It’s Not My Job, Man
Being a photographer in the strictest sense means you are passionate and, it is to be hoped, increasingly skilled at the craft of photography. Being a photographer in the vocational sense means having an expanding skill set that includes, but isn’t limited to, photography. Your ability to express your vision photographically is the epicenter of your activities, and it’s why I began this book with the assumption that you’re no slacker at your craft. But the moment you decide to pursue this vocationally and take your craft to the marketplace, a whole new series of skills needs to ripple out from that epicenter.
What those complementary skills are depends on your chosen market, but within those chosen markets they are generally not considered optional—they are key features of who you are as a photographer, and they bring key benefits that mustn’t be overlooked in either your development or your marketing.
If I were a commercial photographer specializing in serving clients that make outdoor adventure gear, those complementary skills might be certifications in certain water sports or rescue techniques. At a minimum, they would be key competencies like basic safety or wilderness first aid.
In my chosen market serving humanitarian organizations, these transferable skills might be less tangible, but no less important—offerings like bilingualism, diplomacy, the breadth of my travel experiences in unstable countries, and even multiple citizenships permitting easier travel. On top of these particular intangibles, there are others.
How are your listening skills? The better you can listen to a client, the more clearly you will understand their needs.
How are your multimedia skills? When a client throws a last-minute request for a multimedia presentation into the scope of the brief, can you roll with it?
What about your interview skills? If you hope to take your vocation to areas with a more public face, one that benefits from public exposure, then the ability to do a solid interview is important.
How’s your time management? Being there on time, budgeting enough time for the gig, and being able to roll with it when the project’s scope expands but your time limits don’t will serve you well in the eyes of the client.
Don’t underestimate these core competencies. As a wedding photographer, your ability to deal diplomatically with mothers-in-law has a huge bearing on the impact you make with the client.
Of course, this is all just the logical extreme that comes of the desire to over-deliver for your clients. There are times you’ll be tempted to shrug it all off with a dismissive “It’s not my job, man,” but while that may be very true, you need to pick your battles carefully or you’ll be absolutely right—it won’t be your job. The job will go to someone who understands that the ability to create a great image is at the very center of this vocation, but it isn’t the end of the matter.