As artists, we want to create new things all the time. It’s fun when we learn a new technique and try it out. This is especially true when we are just starting out. A new painter might have fun with watercolors one day and switch to oil the next. A month after exploring his passion, he might end up with chalk pieces, charcoal, acrylic and pencil. While exploring a new passion is wonderful, if he wants to accrue clients, then what he needs to be looking for is a style.
As photographers, we do this too. We take a lovely photo of our dog and post it on social media proudly. Then we head out to take photos of flowers around our neighborhood. We find new Lightroom presets. We explore and end up with some images with a moody look and brown tones and later create images with a bright film look and we love them all! They’re great! Why not post them all over the place?
And the answer is, because it’s confusing to your potential clients. I’ll give you an example. I love Pepsi. Freezing cold Pepsi in a can is the best thing ever. I stop in the gas station to grab one every time I need to fill up my tank. Well one day I ran in to get my favorite fizzy drink and instead of the regular Pepsi I was used to, they switched to one that said “Now made with real sugar.” I didn’t think anything of it (except maybe, what was it made with before?!) and I ran back out to my car. I cracked the sucker open and took a swig and nearly spit it out. It tasted nothing like what I was used to.
The next time I went into the gas station I made sure that my can was the classic Pepsi I was used to and it was business as usual. Until about a year later… when Pepsi changed its packaging. I walked up to the glass cases and paused. The can was silver instead of blue. “Wait…is this that real sugar stuff again?” I thought. And I wasn’t in the mood to deal with a big disappointment so I grabbed a Coke. I don’t love Coke as much as I love Pepsi, but with Coke at least I knew what I was getting.
Let me repeat that: I would have rather purchased a product that wasn’t my first preference because it was consistent with what I knew rather than purchase my preferred product and risk a bad surprise. Your work can be stellar, but unless it is consistent, people will doubt hiring you.
Over the hundreds (ok let’s be real, it’s probably thousands) of times I’ve drank a Pepsi, it only took one bad experience to set me on alert. Not even a bad experience, just a different one. That is how important consistency is. Think of your favorite Starbucks drink. What if, every time you went in, there was some fabulous barista that said “I am a cafe artist! I create drinks from my soul!” and each time he made your drink differently based on his artistic mood? You’d probably never go back there again. I mean, good for him, but bad for you.
Here in Phoenix we have something called First Friday. The first Friday of each month there is a huge art walk in downtown Phoenix on Roosevelt Row. There are food trucks and little tables set up to buy jewelry, candles, artwork, vases… you name it. Walking around, I came across a few shipping containers that were set up as portable art galleries. I went inside one of them and saw dozens of drawings of faces. They were all colored pencil, and all, very obviously by the same artist. I thought, “This is consistency. I could spot his style a mile away.” Were all his paintings the exact same? No. But were they all the same style? Yes. And you can do that with so many great painters. You know when you’re looking at a Monet, when you’re looking at a Picasso, when you’re looking at a Van Gogh.
You can also do this with movies… When a preview at a movie begins and you hear a spooky song start, you see a character with big eyes and pale skin, you can actually hear people saying “Oooh it’s Tim Burton.” Wes Anderson has this same effect. So does Quentin Tarantino. These are some of the biggest names in the film industry and they all have a defined style that they’re known for.
When you decide to go into business, you’re creating a consistent product for a specific client. Creating a style that you can replicate over and over again is going to be one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. Define it and solidify it so that your clients can be confident when they book you. I once heard a photographer say that the greatest compliment a photographer could receive is when someone says, “I saw a photo and before I looked at the caption, I knew you were the photographer.”
I’ll leave you with that for day 5 and tomorrow we are going to be moving along this same topic with How To Curate your Portfolio.
Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here! If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com
|Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris|
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.