How do you toot your horn, inflate your balloon, expand your horizons?

Following up on the post about knowing whether you’re any good as a photographer, Ryan Stone asked how best to get the word out about your work, if you tend to be on the modest side. In other words, how do you make your work known to the next level of potential clients, without overstepping?

Does it make sense that one of the primary things that keeps people modest is the fear of failure? There are other factors, for sure. But if we don’t put ourselves out there, we won’t get rejected, nobody will say no. It’s a safe stance, one that I fully understand.

Ironically, failure is the best teacher and an important element on the path forward. We can certainly learn from successes but without failures now and then, we won’t know the other extreme of how things work.

Getting over this fear is not easy. And maybe that’s not the goal anyway. The fear will likely always be there, and it can be a motivating factor. You can take steps to overcome the symptoms, though. Inaction is the most prominent symptom. 

Action, then, would be the solution, the path forward. Do things to get the word out about how amazing you are, like spreading a scent.

Start by creating a community of friends where you are, if you don’t have one, expanding it if you do. Learn about the photography resources in your town: Is ASMP/NPPA/PPA/PSP strong and who runs that, is there a museum with a photography curator and group you can join, are there galleries that support photography, who are the strongest photographers in town, what educational settings are there, who teaches, where can you rent gear and who runs that, who retired to your town who may be great to know? And on and on.

Then there’s the process of getting your work out there. It would be a mistake to try and tap the top tier of your market, or one that is way beyond where you are right now. But if you don’t stretch, you won’t know what your level is. So try and show your work to people you think you should be working for, but aren’t. Do it slowly, one person at a time. And learn from each encounter. Watch how people look at your work, if you get a chance to present it in person. See which pictures they rush by and on which they linger. Ask them questions about their needs and appear to be a person who could help them meet those needs. Speak well of your work but don’t either put it down or bloat it. Tell them what matters to you and hope that it matches what matters to them. You’ll know if you’ve done your research about who they are and what their organization/company/publication is about.

Then there’s the matter of improving your work. Set out to replace or expand something in your portfolio every week. Know where the weaknesses are, and the strengths. Learn a new skill, see a new way, try to say something you haven’t said with a photograph, go somewhere you’ve never been and see the trodden path in a new way.

If a week has gone by and you haven’t met someone new, put your work out there in a new way or made a picture you wouldn’t have a week ago, then get to work.

Two digital questions, and responses

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