believe in, I actually made it free. It’s not a super short ebook that’s meant to give you a bite-size piece of something just so I can sell you something later, but rather it’s a chunk of helpful content to push photographers towards pursuing their dreams. If you aren’t a huge reader, this could be a jump start to changing that if you let it. Whoever reads the most books wins, and whether we like to read or not, that is the truth. The root of business is people and my purpose on this earth is to help people succeed and be inspired in what they do everyday. We only have a short amount of time on this planet and how we choose to approach each day has an impact on tomorrow, so I hope you at very least take the time to think about the reasons and beliefs you have that are deeper than what others are feeding you and in turn build a business that has a greater impact on others.