I wasn't sure what to expect when my 16-year-old son texted me that he wanted to talk. That can go so many ways.
The talk ended up being more like a photography coaching session. He wanted to know how he could improve his photography, so that he could position himself better for a career in video.
Many of us have variations of the same question. How can I create photography that will make an impact, even if I don't think my skills are there yet.
I'll share what I told him because it might help someone else.
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What do you want to accomplish?
We always start with your goals. We need to know where you are going to get on the right path there. He wants a career in video and film production. What do you want? If you could do anything with your photography and not fail, what would you choose? Write that down.
Here are some of the informal and formal steps you should take.
Start producing work now.
In this era, you don't need to wait to be an artist. You have all the tools you need to start. The industry rewards people who get out and create, not those who wait and ask for permission.
Every day you see examples of storytellers who take their ideas and act on it. You can't be found or helped if you aren't creating your best work today. ( Remember the "Pick Yourself" episode.)
Publish your best work as you create it.
The academics used to say that you publish or perish. The same goes for photographers. As an artist, you have to be willing to fearlessly share your images. Create the art that you love and publish it.
Your work might not be where you think it should be, but that's ok. Show your best today.
Find something else you are passionate about and create a photo project about it.
You need another passion that keeps you engaged and excited with your photography. Select another topic you know well and are passionate about. Find ways to showcase it with your images. A narrow focus will make it easier for you to stand out with a specific audience.
Build a network or tribe of people who share your vision for your art.
As you publish, you will begin to attract people who love what you do. You want to cultivate this following. Get to know them. Engage with them on your posts. Invite them to follow you by email. These are the fans who will eventually support your projects and businesses,
Find the photographers who are creating images in a way that you admire.
If you want to photograph and video extreme sports, who are the people who do that really well? Who are the photographers in that genre whose image inspire you?
- Deconstruct their images. What do I like about them? What don't I like about them? If I had to recreate this photo, how would I do it? How would I do it differently?
- Try your own version of their concept. Remix it and make it your own.
Follow them on social media and engage thoughtfully.
Leave sincere compliments and observations. Share what you might have learned from them. Your goal is to stand out as someone who is serious and worth noticing.
If you get a response, keep the conversation going by asking if there is anything you can do to help them. That alone will separate you from most of the people who follow them. When you have established a relationship, ask for feedback on how you can get better.
Make a list of the knowledge, skills, and abilities you will need to be successful.
Where do you need to fill in the gaps? (Remember the Goal setting podcast)
Get a mentor or accountability partner.
Find someone who knows how to get where you want to go and engage them for regular feedback. Consider even a few different mentors who can help with different kinds of skills (Remember the photography mentor podcast)
Take classes and workshops to advance your skills.
In person is best but online learning like Lynda.com can be good for self teaching.
Learn your tools.
Get to know your camera inside and out.
Find an organization or person who might benefit from the kind of work you do.
Is there a cause or a nonprofit that has a mission related to any of your passions? Look for ways you might use your skills to help them tell their story. Target them for potential internships or work.
Create your own opportunity.
Start your own business or nonprofit. Find people you can help directly. What problem can you solve for them What's that value of the solution worth to them? That's the essence of all business.
Who can you teach? By now you should know more than most people about your niche. What would the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps want to learn?
Join a community of photographers and have fun.
From the time we were children, we learned by playing. Make sure to value play time with other kindred spirits. It's not just for kids.
Start somewhere. Start anywhere.
Remember Newton's first law of motion. An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it. An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it.
If you don't force yourself to start, you never will. Once you have started, it will be easier to keep going.