The previous chapter of this guide focused on how to get work in the field of photography. Now, once you understand the market and start getting work, you have to make sure to keep getting it constantly, since consistency in workload will ensure the financial growth of your business. In order to maintain this consistency, the most important thing that you need to adopt is professionalism.
What is professionalism? In colloquial language, professionalism can be defined as the overall conduct of a person during his/her business affairs. It is more than wearing the tie and possessing the degree; it is more about the ethics that a person adopts in his/her work at all levels to gradually build his/her character and value in the market. A professional photographer must abide by the ethics of the company for which he/she is working; he/she must have certain principles as far as his work his concerned. A good photographer must respect what and for whom he is working on. This is the basic need of professionalism in all the fields including photography.
When it comes to professionalism, your overall personality that includes your communication skills, dressing sense, posture, and body language comes into the calculation. How you walk in public, how composed you are, how you reply to the queries of your clients, how you conduct yourself, how you solve problems in your organization, how you avoid most of the problems, how you keep things in order, how you maintain your temper, how much respect you give to your profession, in fact, how much do you smile while you engage in conversations with the various people- EVERYTHING, ALL YOUR MOVES ARE NOTICED BY THE PEOPLE. And that is why, it is very important for you to maintain an image in the workplace.
Now, I am not asking you to be stiff and too caring in all your moves. No! This will only make you nervous. Relax! You need to appear chilled out. You need to appear ‘cool’ to the people around you. I am not asking you to be too cautious in all your moves but you have to maintain a certain code of conduct at the workplace to sound professional in your stream. Play cool but play with the rules as well. Basically, you have to balance out on everything in your work. Do not treat your clients like your friends but at the same time, try to maintain a friendly atmosphere to make them comfortable. Do not involve in your clients’ personal lives. I have personally observed artists getting involved in their clients’ personal space unnecessarily. Emotional empathy is understandable but there is should be a line which you shouldn’t cross when it comes to business (I will talk about this particular point in the next series which will revolve around the business of wedding photography).
In your photography company, you have to be attached to your superiors and inferiors but at the same time, take care to not cross the line. Remember: It is your job to make the efforts instead of waiting for the other person to make the move since you are the one who is getting paid. Even if the other party crosses the line, you should not retaliate in a foul manner since it will affect your ‘image’ in the market. You might start getting work, but if you do not abide by the tenets of professionalism, you will soon go out of work, which in turn will affect your sanity for obvious reasons. I personally do not believe in adopting 100% strict, disciplined professionalism in the business of photography, nor do I endorse 0% of it.
A person must embrace a middle way, which as I have stated above, will happen when one has a chilled out personality. You do not have to be too professional as it will result in rigidity but at the same time you do not have to be completely unprofessional. Be flexible in your spirit while working with people and you will yourself receive the fruits of your efforts with time.
The three keys to become a professional in the correct sense of the word are punctuality, honest, and loyalty. You have to respect your time as well as the time of your clients. Everybody is busy these days; everybody has a life. People have busy schedules and when they take out time for you, they do not like to be disappointed. Also, in the stream such as photography where you will be renting gears half of the time, it is very important to make full use of the limited duration for which you’ll be getting them. Understand this: Time is money, and you should use it wisely for your own benefit. The other key qualities of honesty and loyalty at workplace are equally important if you aim to sell your art to make money out of it. In the long run, these qualities will add up to your image in the market, and this will lead to getting more work. Following are a few tips on how you can embrace professionalism in photography business:
- Dress well. There is this notion among photographers that you should look ‘cool’ rather than ‘formal.’ Keep your suits and ties for the occasions, say, the wedding ceremony, but during the meetings, casuals will work. Of course, looking cool alone won’t get you work as it has nothing to do with your creativity, but it certainly adds up to your personality. Dress the way you see yourself 10 years down the lane.
- Keep your ego and your anger issues aside when dealing with clients. Understand this: Your client is investing his hard earned money in your business. Moreover, his event would be once in a lifetime thing for him, and for same reason he would like you to deliver the product up to his expectations. Respect that! Respect your client and his emotions.
- Keep everything in order including your workspace, expenses, records of your clients, and overall data. Order is necessary in professional life.
- Solve conflicts among your team members and with your clients (if any) in a cool manner to keep things in order.
- Avoid office or workplace politics.
- Avoid forming personal relationships at workplace as it only promotes unconscious bias/favoritism. If you are in one, disclose it to everyone.
- Be humble. If you are not good at something, accept it. If you fail somewhere in your project, accept it.
- At times, the photography business can get very stressful. Back to back shoots and pressure of deadlines can result in anxiety and frustration. It is here, when you have to test your professionalism. Keeping up with your moods and blues is the main demand of professionalism. No one likes cribbers or whining team mates. You got to be your own superhero, working on your moods in the workplace since you are the one who is adamant on turning his passion into business.
- Always smell good. You have no idea how much it matters in the business of photography, especially during field work. During long shoot hours, we sometimes ignore personal hygiene which might affect our team members and people around us in general. They cannot really say this on your face, but bad smell puts down our overall personality in front of them. So, better to be aware of how you smell. Always keep a roll on, deodorant in your bag and keep applying it after every 5-6 hours or so. Remember, people love those who smell good.
That’s it about professionalism and its importance in the stream of photography. Stay tuned for the next article!
Meanwhile, you can join my Facebook group, “Grow Your Art” which is a community (in the making) of photographers, cinematographers, other artists belonging to the similar stream. This community aims at developing a healthy environment for the collective growth of individuals in this business. The artists here actively participate in the discussions, and help and guide each other to grow in the Indian market.