“My job is not taking pretty pictures.”
There’s a large disconnect for creatives when they move from creating for themselves into the world of creating for money.
The Creative Side hates the thought of putting a number on their work and peddling their business like a greasy used car salesman.
The feeling of freedom that they had from self-expression gets replaced by the cold, hollow desperation of selling oneself to pay the bills.
Worries over rent, supplies, gear, food, etc not only dull the passion of creating, but it also dulls the creative process by being a very real distraction. It is easy to slowly move from work that you once enjoyed to work you need to do to eat.
The Business Side also has its complaints. It expected a simple and automatic setup. Clients come, you work, they pay, you laugh all the way to the bank.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
It has demands in order for business to run smoothly and in an upward direction. Workflows, agreements, insurance, collections, projects, customer service, refunds, policies, events, social media, tutorials, workshops, etc etc etc.
Additionally, the Business Side doesn’t have time for the frivolous personal projects of the Creative Side, it has work to do.
I had the privilege to attend an event with a group of designers last month. As we discussed their work and how it relates to photography, I said something blunt and honest to them,”My job is not taking pretty pictures.”
Professional suicide? Not in the least, but I do think it may have got some attention.
I explained that as a creative – just like they are, my job is expression – whether expressing myself or expression for a client doesn’t matter.
I continued that for a business client, my job is to find the voice or brand message or style or essence of their business. To know it as true as the founder and their most loyal customers would understand it. Using this knowledge, I create imagery that best exudes that essence.
Let me say right away that the objective here isn’t to make a brands message louder – there’s too much noise out there as is. The purpose is to give their brand clarity.
Any photographer can take a decent product image. But if the design of that image doesn’t resonate with the brands message, it will fall flat and just be more noise. Clients will walk on by, not even recognizing the brand and potential clients won’t even know that it exists in the first place. That’s where clarity is key.
Let’s look at a brand like Nike. Nike has a consistent brand message. You recognize it right away when you see an ad in a magazine or a commercial on TV. “Just Do It”, a large check mark or even just seeing people running in gear will reflexively bring to mind Nike. It may even make you feel like getting up and going for a walk or run – especially for those of you that are loyal customers of Nike.
How does that happen?
Again, their images have a strong and consistent brand message, and it’s not just their product itself – but how it is presented in images for advertising(clarity). That message resonates with the brand, which comes through clear as a bell in their images, which then resonates with their clients.
If I’ve done my job right, that’s what I offer my clients. Any client of any business.
With clarity, I create an emotional connection and stimulus with a brands client base that reminds them of who they are and who they aspire to be. The product will then resonate with them on a strong level personally, they’ll feel more like ‘who they really are’ when they wear a specific style of shoe or makeup or dress or hairstyle or tattoo, or when they use a Mac instead of a laptop, or when they drink Starbucks instead of Tim Horton’s.
People tell the story of their lives by their actions and purchases. My work with business clients is to connect the right people to the right brands that help them paint a clearer picture for themselves.
And I do it all through my photography.
So, what the hell does this have to do with your conflicting Creative/Business Sides?
This is how I’ve personally rectified and reconciled them for myself. This is my WHY.
WHY do I shoot photography? WHY is it important to me? WHY is it important to others?
My WHY is clarity of expression for the purpose of stimulating emotion. In other words, I feel emotions that make me want to create and what I want to create I want to evoke emotion in others.
It’s connection and beauty and truth and purpose and limitless and human.
It’s honest and sincere and comes from a place of vulnerability because it is who I tell myself that Michael Carty is.
My Creative Side is happy because the projects I work on are fun and dynamic, they are challenge me to connect people, to express an emotion and the design options are unlimited. I don’t have to feel sleazy when talking shop because I come from a place everyone can relate to.
I know the challenges of business and creativity first hand and that also helps to create a personal connection with my clients and their businesses.
My Business Side is ecstatic. Work and projects come in steadily with businesses and organizations that I’m excited to work with and can only enhance my career. The enthusiasm and energy that would normally be reserved for creating has grown and bled over to my business activities. It now encourages personal projects, not because it gives me a break from business, but because it helps me get more business and find new and dynamic ways of creating work that is fun and exciting.
It may take a while, some thinking, maybe some writing or sketching or listening to music while staring at the ceiling, but follow the path to find your WHY and these warring factions will fall into a cohesive peace that will make you a better creative and business person. It will allow you to see what is truly important and what you can let fall to the wayside in work and life. It can become a mantra to bring you back to earth when the minutia overwhelms the senses and you lose yourself in the forests of mass information consumption.
Need a headstart? Check out Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why – great read and direction.
Find your WHY, find your reason and then share it with the world.