Necessity is the mother of invention. –Plato
Photographers need to run their business like a shepherd. If shepherds stayed in one place hunting and gathering food, sooner or later the area would run out of things to gather. In order for them not to run out of food so quickly, shepherds tended to travel in rather small groups.
One of the best experiences to have in one’s past is the desert experience. When you are trying to survive and pretty much no matter where you look you see desolation your priorities shift to survival mode.
I was laid off from a job in 1989 and found I was in a desert for close to three years. This is when I was unable to find a job, as a photojournalist that was my calling.
I decided to take this time and go back to school for my masters and find whatever job I could to pay the bills.
While you are in the desert you are having your priorities rearranged. While I had studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in my social work undergrad program, it was the loss of my photojournalist job that gave me real world experience in it.
|Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs|
I realized my first priority was to those basic needs of food and shelter. I had to move back home with my parents for a while to cut our expenses to something manageable.
My attitude changed from jobs being beneath me to being thankful for any job. I remember driving around trying to sell meat out of a freezer in the back of a pickup for a month. I felt so much like the beggars who hold up the sign saying willing to work for food.
Knowing what I needed to survive help me to know many jobs that were advertised that were photojournalist positions were not paying enough to cover my basic needs.
I now understand what I must charge to survive—do you?
I was becoming a very skilled shepherd who was looking for a field to graze in that could support me for a while.
You need a good view of your present situation. Like the shepherd who looks out into the field assesses how much food is left and for how long, you must do the same for your business.
It is quite common for many shepherds to go into the same field for their flocks. When the shepherd feels like it is time to move, the sheep respond to his voice and not the other shepherds.
Photographers are like the shepherds often in the same field. The smart photographer will see the end in sight and move to a new pasture before everything is gone.
If you haven’t had a desert experience you will if you are not aware of the resources left in the field where you are living now.
You must be looking towards the future. You need to have long-term goals.
The good shepherds know when the food supply is running low, but also they know where the next pasture to take their sheep is located. They have been doing their research.
The key for you to be forward thinking is to look to places where no one has gone before. Good shepherds are looking to green pastures; they are not looking where all the shepherds are with all their sheep.
Too many photographers and photographer wannabees are looking at other photographers and following them rather than learning from them and moving onto greener pastures.
A great book for anyone wanting to understand how to look for new opportunities for growth should read Blue Ocean Strategy.
Strategy for a Blue Ocean
- Be the expert in a subject to help separate you from the pack
- Get access to something difficult for everyone to access
- Photograph subjects that hobbyist cannot because of their day job
- Once you find a Blue Ocean–Look for another because your competition will follow you.
Lesson from the past
When George Eastman introduced the brownie camera people stopped hiring professional photographers. They almost decimated the industry for the professional photographer. It took some time for people to realize it was not the camera alone that made good photos and slowly would return to hiring them.
In time even today with the new digital camera having similar effect on today’s photographers as the brownie camera did earlier, in time people will return to using photographers for what they bring other than their cameras to a job.
My suggestion for today’s professional photographer is not to look for where people are using photography, but where they are not using it and could use it.