Dream Away! - Business Coach #3
How to Get Started Creating the Work That You Love
In my last Business Coach, I talked about how being different sets you apart from the crowd and essentially clears away your competition. In this lesson, I’ll talk about beginning the process of creating work that’s both unique and fulfilling to you.
When the issue of how to create unique work comes up in seminars, workshops and lectures, I often hear the speaker encourage the crowd to, “Just be you!” That always sounds good when a cheery-faced photographic success is preaching it, but afterward I’m always left wondering exactly what that means. What does it mean to “be me” and how do I do that? Am I not already “being me?”
To help us understand the answers to those questions, I’ll answer with another question:
If someone gave you millions of dollars - enough to live the life you dream of - what would you do with your life?
This may be a question to which you have a ready answer, or it may be one that requires some thought and reflection. Either way, it’s a worthwhile and necessary question - and not in just some dreamy philosophical context. It’s a question with real world consequences in your career, be that a career in photography or elsewhere.
Here’s the deal: Whatever it is that you would love to be doing with your life if you had unlimited funds, you should be working towards doing just that. If your dream doesn’t involve photography, then maybe you should consider doing whatever other thing it is that you’d ideally be doing. This may sound obvious, but you can’t pour your heart into something (or someone) if your heart lies elsewhere. To flourish as a photographer and achieve the financial success you dream of requires your complete attention and intense passion.
Assuming that your dream life does involve photography, what kind of work would you be creating? What sort of work would you shoot? In your heart of hearts, what sort of subjects and in what places would you photograph them? Money not being an object and forget about clients, what would you shoot?
Once you come up with an answer - or answers, no need to limit yourself here - I have another question for you: Why are you not doing that now?
If you’re like many photographers, by this point you may be thinking, “Enough with this existential mumbo jumbo, just tell me what camera/lens combo and Photoshop actions to use then fill me in on how to pose my subject so I can create images that sell.” Fair enough. There’s plenty of information and products out there however that do just that. The problem with following a formula is that everyone else is using it too. Far too many of us are following the same people and using the same actions and presets to create work that pretty much looks like everyone else.
To be sure, learning from and mimicking others isn’t bad when getting started, to help you progress technically, or just create prettier photos, but following cookie-cutter instructions won’t help you create work that’s fundamentally different. No. There are no shortcuts to creating work that stands out and makes others stand up and take note.
If you wish to be unique, you must follow your own muse. The first step in understanding the song of this muse is to reflect on just what moves you as a photographer, as an artist. So, until you receive your next Business Coach, your assignment is to contemplate what kind of work inspires and captivates you.
If money wasn't a factor, what would you absolutely love to shoot?