by Ron Pybus Published 01/02/2008
Part 9 on the business aspects of being a successful photographer by Ron Pybus MA ASWPP. In the past issues I have talked about establishing good business practice. In this issue I want to turn to best practice for you, as a photographer.
Many photographers set themselves up with a camera and some lights, take a few photographs, sell them and gradually consider themselves to be a professional photographer. A percentage do not see the need to qualify and even those that do tend to stop, following the success of their first qualification.
In many occupations there is a legal requirement to top up qualifications on a regular basis, but this will be a long time coming in photography. We are not key to the well-being of our customers, unlike first aiders, caterers or gas fitters, but the time will probably come when there is such a requirement. Even now, the committee members of our village hall, who assist in preparing food for quiz nights and the like, have to hold a certificate of competence that has to be upgraded every five years.
Photographers should establish a programme of continual professional development for themselves, otherwise they will stagnate and business will gradually decline. We are not routine workers who, hour after hour, put bolts into particular holes, day after day. If you are doing a routine job there is little training needed, but we are living in a changing world, where the whole of the image market is vastly different than it was ten years ago. Looking back at photographs of my wedding in the 1960s makes me realise how much has changed.
They are black and white and relate better to the stiff poses of the 1920s than they do to the casual, coloured images of the twenty first century.
Our customers are influenced by the images they see around them, yet some photographers are taking the same poses in the studio, with the same props that they shot in the 1990s - except they are now on digital. Photographers are often more interested in digital matters and Photoshop or its alternatives than they are in keeping up-to-date with image making.
Many of the suppliers run one-day courses or master classes on specific topics and, of course, the SWPP host a series of seminars with photographers from around the world making presentations on a whole variety of topics. Then, of course, there is the "Mentor Me" Programme, as well as a whole series of experienced photographers with whom you can have a 'one-to-one' day or a specialised training course.
In selecting a seminar or course you should have considered what you want from the event and how relevant to your operation the speaker and their topic really is. If you only gain one piece of knowledge from a day seminar it can be worthwhile. If you gain more, it can be extremely valuable to your development - but only if you put it into practice! The American management guru, Tom Peters, once stated that there is a 72 hour rule - if you do not put into practice what you have learned within 72 hours you will never put it into practice.
It is also good to distinguish between what is relevant and what is valuable. When American and Australian speakers talk about wall portraits of enormous sizes, you have to remember, as a British photographer, that the UK population is a lot more reserved than those living on the other side of the world and that our living rooms are also much smaller. It is also important to remember that the photographers who come over are all at the top end of their field.
You need to take the target audience of your locality into consideration before you wonder why you are not having the same success as the speaker. By all means attend courses and seminars regularly, but absorb and act on detail relevant to you.
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