As an artist you have no doubt at some point compared yourself to your peers, mentors, and idols. Just as likely is the fact that when you did that, you also devalued yourself, and began to doubt your own abilities. You see yourself as … gasp* … average.
As artists we always strive to put forth our best efforts and it is always a little bit disheartening when we pour so much of ourselves into something, and it appears not to be good enough.
Taking inspiration from the work that is created around us is a natural part of our own individual evolution as an artist. Over time we will all find those select few artists that inspire us personally. There is a very clear group of elite artists in all genres that have reached the top ranks.
Though we may be envious at times of those top level gigs, the bulk of the work ultimately comes from smaller, local, dare I say average companies
They get the cool jobs, they get the sponsorships, and they get the coverage. They are the rockstars of our industry, but the truth is, that is NOT the industry. The industry is the millions of small businesses around the globe that need your images to help sell their brand, product, or concept. You may not shoot for some fortune 500 clients, but you are no less a photographer.
I am not here to tell you that you are just as good as those folks. Perhaps you are and perhaps you are not. What I am here to tell you is that it is completely IRRELEVANT whether you are as good as that top 1% or not.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should not put an effort into your work, or that you should stop evolving as an artist. I am not talking about complacency here. We should never stop learning and expanding our skill sets but it is also imperative to understand that not all clients will require or can fund the kind of production levels found in the top ranks of the industry.
Sure the work that these talented artists produce stirs the envy in even the strongest character but you can’t compare what a multinational corporation can fund with what a local mom and pop shop can.
Though we may be envious at times of those top level gigs, the bulk of the work ultimately comes from smaller, local, dare I say average companies, so here is what you can do to make the most of playing with the masses:
Recognize Your Strengths
All photographers are not created equal. Some of us are incredibly detail oriented product photographers while others prefer a more chaotic and action packed sporting event. It is great to take inspiration from other artists but you must also give credit to your own personality and uniqueness.
You may admire a particular portrait photographer, but if you are a better landscape photographer, you should probably stick with that.
Recognize The Demand
It is easy to look at what your idols are doing and to try and replicate that in an effort to also replicate success but smaller local clients won’t always have the same needs as those being served by your idols.
Your favorite artist may not be a good match for the local community or genre you are trying to serve, so find out what appeals to them, and build on that.
A universal truth that exists throughout any industry is that smaller local players are generally able to better serve their immediate community as opposed to large bloated corporations. The same rings true for these elite artists. They work with big teams, are booked through agencies, and have a lot on their plate. While their work may be stellar and truly inspiring, the fact of the matter is that it is often beyond the reach, or even requirement, of the average client.
The message to take away here is that you should not be discouraged about your current position.
Your advantage lies in the fact that you are the small and nimble artist able to quickly and knowledgeably serve those around you. So build a strong local network of peers and clients and you will soon find yourself rewarded.
The funny part about all this is that when you put in the hard work to serve the average client, you will find yourself getting better, and with enough time you may actually find yourself being a part of that elusive elite group which inspires others.
The message to take away here is that you should not be discouraged about your current position. You too may have your chance in the spotlight, but even if you don’t, you are still doing very important and meaningful work.