I am not really sure when, but sometime during the last decade, we lost all sense of patience. We look at everyone else, at their happy, successful, wealthy lives and want the same. Now. But when you feel like that, you are forgetting one thing. If they really ARE happy with their successful lives (sometimes it might seem like they are but they are not), they are happy because they are following their dreams and aiming for their goals. He or she started with just a dream and nothing more. A long time ago. Those are the key words: A. Long. Time. Ago.
Because if you decide on what you want and believe you’re gonna have it by tomorrow morning, you’ll wake up to the truth that you don’t. And give up.
There are many things that will take (more or less) time to achieve when you have decided to make photography a big part of your life. In order of appearance:
1. Choosing your photography niche
You should have one main genre or style, don’t be the photographer that “shoots everything”. You need something that you enjoy shooting and that you are exceptionally good at. But you don’t decide what your favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavor is after trying just one. You need to eat as many as possible and THEN you’ll know which one you appreciate the most. Whenever you are pulled towards a new experience, take that road. If it wasn’t for you, you’ll have learnt something new for when you know exactly what kind of photographer you want to be.
2. Writing a pitch
The chief editor of one of my largest clients, a huge Scandinavian travel magazine, told me recently that he receives around 25 article pitches a day. That is around 200 suggestions from journalists and photographers every week. It is easy to understand that he is not reading each and every one from top to bottom. There’s a lot of skimming involved, I can tell you that. Learn to write a killer pitch that will make the editor understand exactly what it is about, why it is new and fresh and why it fits like a glove with his magazine, and somehow fit all of that information in the first paragraph. Write it, let it rest, add the best photos you have, go through it again and again and again before you send it. The words in that e-mail will make a Yes or a No.
3. Growing your client base
Whenever you have your first job in print, perhaps in a small local newspaper, you are able to show that work to a slightly larger local magazine. After a few jobs for them, then go on to the travel agency in the next town. And then to the smallest national newspaper and so on. However, each of these jobs will take months from idea to print. So it is not gonna happen during this year. But maybe if you are focused and determined, the next.
4. Producing an exhibition
I remember my very first show, not too long ago actually. I had been showing my images to people for over ten years, online. I didn’t imagine it to be very different. After all, instead of the thousands of people following my work online, just a few hundred people could fit in the locale. But the entire process - from building the concept, choosing the pictures and deciding on the frames, seeing the print proof, hanging them on the walls, all the way to seeing the last guest leave the exhibition - was pure magic. The difference between uploading a photo and hanging it is enormous! It becomes an actual piece of art, not just more of those intangible digital numbers floating around. Enjoy this process as much as you can.
5. Becoming a brilliant photographer
The 10,000 rule, coined by Malcolm Gladwell, is getting more and more well-known these days. Basically, it says that to become an expert in any given field, you have to spend ten thousand hours actively practicing that specific profession or activity. Deep inside you know that is right. If taking the same kind of photos as Steve McCurry, Bresson or Chapelle would be easy, everyone would. When you know what you want to say with your photographic work, make sure to work on it every day, as much as you can. And one day, far or close, it will make you brilliant. Maybe not with a fan base as huge as the above mentioned geniuses, but still brilliant.
6. Becoming a famous photographer
Aiming to become famous for the sake of fame is pretty lame by itself. Fame as a word doesn’t give you anything, more than an ego boost for a short while.
But being famous or at least well-known, will give you many more opportunities.
Whenever you are able to show what you’ve done before is appreciated (and could possible make money for whoever you are trying to convince), you’ll get a much smoother ride. THIS is the reason why you should strive to become recognized. You can do as many marketing stunts as you want, each will give you a slight push upwards. But if you aren’t a brilliant photographer already, it will always be just that - small pushes that never really take off. Real brilliance take time.
I have to forced myself to remember to let things take time. Somehow we are told every day that slow is bad, quick is good. Usually slow and great beats quick and shitty. Let the things you love take time.
Ps. When I visited NY this summer, I tried all of the B&J flavors that we don’t have in Europe. I would go for Cinnamon Bun and Peanut Butter Cup.