How you describe your work and vision as a photographer to a stranger (who unbeknown to you may be in a position to buy your services) or indeed someone to whom you are pitching for work can make the difference between getting an assignment or not.
Even for those photographers with a clear creative vision, this task can seem daunting and many shy away from opportunities where they may need to speak face to face about their work and ideas. Indeed many photographers assume that their work can stand for itself and should be enough to bring in clients. Alas, this may well have been true in the not too distant past, but these days it is more important than ever that your talent and personality shines through your branding which will include any one-to-one contact you have with a potential client, either by phone or in person.
I come across many photographers who would rather walk over hot coals than have to describe their work and creative vision. Yet, who better than you, the photographer, to find the words to describe your excitement, passion and emotion about how you see the world and ideas you may be looking to explore through your work?
How would you feel and what would you say if someone (who might be a potential client) were to ask you what you do? Think about it for a moment…
It’s not uncommon for a sense of panic to set in accompanied by an inexplicable feeling of being exposed or confused about what to say followed by a jumble of words or indeed simply ‘I’m a photographer’. Others may have their ‘spiel’ fluently memorised and can reel it off no problem. These apparently very different responses may in fact have the same effect – switch off the interest from the person who asked the question who then feels none the wiser.
What would hook someone would be a genuine expression of enthusiasm, passion and excitement about your work – what you love to shoot and what you are trying to achieve or explore through your imagery. Remember, you are not trying to ‘sell’ yourself (as though you are a door-to-door salesman, selling something people don’t want), you are tying to express the creative value in what you produce and create a compelling reason for someone to explore your ideas and talent further.
So a compelling ‘pitch’ will be a genuinely motivated, heart-felt and enthusiastic expression of what you do combined with what you believe to be your unique vision and approach, who you aim your work towards and perhaps a current project you are excited by. So long as you are not trying to be theoretical, but genuinely think about what motivates you at best about the work you do, you are much more likely to transfer that enthusiasm on to the listener and provide a richer texture to your work and practice.
Remember, you are likely to have less than a 40 seconds to make an impression, so keep it tight, simple but above all an expression that feels true to life and not akin to something you might have lifted from a text book. Try to explore your own visual language for your work – it may be helpful to get other photographers or professionals in the business to talk to you about your work to help tease out some phraseology that best describes your vision that you may not have thought of.
This is always going to be a journey – what you feel comfortable saying that best describes your work will be constantly changing with time... not least as you get closer to what you feel is the real You photographically-speaking, but also because you are likely to be taking twists and turns in your creative direction. Expect your pitch to change as you discover more about your work and what excites you about personal projects you are exploring.
Try to find occasions to practice your pitch – and expect it not always to be perfect. Each time you say it out loud expect there to be something that can be bettered or expressed in a more compelling way next time. Be critical and ask yourself – would you ask for a business card from this person if you were in a rush and running to catch a train? If not, what would change your mind?