Okay, I’m a Photographer…Now What?

Ask yourself, “Why am I seeing and feeling this? How am I growing? What am I learning?” Remember: Every coincidence is potentially meaningful. How high your awareness level is determines how much meaning you get from your world. Photography can teach you to improve your awareness level. – Ansel Adams 

My last post, I am a Photographer, seemed to really strike a chord with people.  I truly appreciate all of the kind comments and thoughts around the subject.

Since I had that realization though, the logical next question was…now what?

The answer for you will likely be different than mine in some ways, similar in others.  My focus is the fine art market, specifically gallery shows and (eventually) publishing a book.  So I’ve been researching the heck out of that market, what it takes to break in, get known, and most importantly develop a body of work that will stand on its own.

That last part is what I’m continuing to realize is the most important and hardest part.  They key is to just keep shooting, learning, experimenting and pushing myself to become better.  But mostly just shooting.  Then shooting some more.  Then more.

I’ve had my photographs in a few shows now, and learn from each one.  I’ve been published a few times and learned from each of those too.

Here are the questions to ask yourself:

  • What makes you unique?
  • How would you describe your style?
  • What is your philosophy surrounding your work?
  • How would you answer this request that an editor once asked of me:  “Send me 10 photographs that show the depth and breadth of your work”.  That was a tough one, as I’m super-critical of myself.
  • Who do you want to see your photographs?

These aren’t just rhetorical questions – you will be asked them!

I know one thing is a certainty, no matter what type of photography you want to do:  you need to continue to grow and push yourself.

One book I can highly recommend on the subject is Visionmongers by David duChemin.  It’s an eye opening look at becoming a pro.  But when you read it, please, I implore you, don’t get hung up on things like designing your business cards.  Get your body of work ready first, and then you can think about the marketing side of things.  If you start marketing before you have a solid body of work, you’ll end up hurting your “brand” even before you’ve begun.

I’m there with you.  I have a body of work that I still need to grow.  I need about 25 more images that I feel are slam dunks before I feel I’m ready for a gathering like Photolucida, where gallery owners and publishers make themselves available for portfolio reviews.

Until then, I’m just going to keep shooting.

Ttyl,

Mark

P.S.  David duChemin just released his new book: Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  If you’re like me and tend to get lost in some of the tech-speak that many Photoshop books have, this one should be a breath of fresh air.  It’s written by a pro that’s results-driven, not one who enjoys sitting at a computer processing images for hours on end.  Check it out.

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11 comments

  1. I got here from Sabrina’s blog and I’ve been loving your posts.

    They’re great questions, really hard ones to answer, and even when they’re answered will change as we evolve. I’m at the point where I can’t answer any of them will confidence, but am scrabbling on the way there (i think).

    In the meantime I’ll go shoot some more, and then some. Great advice!

  2. yikes. tough questions! i always struggle with describing my style….i would say it’s very ‘accidental’ as most of my good photos seem to be accidents….

    guess i’ll just keep shooting too…

  3. I do like David duChemin’s books, even though I am one of those people who is not only happy to sit at a computer processing photos for hours on end but who considers it an essential part of why I enjoy photography.

    Back to your questions, though: I don’t know whether I am a photographer in the defines-your-essence way that you wrote about before. Yet I am driven to make photographs. I don’t know why, and I wouldn’t call it a compulsion, exactly, but I miss it whenever I’m not doing it.

    Like almost everyone, I enjoy it when other people see and enjoy my photographs. But in the end, I get 99+% of my happiness from making photos and processing them on my computer. That other people see them and enjoy them is nearly incidental.

    But I have no idea what philosophy surrounds my work. I think I make photos in order to answer that question.

  4. This is a tricky one- but you have ask yourself where do you add value? You have to be able to do something with a camera that is above what most others can do. When you define this skill its then that you can become a professional, if that added value is required in the market place. Grant

  5. Grant, if I am not mistaken the value lies in being unique. Assuming you know your craft and know how to serve clients, which are professional concerns, the first concerns of all of us are the artistic concerns related to vision and offering a unique perspective. I’m not sure many of us – any of us, even – can do things with a camera that others can’t. At a certain point we become technically proficient and then the question remains – what now? Clients hire for vision, not mere proficiency.

  6. This post really gob-smacked me as I thought about it. Continuing to ruminate, a friend sent me an email this morning about a post I made last night. His email began about how, when the image first came up in his RSS reader, he was sure the image was mine, ’cause it ‘looked’ like one of mine. I immediately emailed him and pressed him to articulate what about it said ‘me.’

    See, Mark, I was trying frantically to answer questions #2 and #3 above . . .

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