One of the toughest situations for a writer is to find himself staring at a white computer screen wondering where to start. Photographers, on the other hand, rarely go through that process. But maybe they should.
It’s easy to distract ourselves with gear acquisition and technical specifications instead of pondering our equivalent blank sheet of paper: the viewfinder. And this becomes even more important if we have aspirations of creating a revenue stream to help pay the rent or buy that prime lens we’re lusting after.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I should tell you where we’re headed. This post is about discovering your other talent, combining it with your skill as a shooter, and then following that path to success. Photography is not an end in itself.
It’s the vehicle.
You don’t count on luck; you put yourself in a position to receive it.
And that’s the trap, right? Because the tools are so dynamic and evolving, and feedback about our work can be delivered so quickly, we find ourselves thinking that if we just find the right combination of camera, lens, subject, and audience, we will eventually succeed.
To some degree, that can be true … as long as you add the element of luck. But that’s something that you can’t predict or purchase on eBay. You don’t count on luck; you put yourself in a position to receive it.
So let’s take luck out of the equation, at least for the moment. That comes later. There are a few items to attend to first. And the good news is, they’re all pretty interesting.
What Else Do I Love?
I love photography. Whether it’s a Pentax ME Super 35mm SLR or an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, the hardware drives me nuts. There’s never one far from my reach. When I’m pacing around the studio trying to figure out a problem, I usually have a camera in my hands.
There are days when I take pictures just to hear the shutter click. As an artist, I can’t imagine focusing on any other set of tools.
The love of photography itself is probably something that we have in common.
This next fork, however, is where we diverge. What else are you passionate about? In my case, it’s writing. And what do I write about?
Yes, I have commercial clients that provide income. But clients come and go. The one revenue stream that I can always count on is writing + photography.
This combination connects my heart and my brain. It brings together two of the best parts of me, giving me the slightest edge over those whom I compete with.
Here’s an interesting experiment along those lines. A couple of weeks ago I joined Linkedin.
I hadn’t participated in the past, not because I didn’t like it; I just hadn’t got around to it. But because I’m an author for Lynda.com, which has been purchased by Linkedin, I was encouraged to join. And I’m glad I did.
Linkedin has a Skills & Endorsements section. You can list the skills that you believe you have, and others who know you can endorse the ones they believe are your strengths.
I listed mine in this order: Photography, Writing, Social Media, Teaching, and Web Publishing. I feel like I’m pretty good at all of them. But the order that I stacked them in was totally subconscious.
As it turns out, the endorsements were neck and neck for Photography and Writing, with everything else bringing up the rear. So the outside world is reflecting back to me what I believe about myself. You could argue the legitimacy of all of this.
But it wouldn’t make any difference to me. Because I know what my top two skills are. And using them together is how I pay the bills.
Photography is not an end in itself. It’s the vehicle.
So where does this leave you? If you haven’t figured it out already, it might be time to discover your other passion. Find the thing that you love so much, that pursuing it will get you through financial valleys, naysayers, and your own moments of self-doubt.
Here’s a perfect example. I know a guy who rediscovered his fondness for photography. I’m sure he started out again by taking meaningful art shots and majestic landscapes. But how to move forward from there? “I think I’ll go for a bike ride and think about it,” he said. Hmm.
It turns out that he rides every day, follows the pro circuit, and knows as much about a Shimano derailleur as he does a 300mm f/2.8 telephoto. What direction might his photography take?
Once you’ve identified your two passions, the next step is to bring them into alignment. For example, I had to maneuver both my photography and my writing to become a photography writer. I needed street cred in both areas.
Over the years, I’ve written about, and have taken pictures of, topics that were of marginal interest to me. Why? Because I had to establish myself as a writer and a photographer. I had to get better at both. And I kept inching my way toward their convergence.
What I referred to earlier as luck is really opportunity. I was writing tech articles for a publisher and running a freelance photography business that focused mainly on weddings. Not a bad life, but still not exactly what I wanted.
I remember one day suggesting to the publisher that technology and photography were on a collision course. And that maybe we should cover them.
I stated my case, then suggested that I be the one that leads the charge. After all, I know tech, and I know photography. The publisher agreed. And in 2001, my real career began.
All the Other Stuff
There are so many facets to this diamond. The development of personal style, building a platform, networking, experimentation, and on and on. These are topics that I’ll be covering in future posts.
But the task that’s at hand right now is your +1. Look at your life and think about what you love. Then brainstorm about how to combine it with your photography. You can even see an example how one Las Vegas ad executive found his passion and developed focus in his own niche.