Recently, my photographer Dustin was on a podcast called Full Time Photographer. Josh Rossi interviews photographers that are working, making a living, doing what they love. Somewhere in the conversation Josh asks Dustin about having an agent. His response was something along the lines of, I’ve worked harder than ever since signing with MergeLeft.
It reminded me that we all need help, a partner, or partners that move us forward. As a photographer, the end goal is to be the very best you can be, creating work to share with the world that fulfills you. Sometimes you need someone to share in that responsibility. You don't need to have an agent, but you should have someone that holds you accountable, a sounding board, an idea sharer, or someone to help you keep it all organized. It could be a studio manager, an assistant, a spouse, an intern, or all the above. All photographers work differently, some want more outside involvement than others.
The result of people working together is more successful than working alone. Great professional partnerships are based in communication, trust and respect. Disagreements are fine so long as your end goal is the same. Find people who believe in you and your vision. The best photographs are made as a collaboration between the photographer and the subject, your work behind the scenes should be that way as well. Hard decisions should never be solo decisions. Your work is incredibly personal to you, you may need an outside opinion to be objective about your work, and having a sounding board is helpful and necessary.
Photographers can be a isolated bunch. Many freelancers get up, make coffee, make lists of all the things they need to do, get paralyzed and read Facebook all day. Kidding aside, with the myriad of things that need to be done in a day for a person who owns their own business, it can be daunting and paralyzing. Some photographers are so busy shooting, the other important tasks get swept by the wayside and then become enormous if there are slow times. Either of these types can benefit from a partner or partners. Using a project management system with your partner, such as Google, Evernote, Basecamp, can keep you on track and moving towards goals efficiently.
When you aren’t shooting, you should be researching new personal projects, new clients, and expanding your knowledge of your art and craft. As well as accounting and billing, marketing and social media, meetings, reaching out to new people, interacting with your fellow photographers, and taking care of your health and well being. Some companies have teams of people who do this, you have you. Find someone who can help you make these things less of a chore and more of an everyday occurrence so you are always moving forward.
Having a creative partner to talk ideas through is extremely helpful. Have conversations about ideas for future projects or stories or current projects that need a little stimulation. With a creative partner that has no judgment, when all ideas are on the table for discussion, an amazing solution can be the reward. For some photographers it’s so personal that to hear the ideas out loud, and work through the positives and negatives with an objective person is the most essential part of this relationship.
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, who encourage you and push you to be a better photographer and person, it's one of the best business decisions you'll ever make.
To quote Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”