Photographers: How to Avoid Obsolescence

We need an overview of the industry and beyond it to make decisions on how to build a successful and sustainable business model.

Three elements in visual communication:

  1. Message
  2. Messenger
  3. Audience
Message: There are many ways this can exist. The message could be everything thing from a person, a group of people, a topic, or an industry to many descriptors.Messenger: For this blog, we are talking about the Photographer or Visual Communicator

Audience: This is the group for which creating images that communicate the message.

My advice is to explore each of these three for all the possibilities.

Become an expert on the Audience—The more you know about your Audience, you understand what they need and want. In addition, it will be much easier for you to plug your subject into the Audience when you know how it impacts them in their daily lives.

Become an expert on the Audience—The more you know about your Audience, you understand what they need and want. In addition, it will be much easier to plug your subject into the audience wheAudienceow how it impacts them in their daily lives.

Become an expert messenger—You master not just photography but all the possible communication tools to help you reach the audience witAudiencessage and vice versa.

Common Mistakes

In response to my earlier blog, “Photographers are becoming obsolete, unless …” many comments were way too linear and short-sighted.

Here is one comment that was typical of others:

“… the only thing saving us professionals is a better ability to understand/use composition and lighting.”

The key thing I want to point out is how too many people are focusing on one thing, which is, in my opinion, what is a sure way to obsolescence.

Just taking this comment, I can see the person has no clue as to understanding anything about the subjects they are taking photos of or the Audience. MaAudienceincredible photo of an issue that the audience hasAudiencerest not sustainable.

I believe a few things will happen over the career of a highly successful visual communicator as they grow in understanding of subjects, visual communication tools, and their Audience, thAudiencemake changes.

Changes you may need to make

Message—I want you to consider this your photograph’s subject. However, over time you may discover that the issue has a shrinking market. In other words, you will find from your expertise on your audiences that few people have an interest in your subject. When this happens, you need to find another topic or issue to sustain your career.

Audience—Some great examples of this change include how the web has impacted communication outlets. You may have only been able to shoot for a local newspaper in the past, and today, you may have a very successful worldwide audience due to online blogs, forums, or social media outlets. Unfortunately, some publications [audiences] have gone out of business, so you must change.

Messenger/Medium—As a professional visual communicator, you need to make changes due to the available mediums. For example, you made changes from film to digital and now are changing from older digital devices to newer ones.

Mediums and Audiences are blurring.

A professional visual communicator would consider a publication as an audience just a few years ago. Today blogs are a great example of how the medium is closer to you, thus bringing audiences ever closer to you. As a result, you can interact in a dialogue with your Audience.Today the connectivity we have between all of these is opening up new avenues for communication. It is no longer one way as in the past. Your Audience will tell you what they want and comment on what you are giving them in real-time. You don’t have to do focus groups to find out what the readership thinks—they are commenting on social media and if you allow it on your packages online.

If you focus on mastering photography and how to light things and compositionally capture something alone, then you are on your way to obsolescence.

Those who are growing their business are expanding their horizons and learning more about the world in which they live. They are becoming experts on subjects and learning more about what interests people.

As you grow in your knowledge of the message, the messenger, and the Audience, youAudienceve eureka moments like Steve Jobs, who brought us the technology we didn’t even know we needed.

Bicycle Wheel as a Metaphor

I like to think in visuals, so my visual for going forward is a bicycle wheel. My focus is on the spokes that, when they are equal and have the appropriate tension, help keep the wheel accurate and wobble-free.

I see each of the spokes as another way you can strengthen your business.

How many spokes?

The number of spokes in a bicycle affects its performance. Fewer spokes tend to have aerodynamic advantages. On the other hand, more spokes usually mean more strength and durability.

I see those new faces in the industry getting a lot of visibility as having fewer strokes. But, on the other hand, I see those with long-sustaining careers as those with more spokes.

My advice

Master a subject. Master a medium. Master an audience.

After doing this, add another subject, medium, and Audience.

If life is pretty shaky right now, your spokes may need some adjustment.