Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Plus Side of Competition In Stock Photography

Increased Competition and Becoming Better
The world of stock photography has become, shall we say, competitive? Insanely competitive.  I think everyone of us has done our share of moaning and groaning about that fact. But rather then indulge that downer of a past time; perhaps we should look at the positive side of the new competition in stock photography. It brings me back to something that Ed Kashi said in his presentation at the Blend Images creative meeting. He said “To become a better photographer, I have to become a better person”.  The new competition in our industry is definitely making me a better photographer, and I hope in some ways a better person as well.

Mediocre Won’t Cut It Anymore

I know I have to work harder at every aspect of the business. I am working a lot harder at figuring out what to shoot. I am being a lot more efficient in my use of money. And I am stretching and pushing myself at everything from more accurate bookkeeping to asset management (boy do I have a long way to go there) to lighting shoots. Mediocre won’t cut it anymore, and I love what I do too much to risk losing it in this newly fierce arena.

Long Term Success And Being Good

Ellen Boughn drew my attention to a blog post “The Case for Being Disruptively Good”.  In the post Umair Haque makes a case that long-term success requires being good (as opposed to being evil). This is especially true as the world becomes more connected and transparent. It is also true in our profession of photography. The practice of being good helps us establish real connections with the subjects of our lenses whether they are people or landscapes or still life compositions. It helps us forge real relationships with our vendors, our distributors and our clients. Being good, and being real, amplifies all of our efforts whether those efforts are in marketing, creating social and business networks, or seeking support to help deal with the challenges we face.

A Goal To Aspire To

To succeed in the long term in photography we need to strive to be better. I believe that one’s life and one’s business, particularly in such an intimate practice as photography, cannot be separated. To insure our long-term success we need to be better photographers, better business people, and better human beings. Umair Hauqe describes Apple Computer as “disruptively good”. I don’t know that I could ever be “disruptively good”, but it is a goal that I can aspire to. Brian Tracy, my favorite motivational speaker, reports that, “There is never a traffic jam on the extra mile”. Lately I have been getting to know that extra mile pretty well! Taking that extra mile and aspiring to be disruptively good is something we should all be doing anyway, but it is the competition in this new world of stock that has actually lit the fire under me to make it happen.

Photographers That Inspire You
Think about the photographers that inspire you, that are really making a difference and/or are at the peak of their game. In all likelihood they are sharing information, honest in their dealings and being good human beings. All of the photographers that I have personally gotten to know, who are stand out successes, have impressed me as quality people as well. They have high standards and good values, and live up to those standards and values.

Reality as Motivation

The bar has been raised for succeeding in photography, particularly in stock photography. I have the choice to whine about it (which I sometimes do), or to step up to the plate and use that reality as motivation to become better as a photographer and as a person. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one back. But when I look back at the last five years it is clear that the change in our industry has been both difficult and has also made me better.

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