Successful photographers focus on two things others do not

Benjamin Franklin is often quoted that he wasn’t sure if the painted image carved on the chair used by George Washington during the Constitutional Convention, was a sun rising or setting. However, when the Constitution was finally approved and signed he declared, “I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, not a setting sun.”

What Changed?

The key to seeing things in a positive light, like Benjamin Franklin, is focus on the future and not on the past.

I cannot go to a single photographer forum online and not see a lot of heated, sometimes bitter debates going back and forth about how things used to be and how something has now changed.

Instead of people looking to how to go forward, they are looking for whom to blame.

Years ago executives didn’t write their own letters. They didn’t even have a typewriter. They had secretaries do all this for them. They dictated their letters and memos. I remember this being the case up until the mid 1990’s for many companies.

Then came along computers. It took a while for their adoption in the work place. Executives today do all their own correspondence for the most part and may have someone help if they are that busy and have the funds for the assistance.

I can see more and more executives in the future doing even more due to the ease of the technology to create.

Where the professional communicators are going to be finding work is in consulting and helping executives. But doing the day-to-day work will disappear.

The problem is the monetization of the new model of the future–whatever that will be I don’t know.

Facebook is one of the ways I get a lot of news and no it isn’t all from newspapers. A lot are from twitter feeds and people posting their own content–what Patch is doing.

We need to quit bitching and complaining about the model we know that is disappearing. We need to be relevant and creating content that commands attention. Just because you have been shooting for 20 years does not mean everyone needs to hire you to accomplish his or her goals.

Stop over analyzing what was and focus more on the clients and your audience. We have focused way too much on the subject and gear and totally forgotten what we create is for–an audience and a client.

1) Audience and 2) Clients

In order to get jobs as a photographer you must have a portfolio that shows that you are what clients need to solve their problems today and into the near future.

You need to first master the craft before people can hire you to shoot. The problem is that this is where most photographers stop in their growth.

The problem most photographers have and is similar to their clients is understanding what their audience wants and needs. Too many photographers focus so much of their attention on a subject that they are not aware that the audience doesn’t care about it or just as bad that the market is so over flooded with photographers shooting that subject that it is almost impossible to monetize that subject.

Great examples of two markets that are saturated with photographers are weddings and sports. This is not to say you cannot be extremely successful, but just hanging a shingle out and offering photographic services will not make you successful.

Successful photographers are migrants.

A migrant is an itinerant worker who travels from one area to another in search of work.

If you are also willing to learn another language you open the door to even more possibilities with your camera. While one town may have their market saturated with photographers, other communities around the world do not. If your desire is to stay where you are in the house you grew up in, then you may have to become quite creative to find or create the market for your talents.

When the audience and client are the same, this is when you have a Business to Customer [B2C] model. This is the wedding photographers and most portrait photographers market.

When the audience and the client are separate, this is the Business to Business [B2B] model for a photographer. This is where the media, corporations, and small business use photography to reach an audience.

Whoever pays you is the client. The audience is not always your client.

The thing that is appealing about B2C is you only need to understand one group rather than two when doing B2B.

When you are staff, it is quite easy not to understand the business side of the industry. Someone else, your employer, is taking care of it for you. This is where the lack of understanding this can mean that your employer turns many of your ideas for subject matter down. You fail to understand how this story can be monetized. The idea you submitted lacks an audience. Start thinking like the publisher and really connect with your audience and you will help grow the business.

“If you build it, they will come.” — Field of Dreams (1989)

“This is actually bad advice from the movie Field of Dreams. Why bad advice? Most startups focus so much on product (building it!) that they forget about customers and network: Customers, because they need to pay for it, and network, because without a community of power fans around your start-up, it will be very hard to scale.” — Scott Case, chief executive of Startup America and founder of Priceline

I love the movie Field of Dreams. There are some great things to learn from the movie, but I would have to agree with Scott Case on the odds of this model working.

You success will determine if you are forward thinking like a chess player. While you might still be starting out, you still need to think moves ahead.

You can still have problems just like a chess player. But by planning and thinking about the audience and client you are now focusing on your revenue stream and not just on the fun of shooting photos.

How to make the change

Let say you have been photographing a subject for years and are an expert on it. Maybe you have been covering coffee as I have been.

Take a moment and write a list of all the people who would be interested in your subject. Here is mine on Coffee.

  • Coffee Farmers
  • Coffee Cooperatives
  • Coffee Roasters
  • Restaurants
  • Coffee Industry
    • Trade Organization
    • Media for the market
  • Coffee Drinkers
There could be more to add to the list, but you get the idea. Go back through the list and distinguish if they are a client or the audience. Further break it down by identifying the audiences for each client.
Here is an example:
  • Coffee Farmers’ Audience
    • Coffee Roasters
      • Cooperative
      • Local 
      • International
    • Coffee Drinkers
      • They roast and sell to directly
      • Providing content to their clients that help them connect to their customers [drinkers]
After you do this then you go and start looking for content that will help them. When you pitch this to those clients and audience you do so with a hook that addresses the simple question-WHY?
The second question that follows the Why?–is the How? question. How will this help the audience and connect with them?
Focus your action plans for your business on the Audience and the Client to achieve success.