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chris-scanlon asked:
Looking at the portfolio of a local photographer, I saw all of the cliches: railroad tracks, brick walls, antique furniture in the field, you name it. I'm sure the photographer doesn't WANT to be a hack, but what if the clients in your area aren't hip and come to you with a shot list of played-out ideas? If you're not in a position to turn away work and the rent is due, do you just do it? How can you steer them away from crap ideas without hurting their feelings?

When rent is due and you have the options of robbing a liquor store or shooting against a brick wall you need to check local laws to see if the gun you use in the robbery doesn’t have ammunition in it… is still considered “armed” robbery. 

:)

When rent is due you do what you need to do. Client wants the cliché you do the cliché. You’ve got to survive. Now then, do you need to show that shot on your site or blog? No. Show what you want to shoot. Don’t show the rest. You can make a statement on your site that you are always open to suggestions from the client and will accomodate most requests. So even though you aren’t showing a gallery of cliché shots, they are free to ask for them.

Another way of approaching it is to take the cliché and make something amazing out of it. Make it the coolest damn photo of a girl sitting on vintage luggage the world has ever seen. Honestly 95% of those shots are shot available light with a 5d right? It’s like a damn forumla or something. Push the cliché to a new level. Shoot it in such a way that your local competition can’t even touch it. They don’t even know where to begin to get the kind of shots you get. You just took their brick wall / vintage furniture / girl with balloons / train track shots and wiped your @$$ with them.

I know that sounds horrible. I know in a world of openness and embracing your local community you don’t want to think that way but competition is competition. Michael Phelps wants to win. While I’m sure he’s quite helpful to people in his sport and he seems to be a really great sportsman standing around the pool, when he’s in that water he is there to kick everyone’s ass.

Another thing to do is head out into the field with your client and their cliché ideas, shoot them… with a camera… and then shoot something else that is better. A lot of times people don’t know what they want because they haven’t seen anything different. They don’t know what else is possible. Blow their expectations out of the water and give them something they didn’t know they could have. Make your idea way better than theirs and make it really, really, really good. 

"Here’s your train track shot. Here’s my (whatever else) shot."

Make that whatever else shot sing. 

Be ten times better than the photographer shooting the available light 5d2 85mm 1.2 formula. Be 100 times that photographer. Blaze your own damn path through your local market that no one can follow or have a hard time doing so. They shoot lightsphere and you shoot lightsphere? Burn your effing lightsphere. They shoot 85mm 1.2 and you shoot 85mm 1.2? Burn your 85mm. They process everything with VSCO film and you use VSCO? Burn your presets. Everyone goes left? You go right.

Blaze. Your. Own. Path.

That’s the goal. That’s the bar raised high that you’ll never quite make it over but it’s your goal all the same. Shoot the effing train track shots. Get the sun flaring through your 85mm 1.2 out in the field. Put those damn hands in a heart shape over the belly button so you can pay your rent and live another day but damn it don’t stay there. Don’t live there. Don’t keep regurgitating the same shit over and over and over when there are 5,000 photographers lined up behind you doing the same shit. If you are going to survive in the long run you have to get off this beaten path of imagery and go your own way.

Lead. Let the formula photographers try to follow. Stay two steps ahead. Be a nice guy. Don’t be a prick. If you can help a fellow photographer always be ready to do so but as soon as you are in that water you have to be better than them. You have to kick their ass. Let them know they did a great job coming in second.

I’m such a jerk. :)

Cheers,
Zack 

43 Notes

  1. 1031 said: In just about every creative arena, this is true. “A lot of times people don’t know what they want because they haven’t seen anything different.”
  2. jpdiv said: This is the most inspiring thing I think I’ve ever read. Time to print it out and frame it.
  3. zarias posted this