Photography marketing is all about mastering the subtle art of communication (not nearly as hard as it sounds, nor as hard as some people make it out to be), but an important (nay, VITAL) message for your prospect must be:
Photography is my passion…
Clearly, no one will hire a professional photographer who hates doing their job or makes it glaringly obvious that they can’t stand working with people…
For example, how many clients would relish the idea of working with a photographer with no artistic soul, is indifferent to photography, or couldn’t care less whether or not the photographs turned out well?
It should go without saying, then, that a passion for photography is a big asset in this business, and I have no doubt that you have it, otherwise why would you deliberately choose photography as a profession?
After all, there are many ways to earn more than what the average photographer makes, right?
So, if passion is that important, why do so many photographers fail to effectively communicate that fact to their audience?
Photography Is My Passion: The Fiction
Part of the answer is that too many photographers assume that their burning passion for photography is so obvious that it should go without saying…
I can certainly understand how that happens…
It’s totally natural, especially given what I just said at the beginning of this article.
But, this subject is one of those “obvious” things that really does need to be stated.
I mean, how often have you encountered a piece of information that was not at all obvious before you knew it, but which felt blindingly (almost embarrassingly) so after you heard it?
Have you ever caught yourself saying something like, “Why did I not see that before? It seems so bloody obvious now you mention it!”
I know I have, on many occasions.
Hindsight and awareness are wonderful, aren’t they?
Given the existence of such non-obvious things, here are a few interesting — commonly-accepted-as-true — “fictions” about communicating the fact that photography is your passion:
- Prospective clients will see my photography and instantly know that I’m passionate about what I do…
- A pretty website, designed with style (or whatever passes for the latest flavor of the month week), shows that I have a true passion for creativity…
- All I have to do is say “photography is my biggest passion” on my about page…
- A slideshow with a wide selection of my images is more than enough to show off my artistic passion…
- A blog post with 30+ photographs will blow their socks off and leave them in no doubt at all that passion is a key part of my work…
- I’m a photographer, so why wouldn’t photography be my passion?
There are lots more, but I’m sure you get the idea.
When we stop to really think about it (and I’m famous these days for questioning everything to the point of being annoying), our photographic passion may not be quite as obvious as we thought.
Time to dive into this in more detail…
What Sr. Thomas Watson Said About Business Passion
To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart…
Do you do a certain type of photography simply because you think you should, or because that’s where the money seems to be?
A good example of this is people getting into wedding photography because they see so many others doing it and it looks like low-hanging fruit for anyone just starting out as a professional photographer.
But there’s a big trap because your passion for the business will certainly be eroded over time if your heart isn’t truly in what you’re doing.
Instead, be courageous enough to follow the specialty you’re most passionate about and do everything you can to turn it into a profitable and healthy business.
An Experiment: One You CAN Try At Home
When you have a few minutes, try this very simple experiment (seriously, I dare you).
Find a client or acquaintance, ideally someone not emotionally connected to you, and ask them this question:
I like to think that photography is my passion. What does that statement mean to you?
The most common answer you’re likely to get is, “well, it means you love your job”, which is not at all the whole story, is it?
You and I both know there’s a lot more to it than just that!
As a variation, show them a selection of photographs from different photographers and ask them to rate the images in order of how passionate they believe the photographer is.
More than likely, you’ll get a different result each time.
Because… while an element of your passion is sometimes present in your photographs (mostly in portraiture and in how the subject relates to you), it requires a discerning and educated eye to spot it.
At the end of the day, the general public — your clients — don’t possess that ability, so how could they possibly deduce how you feel about being a photographer, or the strength of your personal passion and devotion to your art, just from looking at your photographs?
Photography Is My Passion: The Facts
So, given that we know your prospective client has no real idea of just how passionate you are about photography, what’s to be done about it?
As we’ve seen, while your prospect would probably reject you if you flat-out told her that photography bores you to death, she’s still not consciously aware of “passion” being a reason to hire you, either.
But she does need to know the passion is there inside you, nonetheless.
Where does that need actually live within her mind?
In the subconscious, emotional part of her brain.
This is something of a handicap, since her subconscious is unable to communicate directly with her conscious mind in anything other than feelings, emotions, and mental images.
The subconscious mind (sometimes delightfully referred to the “lizard brain”) has no capacity for language, yet it still controls more of our decisions and belief systems than we might care to admit.
I don’t want to get all guru-like here, or stray into the realms of the metaphysical, so we’ll stop with the hocus-pocus right there, and start looking at some facts.
First off, and most importantly, your passion (just like enthusiasm and laughter) is highly contagious.
Think about that for a second…
Passion can be spread like a (good) disease!
When we encounter someone who is really enthusiastic, passionate, and totally in love with what they do, some of that rubs off on us, and we feel jazzed up and excited.
We can tell, from the many signals they give off (some of them conscious, but most of them unconscious) that they’re genuinely consumed by the fire of their passion.
Such people have no difficulty whatsoever in talking about what they love.
Stop. Did you miss that?
Let me say it again:
People with true passion have no difficulty at all when it comes to talking to others about the subject of their passion — it as natural to them as breathing…
If the implications of that statement are clear, you can now understand how sad I feel when I hear photographers complain that they’re “photographers, not writers”, or “I’m a visual person and need to let my photography speak for itself”, or “I don’t see the point of writing a blog — I wouldn’t know what to blog about anyway…”
When it all boils down, and I know there will be some who disagree, those are nothing more than excuses and weak justifications for being lazy and taking the easy way out — after all, that’s what all the other photographers do, so it must be the proper way, right?
We know now that our photographs can’t fully communicate the depths and nuances of our real passion, so why cling to the old notions that we need do nothing else?
What Does “Photography Is My Passion” Really Mean?
A quick question for you…
Is your passion of photography strong enough to drive you to push yourself as a professional photographer every single day, regardless of the obstacles and challenges that get in your way?
The concepts of “passion”, “drive” and “determination” are deeply fascinating to me, and central to my work as a marketing coach as I strive to help photographers gain more clarity in their businesses.
Whenever I get the chance, one of the first questions I ask a struggling professional photographer is always:
Why do you do it? I mean, why do you get up every day and put yourself through the wringer, trying to make your photography business conform to your vision of success?
Of course, I hear a lot of different answers, but the most common one I get is something like this:
I have a passion for photography! I really love the life of being creative…
Fair enough, but (as I’ve said already), it’s just not enough.
Often, the photographer’s tone of voice belies what they’re really saying, as if the stress , worry and doubts they’re feeling on the inside are etched into the very inflection of their words, robbing their response of any real passion.
But, more importantly, claiming to have a passion for photography is to be expected from any photographer.
It’s a given, without which there would be no photographer.
When challenged, the same photographers get rather defensive (understandably) and say things like, “but I REALLY DO have passion for it! I love it, and can’t imagine doing anything else…”
“Why?” I ask…
And then the words so often dry up, and it becomes eerily quiet…
Okay, I know that not everyone can express such things in words at the drop of a hat, or when they’re put on the spot like that, but surely there has to be something more at the center of their being that will accept no other pursuit than photography as a way to show the world who they are.
What “Photography Is My Passion” Really Means
Today I came across an absolute gem of a video, one that not only prompted me to stop everything I was doing, but compelled me to sit down and write this post.
Because here was someone who quite clearly has a passionate about photography and can express in words what that passion truly means for him, his photography, and the folks like us who get to marvel at his amazing work.
Arctic Swell – Surfing The Ends Of The Earth
Please, be sure you watch the whole thing before reading on… and pay particular attention to the words the photographer uses that communicate his burning passion for what he does.
Go on, I’ll wait for you… 🙂
Okay – pretty amazing, right?
Yes, the scenery is jaw-dropping, the conditions in which he works are unenviable, and it must be so cool to be involved in such an amazing sport, even as a photographer.
But that’s not really the point of bringing this to your attention.
I’ll leave that to Chris and his own words…
“I love to suffer… really putting yourself out there in the elements… that’s where you feel like you’re really paying the price, but the greatest rewards come…”
“It’s like walking on the moon…”
“I’m driven to document the arctic and arctic surfing…”
“Photography… is immersing myself in the beauty of what I see with my own eyes…”
“My camera is my vehicle to experience the world…”
“You have this extremely heavy task on your shoulders of making sure you document what’s going on accurately and appropriately, and doing them justice – because you’re only going to get so many moments…”
“Our goals as photographers… is always to inspire people… if you’re not sharing your work, then what are you doing?”
“The best images are not necessarily the most beautiful, but the ones where I come back and felt like I really gave something of myself to get that shot…”
An Interview With Chris Burkard
Better still, you can hear from Chris Burkard himself in an interview we recorded where we talk about this topic in great depth.
It’s a great chat, full of amazing nuggets you can take away to use in your own business…
Passion And Extreme Surfing Photography
In this episode, Chris Burkard talks about his amazing surfing photography adventures in some of the world's most inhospitable places...
Affinity, Respect, Love, And Passion For Photography
On top of all that, Chris demonstrates his deep and unbreakable affinity with the harsh and beautiful environment in which he works, and his love and respect for the people he photographs as they surf in some of the most inhospitable and dangerous conditions imaginable.
“But, wait a minute, Nigel, most of us are just ordinary working photographers who don’t get to visit such cool and amazing places…!”
But, if you consider what you do, or your life in photography, as nothing more than “ordinary”, then I’m afraid you’ve already lost.
If Chris Burkard were like many of the rest of us, photographing babies, kids, weddings, seniors, commercial projects, architecture, or pets, do you honestly believe without a shadow of a doubt that his passion for photography, and his love and respect for his subjects, would not shine through just as clearly?
Take another look at the quotes above and imagine feeling that way about the work you do as a photographer – it’s no less important or valuable than what Chris does.
Perhaps it’s time to reflect on what photography REALLY means to YOU, what your chosen specialty means to you, and why it is that you sometimes go to bed beaten up but still get up the next morning, ready to attack the day all over again…
All because you can’t imagine it any other way.
I can’t very well bring you this far and leave you with nothing concrete to do.
So, here are some ways I believe you can communicate the true depth of your passion for photography to your prospects:
Photographs Only Show – Stories Sell
- For heaven’s sake, use text as well as photographs in your website content! The text is there to tell the photographic stories behind and around your images. They don’t have to be great long epic pieces worthy of a bestseller, they simply need the human element. Something that creates a beautiful emotional spark in the lizard brain and makes your prospect feel something warm and pleasant. Remember, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then demonstrate this to your readers. Consider this quote from Rudyard Kipling: “I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind…”
Roll Out The Red Carpet For Your Photography Clients
- Turn the entire experience of working with you into something really amazing. Treat your clients like Royalty, with all the courtesy, attention to detail, and utmost respect you can possibly muster. Then, when your clients give you a testimonial (or talk about you to their friends), what do you think they might say?
Master The Lost Art Of Communication
- Pay special attention to every aspect of communication with your customers (or potential customers). Respond in a timely manner, be as polite as possible, and write your emails as you would a real letter. This is absolutely critical! I know we live in a world of texting and convenient get-access-anywhere, but professional emails will really help set you apart.
You’re Not In English Class Any More
- On your website and blog, forget everything they tried to teach you about writing – none of that applies in this instance (except proper spelling). Stop writing in a business voice and switch to a more informal conversational one. Don’t use “we” when talking about your business, and avoid using the 3rd person narrative in your photographer bio.
How To Use Aromatherapy In Your Marketing
- When talking about your photography, try to invoke all the senses. It’s not as hard as it might seem at first, and you’ll be amazed at how much more engaged the reader will be. For example, consider something like this: “I honestly love a May wedding – the white and pink blossoms on the trees, the aroma of fresh spring grass, and the buzzing of new life all around, add an even deeper layer of romance to an already romantic day.” You might think it’s a bit over the top, but it can be pure magic when used in conjunction with the right set of images.
Words Are Powerful – Use Them Wisely!
- Back to vocabulary, be careful in your choice of words. Be especially aware of the emotional impact of certain words over other non-passionate ones. In other words, try to use an “enthusiastic” and “passionate” vocabulary. For example, “delightful” instead of “pretty”; “exciting” rather than “fun”; “captivating” rather than “nice”.
Allow Your Passion To Be Free
- Above all, don’t be afraid to let your positive feelings shine through in your words. After all, you’re passionate about what you do and you eat, sleep and breathe photography, so this should come to you easier than you might think – as long as you relax and let it happen naturally.
Photography Is My Passion: Unplugged And Amazing
The next time you feel like saying “photography is my passion”, stop and think twice about how you’ll say it, and in what medium.
Each type of media (words, photographs, video, audio, infographics etc.) has its own personality that creates a backdrop upon which you play out a scene through the content.
But, please, don’t rely on photography alone to sell you, your work, and especially your passion for photography.
Yes, photographs are undeniably powerful…
But so are words…
When used together, they can be an unstoppable force…
A Final Thought From Betty Bender
When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home…
You may, like many other professional photographers, have gotten into this business in order to escape the horrors of working in some soulless office or other equally demoralizing job.
Luckily, you now live a life where you can be your own boss, you don’t have to deal with office politics, and you get to create amazing photography for people who love what you do.
Why is it, then, that so many professional photographers are terribly unhappy?
It’s as if they’ve had their passion for photography sucked right out of them, and some have because of the stresses and worry of trying to make their business work against what feel like insurmountable odds.
No matter how hard it gets trying to succeed at making a great living from photography, don’t ever leave the home or office without that burning passion for your art.
The passion that got you started in the first place, remember that?
Guard it with your life and protect it from the ravages of the daily grind at all costs because your business cannot survive without it.
Once the passion starts to go and your heart deserts your work, it shows in your images and in the lack of excitement in your clients’ faces when they see what you created for them.
Like the grass growing, it’s a gradual thing, and you don’t notice until it’s almost too late.
Before you pack your lunch in a morning, make sure you’ve got your heart and the passion for your art with you… 🙂