HOW PHOTOGRAPHERS CAN PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE
"You cannot escape the responsibilities of tomorrow by evading them today.” – Abraham Lincoln
Pandemics and other tragedies wreak havoc on multiple fronts, from health to wealth and liberty to happiness. And while catastrophes are difficult to predict, they don’t have to be impossible to prepare for.
Struggles will happen, and grief over our losses is normal and healthy. There is no perfect solution, no guarantees of success, but there are things photographers can do to future proof their businesses against tragedies and unforeseen calamities like a pandemic.
These key skills can become invaluable tools to help you weather the storms of change.
"ADVERSITY INTRODUCES A MAN TO HIMSELF."
— ALBERT EINSTEIN
EMBRACE INNOVATION WITHIN PHOTOGRAPHY
When we face problems, especially those of an unexpected nature, it’s natural to panic. We feel overwhelmed and underprepared, certain we and our business are doomed to fail. Would you believe this is exactly why creativity exists?
Innovation is where problem-solving meets creativity. According to the Mirriam-Webster English Dictionary, to Innovate means to make changes or do something in a novel way. Wikipedia defines innovation as the “practical implementation of ideas that result in the introduction of new goods or services or improvement in offering goods or services.”
Very often, the companies that are the most innovative are the companies that manage to weather the storms of circumstance and come out stronger on the other side. Innovation in your business means taking a look at what you can do differently, or how you can change what you offer, or what new markets you can serve, that will allow you to profit despite the difficult new circumstances.
Just think of some of the creative changes companies have introduced so they can keep their doors open over the last year. Many photographers, such as Jeremy Cowart in his #lovetransported project, learned how to do virtual family portraits in the studio.
You might take your vacation landscape photos and create a stock library, get creative with editing old photos into movie posters and book covers, or start a creative self-portrait project.
Innovation comes in many forms but relies on creativity and a willingness to change. Photographers who are willing to innovate will always fare better in desperate circumstances than those who refuse to try.
WELCOME CHANGE TO YOUR STUDIO
Instead of fearing change, photographers who want to future proof themselves must learn to welcome it as a normal and advantageous part of their business. Change can be messy, scary, and uncomfortable, but it’s also the only way growth can happen.
Change has always been a prerequisite for a long-term career in photography, from learning new methods of making photos to mastering editing software that didn’t exist 5 years ago. Rather than letting change be the thing that breaks you, set your mind so that change becomes a chance for innovation and growth.
It will rarely be easy, but hardships are the catalyst that allows change to do its great work in our lives, pushing us outside of our comfort zones and forcing us to become more resilient, stronger, and more capable photographers and business people.
DIVERSIFY YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY
Rather than specializing in one niche, diversification allows photographers to have multiple streams of income so that when one area of the market suffers, it doesn’t bring down their whole business.
While many niche photographers were hit incredibly hard by the pandemic, photographers who diversified their offerings were able to stay afloat. Some photographers offered education over zoom, mentor sessions, actions, tutorials, or other online goods.
Other photographers took up product photography, digital art, or real estate photography. Those who diversified were able to rely on streams of income that still functioned when other parts of their profession were no longer available.
To make diversification practical, it’s important to take inventory of what skill sets you already have, what markets you can work in, and ask yourself what you care enough about to motivate yourself to make headway in that area.
However you go about it, diversification can be a powerful tool for future-proofing your business.
It takes a tribe to raise a business. No one ever said that, but that doesn’t make it less true. Our professional connections are incredibly important in non-pandemic life, but they’re invaluable during hard times.
Your network is built of the people you can call on, rely on, and connect with. Not only do they help keep you sane, but they can provide you with opportunities, refer business, and collaborate or partner with you to create new opportunities.
Networking can be intimidating for many people, but don’t let that stop you! The most powerful thing humans have is meaningful connections.
Take the time to make those connections, whether they are online or in-person, and cultivate true relationships that are valuable to both sides. You’ll find they don’t only make your business stronger, they make your life better.
Knowledge is power may be the truest phrase ever spoken. The more you know, the better decisions you make. The more you know, the farther you can take your technical skillset. And the more you know, the less you are constrained by the lack of knowledge or skill, in any area.
Photographers who know Photoshop have a greater ability to realize their visions. Photographers who know graphic design can create their own marketing or pivot when photography ceases to be viable.
Being capable both within and outside our niche allows us to pull from multiple areas of expertise to create, earn, and thrive. Instead of waiting till the situation is dire, learn now, so you have the skillset to draw from when you need it. You would be surprised how many photographers turned to retouching, editing, writing, business management, and design to make ends meet during the pandemic. This gave them an entirely new skill set and a set of new connections they can take advantage of in the future.
The knowledge you gain now, the network you build, the skillsets you acquire, the changes you make, and the innovations you create will build a safety net between you and the next unforeseen struggle on the horizon. Then you can thrive as a successful photographer no matter the circumstance.