Your Neighbor is not Your Competition

In going through the comments to John Harrington’s most recent post on Black Star Rising (noted here), I came across a link to this piece on the ASMP site by Rosh Sillars dealing with … well … dealing with amateurs(Thanks, Dominick, but why no link to your own site?) Loved this line:

The mystery of the photographers’ black box has been made simple and easy for anyone to use. The best way to build a career in photography today is create new mystery and magic that cannot be easily replicated.

There was a time that owning a camera made you the professional. Next it was the ability to not just put the box in the mail and let Kodak handle the rest. Then it was technical excellence, in sharpness and exposure. Then in delivery time.

Now, you can walk into any electronics store (not even a camera store) and but state of the art equipment that will produce sharp, well exposed images that you can send around the world in a moment.

But that doesn’t mean you should. There’s still a professional element at play here. Several, actually.

Photographically, it’s not just about sharp, well exposed and high resolution. It’s about composition, light and moment. It’s about understanding what you’re shooting and how to communicate a message to a wide and varied audience.

Professionally, it’s about doing that reliably. It’s about every frame working, it’s about building a business model that allows you to bill for today’s shoot in a way that let’s you be there for the client again in six month or six years. It’s about wanting to do this for the rest of your life, about letting your passion be your career.

So where do you find that “new mystery and magic?” It’s in your eye, it’s in your heart and, maybe most importantly, it’s in your head. One of my business heros, Stanley Leary, has talked with my students about turning contacts into clients and then keeping those clients. If I were hiring, I would hire Stanley because I like working with him. He’s confident in his abilities and makes me feel comfortable working with him. I trust him. I know he’s thinking about my needs, about my business. He makes my business his business. He’s not a contract, he’s a colleague.

And there’s some magic in the ability to move from thinking about people as your clients to your colleagues.

Mark E. Johnson

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