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On Top of the Plateau

An introduction to the "Generation Hustle" blog series, which intends to be an all-encompassing look at what many young, talented photographers of this generation are struggling with in this economic climate and age of technology.

I’m in my pajamas with a takeout coffee cup next to me and Crouton, my cat, is perched on a pillow right next to me intently licking his toes. I’ve sent out hundreds of personalized emails to potential clients and subjected myself to a many a cold call on this fine morning. The nibbles come, and jobs do happen, but great success still evades me. Perhaps I will not change out of my pajamas today.

I’ve fought the good fight for more than a few years now. I’ve had some quality advertising gigs in the entertainment, beauty, and fashion industries, met hundreds of top-level creatives, and done some fabulous editorials for local and national magazines. I am a former magazine photo editor for both Movieline and The Hollywood Reporter and have great connections. Yet here I sit, on this plateau. Oh, and you’re here with me? What’s up?

Trying On a New Market? Passion Comes First

Question: How do you stay motivated when you’re just starting out in a new medium? It’s easy to be discouraged by that, both emotionally and financially, as it limits your time to work on proven art styles.

Changing directions and adding new material to your repertoire may be rewarding – and necessary to grow a photography or illustration business these days. For some, it means exploring new categories or redirecting efforts toward different markets. An artist may be established in the editorial market, for instance, but recognize opportunities in the advertising market.

A common mistake made by some commercial artists is to adapt their work and vision to fulfill a market’s needs and desires, rather than creating work they’re passionate about and seeking a market for it. The former demands second-guessing, and generally this means compromised rather than vision-driven portfolios.

My Marketing Adventure: Taking Responsibility for Your Own Success

Success takes hard work, period.

One of the things I’ve learned in many years of running a small business is that there’s no guarantee of success, no matter what you do, how well you do it or how talented you think you are.

I can guarantee you one thing, though: You will fail in your attempts at success if you expect not to work hard, or plan to let other people do the hard work for you. I’ve seen a lot of talented people fail miserably, and some rather marginally talented people have immense success, based on their attitude, passion and dedication, as well as their marketing and promotion work.

Creativity Can Be its Own Reward

Question: One of the most frustrating things I encounter is the stack of pages detailing ideas for projects that I know I probably won’t get to. How do I embrace the idea-generating process, while also accepting the fact that I won’t be able to complete most of them?

Part of the process of generating ideas is giving your creative and problem-solving abilities a workout. Although the bulk of your ideas may not carry through, they will serve as inspiration and fodder for future projects.

Challenging Your Creativity Every Day

Question: How can I stay creative when I am on a job and not feeling it, or the client is “killing” my inspiration?

Staying CREATIVE … easier said than done, right? Wrong. I will actually challenge you and say that it doesn’t need to be so hard. That is not to say that you won’t hit a block at some point, because that is the nature of creativity - it ebbs and flows, kind of like the ocean. Similar to the ocean, creativity is constant and you need to be receptive for when it hits you, so be prepared.

Fueling Your Creativity Grows Your Business

Question: What advice do you have for someone with a lot of time on their hands but not a lot of capital, to stay motivated and cultivate a vision?

Having a lot of time on your hands is only a good thing when you know what to do with it. If your passion is to prepare your business for success then you should have some type of plan. With decent capital, you can actually have fun with the preparations if you’re into that kind of thing. Working with little capital, however, should feed your creative side, as it takes imagination to come up with a successful plan within a limited budget!

Your Style is Just That - Yours

Question: How do you find anything new when everything has been done?

This is a question that comes up often with emerging photographers, who are both intimidated and discouraged by the magnitude of great work out there on the internet.

Locating Innovative Inspiration as An Artist

Question: What are some recommendations for sources of inspiration?

When motivation is eroding under pressure, go back to something you’ve always loved, Revitalize your vision and expand on your creative experience in new ways. Give yourself permission to connect with your inner artist.

Last Photographer Standing: Staying Motivated

Question: How do you keep yourself from throwing in the towel when you think you are just about there and then you have a quarter with no work?

I was recently inspired by a blog posting by Luke Copping; Copping discussed finding inspiration with contributions provided by 18 creatives from our industry, myself included. Luke Copping's "18 Imaginative Thinkers Break Your Creative Block"

The responses were not all the same, which was refreshing…we all had our own styles.  Here is my recommendation to getting what you need. Ask yourself these 3 basic questions to get back to your creative roots of shooting:

  1. Of all the images you ever created, what is your favorite?  Why did you create it?
  2. What is the one image everyone comments on?  What did you do that was special to create it?
  3. What is the one image that inspired you to become an artist?  Go back to that feeling.

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