Beyond Camera Work

Starting and Keeping a Portraiture Business

More Than One Kind Of Genius?

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Sometimes, some young genius comes along and leaves the rest of us wondering at the lack of such achievement in our own lives. Strobist David Hobby summed it up when he described Canadian Photographer Joey Lawrence as

“… kicking butt. He is doing killer still photography, shooting music videos and traveling the world… Oh yeah, and he is only 17 years old. As a 42-year-old, that last tidbit is the kind of thing that tends to really piss me off. “

What are the rest of us to think of ourselves as we work less direct routes to our intended creative destinies? If a 17 year has already landed on the distant shores we hope to reach one day, what does that say about us?

It says that we shouldn’t give up, says David Galenson. Galenson is a economist, who has been quietly and carefully analyzing data on creative genius through history. Galenson is described in Daniel H. Pink’s Wired article What Kind of Genius Are You? as the great redeemer for the rest of us:

“Now, however, Galenson might have done something at last, something that could provide hope for legions of late bloomers everywhere. Beavering away in his sunny second-floor office on campus, he has scoured the records of art auctions, counted entries in poetry anthologies, tallied images in art history textbooks – and then sliced and diced the numbers with his econometric ginsu knife. Applying the fiercely analytic, quantitative tools of modern economics, he has reverse engineered ingenuity to reveal the source code of the creative mind.

“What he has found is that genius – whether in art or architecture or even business – is not the sole province of 17-year-old Picassos and 22-year-old Andreessens. Instead, it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. “Conceptual innovators,” as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. Think Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, and Orson Welles. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group “experimental innovators.” Geniuses like Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers. Galenson maintains that this duality – conceptualists are from Mars, experimentalists are from Venus – is the core of the creative process. And it applies to virtually every field of intellectual endeavor, from painters and poets to economists.”

In spite of his slightly pedantic writing style, (Wired is the male intellectualist’s tech mag of choice,) Pink’s article is a fun read because it gives hope to those of us still on our climb up.

I’ve always called myself a percolator, because of the way I research and mull things over before I create. Pink’s article reminds us that creatives and their masterpieces come together under more than one deadline. And no matter what kind of genius you turn out to be, it still requires the same thing you’ve always heard it would. Dedication. Persistence. Work.

So answer me this:

What kind of genius are you?

Written by Eirene Dyeu

January 2, 2008 at 6:42 am

A Meaningful Tagline Promotes You & Only You

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There is a time during your development as a photographer – when you’ve got the skills and are ready to start making noise about it. Before you really start making the noise, you should take the time figure out what your message is.

What is it about you that makes you more worthy of your customer’s trust and hard earned money over any other photog available to them? This message has got to be based entirely in truth, it’s got to be something you can integrate into your identity as a photog and it’s got to feel natural to you.

Spend some time on this – and watch out for clichés – a lot of the stuff that comes to mind is the obvious stuff that comes to mind simply because we’ve all seen it so much.

For example:

Life. Love. Laughter.

It feels good, it seems to say everything that a portrait photog marketing to families is about. I used it for awhile, until another photographer asked for ideas on words that would have finished something so similar that their idea was essentially a variant of mine. I realized my tagline conveyed nothing that made a difference. Nothing truly about me. It could be said of any photographer who works with families, or weddings, for that matter.

As Sara Petty, a CPP wrote in the December, 07 issue of Professional Photographer, it is “more important than ever to define your position and work on owning it in the minds of consumers… a tagline should tell what makes you different, tugs on the consumer’s heartstrings, be memorable.” She also gives 9 ideas for brainstorming your own tagline. Currently her full article is available online, follow the link to read, it’s worth the click.

So tell me this:

If you take a look at your own tagline, does it really say what you want to say about your photography? Can it be more specific? Can it be true of any other photographer serving your intended market?

Written by Eirene Dyeu

January 1, 2008 at 4:25 am