What the Presidential Campaign Can Teach You About Your Photography Career

Running your photography business, or advancing in your photography career, is not the same as running for president of the United States — but there are some parallels that can teach us valuable lessons.  Here are five:

1.  Pay attention to how you look.

Barack Obama and John McCain have been scrutinized on more than just their experience or position on the issues.  For starters, they are evaluated by voters on their looks, age, how healthy they appear, how well-groomed they are, and other aspects of their appearance.   In the same way, photographers are evaluated on more than just their ability to do a job; we are also judged on how we look.

What message are we sending by how we look? Let’s start with our choice of clothing. Occasionally someone may compliment us on what we are wearing; maybe they like the color or style.  Some people go so far as to wear certain types of clothing to distinguish themselves from others in their field.

Take my lawyer, for instance. I think he dresses funny, but I have to give him credit.  People remember him — first because his clothing makes a bold statement, but then they also remember what a good lawyer he is. Your business success may profit from a little more attention to visual presentation — not only of your work, but of yourself.

2.  Speak in a way that connects to your clients.

As we watched the presidential debates, we listened to see if the candidates answered the questions they were asked. We listened to how clearly they articulated their ideas. We listened to their inflections and pace of their comments to see how confident and knowledgeable they seamed to be on the issues.

The candidates tried to answer the questions in ways that would connect with the audience at home.  Indeed, they had practiced their responses carefully with this in mind.

As working photographers, we too are evaluated by what we say and how we say it.  We must be aware of our client’s perspective.  Are we addressing their concerns or our concerns?

3.  Be mindful of the company you keep.

The candidates are evaluated on the company they keep — and so are we.   For this reason, it can be a good idea to make your clients aware of your community involvement.

Let your clients know when you go on mission trips, or that you volunteer as a coach for kids’ sports — or anything else outside of work that would be valued by your clients.

Obama’s two young daughters help him appeal to many folks, just as Sarah Palin’s special needs child makes her special to others. While our outside activities are not our primary message to a prospect, they may be important to some of them and shouldn’t be left out.

4.  Demonstrate passion for the job.

We select politicians who show passion for the job.  This is also true of photography clients.

Greg Thompson, director of corporate communications for Chick-fil-A, says when he hires people, he looks beyond the hands to the head and heart of the person. The hands represent to him the transactional relationship within most of business.

You need a writer?  Hire someone with experience and he or she can probably meet the immediate need. But if you look beyond the transaction, you will see that while some writers are solid professionals, others really care about the subject they’re writing about.  Their passion makes them the better hire.

5.  Seek feedback.

Candidates running for office have people who constantly give them feedback to improve and refine their campaigns. We also need to turn to those who can offer us constructive feedback. We can all benefit from some sandpaper helping to refine us.

Certainly, our prospects are interested in what we can do for them — but they are also influenced by who we are as people. Just as presidential candidates must present a pleasing total package, so must we.  I’ve come to realize that my “dream jobs” are not determined by pay alone; it’s working with someone who appreciates and makes use of my total package.

One Response to “What the Presidential Campaign Can Teach You About Your Photography Career”

  1. Very good article. I know that my dress/appearance has persuaded more than one public information officer to personally escort me past the barricades to take photos.

    So many in our industry need to hear this message.

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