I’d really like to start taking some time to write about what is on my heart here on my photography blog, so I’m going to start out by talking about competition. Competition in all senses of the word… because it’s something that’s been really affecting my life recently.
First of all, lets talk about photography competitions… you know… the kind where photographers enter their work and it gets judged in a competitive way.
Since I’ve started doing photography, I’ve never entered any competition. Two weeks ago that all changed …(this is the point in my writing where you will find out that when I write journal entries I totally overuse ellipses… … … and winky faces… … even though I’m not actually winking in real life) I hope that you’ll be able to look past my terrible grammar and read this conversationally instead
So this year I entered two different competitions in two weeks! First of all I entered the PPSC print competition, and then this past weekend I entered the SCAWP competition. For PPSC I entered 6 physical prints that were judged by a panel of 6 trained judges on very strict standards of photography. It was so interesting to listen to the judging and hear what the judges said about the different work entered. I’ve watched the print competition before, but actually having “skin in the game” takes the experience to a whole different level.
For the SCAWP competition I entered a digital portfolio of 20 of my favorite wedding images taken during 2012. The selection process alone was so great for me, because I had to review all of my work over the year. It was really great to review my style and figure out where I am, and where I’d like to go for the next year. The judging was also a good experience where I was able to hear what other people think of my work as a whole.
In general, I’m not an extremely competitive person… at least not against other people. I like to win as much as the next guy, but I’m really more interested in setting personal goals and beating myself instead of beating other people. For me, this is what print competitions are all about. It feels so good to get my work out there in front of other photographers and set a standard for myself at this point in time. Once I do that, my personal goal is to do BETTER next year. As long as I can improve my results, I’ll be happy with the competition outcome whatever it is. This doesn’t even mean I have to win more awards or beat more people… it just means I need to take what I learned and use it to improve my entries for next year. I want to be able to look at my entries from year to year and see a definite progression over time.
If you are one of my customers or potential customers… you might wonder why this matters to you. The simple answer is: It matters because as I strive to improve my work… it is your photos that will be better
So for my first year of print competition, I’m super excited about my results and all I’ve learned during the process.
Now I wanna talk a little about competition as in… my competitors. Not just in print competitions, but in the photography industry in general. This is mostly for all you photographers out there.
First of all, you should know that my biggest competitors in Columbia are also some of my closest friends. If you are thinking about hiring me and end up hiring one of my competitors… I don’t get mad… I’m happy for my friends doing great business.
You see, a couple of key things are true about competition in the photography industry (and probably in most others as well).
1. There is enough business to go around. This is almost always true… even though sometimes it doesn’t seem to be the case. I know that I can’t be greedy and expect to get ALL the business, or even every customer that I want. We set goals for the amount of work we’d like to do in a year, and so far we’ve been able to meet those goals even though the competition is tough sometimes. Since I know there are other people competing for our customers… it makes me strive to be even better so I can give my customers what they deserve. Which leads me to one of my favorite quotes:
2. “A rising tide raises all ships.” I know that there are always new photographers coming into the industry, and some of them are really great. There are also all the photographers who are already good and each year continue to get better. Because of this I can’t just keep doing the same thing year after year. If I get stuck doing the same thing, the tide (the standard of the industry) will quickly raise to a higher level and I’ll just sink. Instead, I have to keep up with the raising tide and continue to float higher and higher. I’m thankful for all the people who are being innovative and different and keeping me on my toes.
So I basically have two words of encouragement for other photographers out there. First for the seasoned photographers, and second for the people just getting into the industry.
First, for the photographer who has been in the industry for a while and may be established in your area: Embrace your competition. Take it as a challenge to continue to improve your work and to keep up with the standards of the industry. You don’t want to get stale anyway, so don’t dismiss the competition… pay attention to it! Even beyond that, take the extra step and HELP your competition. By helping them you are also helping yourself. And don’t forget… they can also help you in return. Being friends with the people who are competing for your customers can be great because you can also refer people to each other when you are already booked. Never rule out someone because you don’t think they are good enough to compete with you… one day that might change and you want to be on their good side when it does
Second, for the new photographer just coming into the industry: Respect your competition AND the industry. Look to your competition for help, and always be willing to lend a helping hand. Respect the people who are established and probably better than you. Don’t expect them to go out of their way to help you if you aren’t willing to give up something of yourself in return. Don’t say bad things about them when trying to get new customers. Also, respecting the industry is important because if you start offering the same service for free or a much lower price, your established competitors are not going to be very happy about it. You’ll be hurting their livelihood and bringing down the industry instead of building it up.
I guess to sum up my post: Competition is healthy. Embrace competition as a way to grow and improve yourself. Don’t get angry when people beat you, instead use it as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow. Eventually it will be you winning the competition . I hope to win some, but no matter what my main goal will always remain: continue improving!