The Essence of Life

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Being Fairly Rewarded for Your Work
by William Branson III

Talented photographers bring joy and beauty into the homes and offices of all those who own their work. The difference between being a mediocre photographer and one making millions of dollars is marketing. You see, Van Gogh died
a poor man, while Picasso died with riches. Who do you think was better at marketing?

Isn’t being financially acknowledged and rewarded for your talent what you want? The problem is most gifted photographers feel uncomfortable promoting their work. In order to be successful you have to be great at more than one thing. The world is full of great photographers who have never been heard of and who have never sold anything. Understanding marketing is the sign of a successful photographer. When I began my photographic career I was not great at marketing. Over the years everything that I have learned has come from my failures. Do you want someone whose business has always been great to teach you marketing? Of course not! You want someone who has worried about losing their business, someone who has cried in fear, and someone that has almost gone bankrupt to teach you marketing. You see adversity is where the lessons lie. Nothing happens when you do not market. You have learned photography, but you need to learn the other skills in order to be successful. People who are selling photography are running a business, yet few would like to admit that. However, anyone who is self employed in photography is running a business. Some people think that marketing is easy for me, that is not true. In my early years, I struggled in my business because I did not understand marketing. I learned it by trial and error as well as getting guidance from other photographers. To be successful you have to make a lifetime commitment to marketing and to have a successful marketing plan you must have the right mindset. I do not know how many times I have heard someone say to me, “I am a photographer, not a business person” or “I have a social media account. I do not need a website, do I?” or “I do not like to market, I would rather be photographing.”

There is nothing noble about being a starving photographer. Van Gogh, I believe, is the poster boy for the starving artist in the world. He only sold a couple of paintings in his lifetime. It was his brother and sister-in-law that sold his paintings after he had died. Van Gogh may have been a great artist but it appears he was a miserable and depressed man. Imagine what a different life he would have lived had he marketed his paintings. I ask you, do you want to be today’s Van Gogh and live a life like he did? I don’t!

First you must get the right mindset and turn negative thoughts into positive ones. Imagine success. What would success look like for you? Get rid of negative thinking, especially negative thinking about money. You must think positively about money. It is not the only measure of success but it will be an important measure of your success. Your success is up to you and no one else. There is an old saying, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” Nothing could be truer. When you get a negative thought, push it out of your head. Negative thoughts change your behavior. You must visualize success. Visualization works. It may sound crazy, but it’s not. There is a lot of science in regards to having a positive mindset. Whatever success is to you, if you want to be successful, you have to have passion, vision, and clear goals. Without passion you are going to fail. Once you have that passion, you must keep telling yourself that you can do anything you want. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.”

I suggest that you plan out your ideal life. Roy Williams, a New York Times best selling author of Wizard of Ads talks about how life is defined by what you are unwilling to do. To define success for yourself, you must first determine what you do not want to do. For instance, I do not like owing money to anyone, not even a bank. There will be times when we have to do things we do not want to do, but the goal is not doing it most of the time.

What does being successful mean to you? Is it being a great photographer or a great parent? Maybe it’s just being wealthy. There is no right or wrong in my opinion. To help you, imagine that you are in your doctor’s office and he tells you that you only have one year to live. What are you going to do? What is the first thing comes to your mind? I would guess that the first thing that comes to your mind would be the most important thing in your life. Is it your family, your photography? I suggest you find what is the most important thing to you. This will help you as you plan your life.

Most people refuse to plan. I recommend that you plan your ideal life. Be specific and build a road map that will give you direction. What is going to make you happy, because happy people are successful people. Consider joining a mastermind group. What if you had a mind that was larger than the one you have now, one that was made up from lots of different minds? That is what a mastermind group is. It is a group of like-minded businesses that get together and share ideas that help one another.

I have been a member of a mastermind group for almost 10 years now. We get together once a year for three to four days and discuss what is happening in our businesses along with any issues we are having. With the help of those in the group I am able to stay on course and stay successful. Throughout the year we have phone conferences to discuss new issues. The important thing is to learn and grow with like-minded studios.

Running a business today is not easy. You must work at it all the time. I am looking forward to again sharing with my Texas School class next year where we will spend time discussing marketing in more detail as well as other aspects of a photography studio. If you have never attended Texas School, I recommend that next year is the year you start!

William Branson is a portrait artist living in Durham, North Carolina. He holds the Master of Photography and Craftsmen Degrees from Professional Photographers of America and the Fellowship Degree from The American Society of Photography. He is a member of the prestigious Cameracraftsmen of America and is one of the founding members of the International Society of Portrait Artist. William also holds Associate Degrees from the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society (both in Europe) and he has the Masters of Portrait Photography Degree within the Master Photography International Organization. William will also be teaching at the 2019 Texas School of Professional Photography.