Photography in the Real World – By Chris Messenger

You may find this to be a difficult scenario to visualize, but what if social media ceased to exist as we know it? What would happen if hashtags were gone & we didn’t even have digital followers and didn’t care about what was trending that day? Better yet, if social media were gone as we know it, what would your photography business or hobby look like? Would your brand take a significant hit? Would people be able to find your work?

As unlikely as that reality may be, there is an art of running a photography business that is so incredibly important for life & long-term growth – yet less people are focusing on it as we are drawn deeper into the digital world. This is none other than mastering your immediate, physical location.

My plea to you, fellow artist, is to not fully abandon the actual place where you live, eat, recreate & work. Embrace & engage in all the wonderful ways your brand & art can give to those around you. Social media helps us to connect with others, but your physical brand, the brand that you carry with you everywhere you go, has the potential to open up avenues & doors that social media can’t touch. How can you do this?

First, you have to be ok with who & what you are. As we all know, today everyone is a photographer & quite frankly, it’s a little exhausting. Honestly, in all the ways we work to ‘pitch’ ourselves to potential clients and followers, I don’t think people really care that much about what we care about. People are simply looking for a photographer that will supply wonderful images & not make them feel weird. My wonderful wife & Define teacher Amy, & I have learned along our journey to simply be who we are and let that speak for itself. We live in a small town in Montana right next to Glacier National Park where we grow food, take hikes to experience silence, are passionately learning Byzantine eastern world chants & drink whiskey with friends & family at our table. We have people that seek us out & hire us because of what they’ve heard about us & how others describe us. Are we appealing to every potential client in photography style or personality? No, but the great news is that appealing to everyone is an impossible task. Stop trying to be artsy or something you’re not, and instead allow people to see & know you by who you are & what you’re passionate about. Photographers that are being authentic stick out & so will you.

Second, become passionate about the community where you create and the physical place you are able to give back to. Some of the best feedback I’ve had about my photography & my business hasn’t come from other photographers or from social media comments. It’s come from other artists in various fields that have worked with us, been our clients, or simply enjoyed sharing a beer with us at the local brewery. Starting relationships in your town with painters, musicians, chefs, art curators, dancers, etc., & supporting them in their craft also cultivates the future possibility of collaborating. Go check out local events that are supporting other artists & go say hello. Non-digital, face to face friendships are vital for our work & reviving to our souls and can further our reach of work organically and in unexpected ways.

Next, ponder how you can enhance your brand & reputation by the ways you can sacrificially give back to your community. I can’t stress this enough as being an important factor & a way for you to stand out around town. Maybe it’s shooting an event pro bono for a homeless teen shelter, or gifting a session for a library fund raiser or a city food bank. This MUST be a natural outpouring of what you’re passionate about & not just a business tactic to make yourself look good. This act doesn’t need to be dramatic or grandiose, just gift your craft to someone in need as you are able. This is a great way to display who you are as a business & to have others sharing about what you did to a lot of people in a positive light.

One of the best advantages to focusing on your local market is the forming of relationships & connections that may outlast our photography businesses. By investing time & energy into relationships around you, you set yourself up for a smooth transition in case you don’t end up taking photos for the rest of your life. If you decide to go in a different route in the future, just imagine of all the immediate local connections you can tap into. The social media world is a fantastic tool for business but the value of creating art and relationships right where you are in your town / city / neighborhood is invaluable, and so good for us as artists.-Chris Messenger

Chris is offering his class on the client connection at The Define School next block! find it here

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