Photography has changed, there’s no doubt about that. But why? Why have things evolved so quickly and so drastically? Photographers used to be famous by mailing printed images in a big manila envelope to magazine editors then crossing their fingers, hoping for a good reception. Now, it takes 1,000 likes, 1,000 Instagram followers, and 200 retweets to even get noticed.
Photography is just like any art form. It’s constantly changing and adapting to the climate and environment of the times. There are tens of thousands of images we see everyday so naturally, it would seem that it’s more difficult to get your work out there. What more can you do to help yourself get noticed?
Yes, you do need a big following, a solid portfolio, and a little luck to be in the right newsfeed at the right time to get yourself noticed. That said, there are ways that you can help yourself. You have a story to tell about yourself just as your photos do for their subjects. Make sure that you are doing everything you can to tell that story through the image. Capture moments, memories, and magic instead of just images. There are three main things to focus on that will give your photo exemption to the three-second rule that says if someone pauses for more than three seconds to look at your photo then you have captured something unlike anything else.
First, have great light
Find a way to make this work. Wake up at the crack of dawn for the sunrise, bring along a light with you to a family shoot, set up the lights in a strategic way in the studio. Use light to your advantage. There are obviously times when this is much easier said than done. Control what you can to give yourself a leg up on the competition.
Second, have a great composition
Show artistry in your photo. Show drama. Use emotion to get yourself noticed. Ask your customer to do something new with you. The risk might just be worth it. Add props or a risky backdrop. Find ways to do new things. Learn more about the composition of photographs. Learn how controlling those elements makes a statement with an image.
Third, have a sense of the moment
This does, indeed, take a little luck. If you are doing everything you can to tell a true story then you will give the viewer a sense of a moment. Whether it’s the steaming bowl of noodles at the market stand on a busy street or the stork in silhouette against the sunset, you are there in that moment. You are capturing the sense of that magic. You make the reader stop, pause, then think, “Wow, I wish I could have been there.”
Do Things the “Write” Way
A second way to help yourself in this world of unending competition that is photography today is making sure you aren’t just telling the story through the image. From the dawn of time, people have shared insights, histories, and tragedies through storytelling. Literally, word of mouth. Use this in your favor. Especially since there are numerous platforms available to spread the word. It will take a little extra time. Taking that time to type just a blurb about that moment will help the reader become involved in it and will transfer a sense of empathy. They will want to share that moment with you even more after they hear you sat there for eight hours to make the shot. Or that you had to wait through a tornado to get the photo. Or that you went back to this tower 27 days in a row to capture that moment. People want to hear a story. Tell it to them.
Try Something New
Times are still changing. Count on change continuing. Change hasn’t stopped and won’t be slowing down anytime soon if ever. It’s time to do something new to really make an impression. If you are in a world of landscape images or wildlife shots; then bust out of that box by sharing a video of a busy street corner. Shock your audience with a video of kids running through marching legs at a parade. Those are things that will make everyone else question what they are doing. Now, video is certainly not the only way to try new things. Find ways to get ahead and do what others are too lazy, or too afraid to do. Take those risks yourself.
Open Your Eyes and Be Seen
Ready to take the next step? Make yourself stand out. Add a little more light here, plan for timing there, catch a moment here. Control all the elements that you can. Then make them into art. Tell a story. Do something new. These are not the only ways to rise above the masses of mediocre photographs. It’s a starting point that you can leap from. Getting that photo that will not be swiped away on social media is the first step in making a change. Along the way, you may just become a jack of all trades. And even the master of some of them.