13 August 2013

The Evolving Photographer

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"It's evolve or die, really, you have to evolve, you have to move on otherwise it just becomes stagnant."
~ Craig Charles 

None of us can remain stagnant in any of the different professions we work in. It used to be that you could work the same job or within the same company, at least until you were ready to retire and then the employer would take care of you throughout your golden years. That paradigm concluded when the industrial age gave way to the information age and the information age has been getting exponentially faster at an ever accelerating rate. I would wager that Moore's Law has even been halved, as well.

This has never been more true than in the photography trade. The former barriers to entry of the high price of gear and years of apprenticeship have given way to cheaper cameras and a flood of entrants that prefer full auto to learning the trade. Technology has not only leveled the playing field, but dropped it below sea level behind a dam that has cracks. 

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So what do we do now, fellow photographers? We change, that's what. We don't acquiesce to clients like the photogs who panic and start giving away their work for free. We don't abandon the print in favor of handing over Hi-Res images. But we do change. And that starts with CREATIVITY! Creativity brings back the craftsmanship to photography that we've dearly lost. This is no different of a time than when Polaroid came out with instant film. There was the same level of ire from "true" photogs towards instant film. It was the same with disposable cameras. Well, this is the digital age and its no different. Our clients and the general public are looking for the next evolution in the digital realm to see what we come up with next and its already happening when you look at the inspiring work of Benjamin Wong or Chase Jarvis

So how do you begin to make that next evolutionary step? You keep learning and stay open-minded. I learn from different sources, one of which are podcasts. Chances are, whenever I'm driving, I've got my earbuds in listening to TWIP (This Week in Photography), hosted by Frederick Van Johnson. Let me just focus on him for a second. Frederick Van Johnson is the owner of MediaBytes, a marketing and consulting firm and he hosts a varying panel of photographers and photo experts who discuss photography news and photo topics of interests. Lately, he has given a lot of focus to the Mirrorless genre, such as his latest episode, "Reflecting on Mirrorless". I've listened to it FIVE times now and I have to say, it's been very timely for me and here's why.

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"What's dangerous is not to evolve."
~ Jeff Bezos 

For myself, it began last Summer with my switch from Canon to Nikon. I used to carry two large camera bodies and just about every L-Series lens out there. But after switching to Nikon AND reorganizing my business more towards travel work, I felt the need to carry less gear. The Nikon D800E solved my needs for high resolution for fine art, but I could not invest in a second body at the time because I could not find a suitable complement from Nikon for my D800E. Today, the closest is the new D7100. I feel like I would love that camera, but I am still hesitant. 

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
My real interest has been with the Sony RX-1r, the only compact full-frame camera on the market, which also has eliminated the anti-alias filter over the sensor like my D800E. Ideally, the Leica M Type 240 mated with a Summicron-M 35mm f/2 lens would be my choice, but I can't see shelling out $11K on that just yet. And the more I think about it, the Sony NEX-6 would also serve me well in the field. Both of those platforms have some features yet to be included that would make my choices more concrete. However if not for my need for the high resolution, I could potentially travel with just the Sony systems.

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So I have to change! I can't hold onto the idea of big DSLRs and heavy lenses. I'm not getting rid of my Nikon, but it will share time with Sony very soon, (and the Leica if God truly decides to bless me!) And I've got to step up my work. I've got to offer more. I've got to give my client something they haven't seen. Is this hard? Yes and no. I've already subscribed to the fact that my services are not for everyone. If you hire me, its because you want MY talents and are comfortable with my fees. Price-conscious clientele are probably not going to be as cool with me and I understand that. My creativity comes at a premium and I am not afraid to recognize that or ask for the sale. So as long as you know your market, you can stop wasting time outside of it.

So what about you? What are you doing to differentiate, evolve, and become more creative? That question needs to be answered every morning you get up. I know because I face it every day and do not always like to answer that question. But face it I must. Move on to the next gig and focus on the goals at hand.

Here is a Von Wong installment for your enjoyment:

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