For me as a fitness photographer, I get to learn the stories about my people and how they got to where they are. To me, that’s important because when they tell their true stories, there’s someone out there that’s probably going through the exact same story as the person that I’m working with. Sometimes it’s eating disorders, being bullied, growing up with abusive people, being the overweight person, or just wanting to better themselves physically, spiritually and mentally. They all have their own different reasons and struggles, and I love hearing about them because it drives me to ensure that they get the absolute best out of me, so they can tell their story if they desire to inspire.
Always take care of your clients!! They’re the ones who keep your lights on, fuel up your vehicles, and put food on your table. Treat that Lance Corporal just like a General, and the person with 300 followers like someone with 300 million followers. If they’re paying for your products, then you should be giving them your absolute best, and not just a half-hearted effort, or mediocre work.
For me, I ask myself, ‘What else can you do? Did you give it your absolute best? How are you going to improve your work and not just do the same thing’? Why would anyone say this and feel okay with being mediocre?
In December of 2016, I had put on my travel schedule to make my way back to Kansas City, MO to do photo shoots. The WBFF wasn’t doing shows there any longer, however I reached out to Johanna via social media if she’d like to shoot together on my visit there. Sure enough on 29 July 2017, we made magic!!! I coordinated with my Muse Tessi Conquest to do Johanna’s makeup for this shoot. This time, I knew that I had progressed a little more in my style, and I wanted Johanna to be showcased as amazing as she is.
As I’m shooting with Johanna, I noticed something. Something very unique about her than I had only seen once before with another client. I noticed during a quick 5 minute break that you can get better shots of Johanna if you just let her be herself and not pose her. Like, just let her be natural and you just have to quickly capture the moments as she moves around.
Guten tag from Germany my friends!!!
I have arrived. I’ve been here for a little over a week and am already very anxious to get started in doing what I love. It’s pretty exciting and a little nerve wracking because there’s a lot to setup prior to doing photo shoots. The one thing that helps me out is that I grew up here in Germany and I speak the language a little, but I understand it more than I can speak it. I’ll have to get back into learning it, so I can achieve better results in communication with my upcoming clients.
Now back to the subject. As I was sitting on the Lufthunsa plane ride over, I started to do a lot of thinking about being an entrepreneur and a photographer. They’re both interlocked because without having the courage to work for myself and run a business, I’d only be an artist. The last thing I want to ever be is a, “starving artist”. Here are the five things that any photographer/entrepreneur must do daily in order to be a bit successful.
Don’t forget: Your why.
You’ve heard this countless times from others, however it’s true. You seriously can’t lose the proper focus on, “Why” because you’re doing something and it’s allows you to reach your goals once you bring those dreams into fruition. You must harness this to ensure that you don’t get burned out, and that you realize that your purpose could be inspiring to others around you. That’s the trick though…you’ve gotta have a purpose. You’ve gotta give what you’re doing all of the focus that it deserves in order to be a purpose. The, “Why” can also lead you into some dark places, so that’s why there’s five of these and not just one.
Don’t forget: Your what.
“WHAT!!!!!” Sorry, I just had a Lil John moment. LOL! Okay, back to reality… Your, “what” is important because what you’re doing is something that can keep you out of trouble. Your clients expect you to know what you’re doing at all times. They don’t want someone who is taking uneducated guesses at each job. Now you’re probably thinking, “Mike, say it ain’t so!!” Welp…yeah…it happens. You’ve got a lot of folks who come off super arrogant, or egotistical, and their work results just don’t reflect. In the commercial photography world, you CAN NOT DO THIS!! In the past, I spoke with one photographer who had a commercial shoot with a company and talk about, “Dazed and Confused”. This photographer emailed me back forth for about two hours, then called and spoke with me on the phone for another 3 hours, then emailed me for a week straight about it, all because they didn’t know how to do the lighting, how to do anything with licensing, or the payment plan for their paid commercial job. They are primarily a, “natural light” photographer, and a beginner in business, and I guess it showed because their client never paid them the full owed amount. There’s nothing wrong with asking a friend for some help, however if it’s NOT your daily expertise, and you DON’T understand the business logistics, lighting, then what are you doing trying to work on jobs like that if you’re not prepared.
Your, “what” is also key because as an entrepreneur, you must know, “what” you’re trying to convey to your target audience. What you have to say and do is very important because if all you’re doing is coming off as a, “Negative Nelly”, then nobody is going to want to work with you, and you’ll find yourself on the curb, kicking rocks. There’s a lot of folks from my past still sitting one that curb, wondering why they’re not getting any business.
Last, but not least. Never forget, what got you there. Hopefully all of your hard work, networking, and more bring you success. I always wish anyone I speak to that they have continued success. I do that because it’s all about your own continuous progression to succeed in business, growth, and life…mind, body and soul. Believe it or not, I still pray anyone I don’t like personally, or professionally the same. It’s just good karma in my eyes. Life goes on.
Don’t forget: Your who.
Most people don’t know this, but I’m huge on character. Character is what I base, “Tribe MikeCon” on. I don’t work with crazy, egotistical folks. When I say, “Who”, I mean don’t forget who you are, and who you want to associate with. I strongly believe that, “You become who you associate with”. This is why I only associate with a handful of photographers. My clients, I hand select them. If I have enough time to get to know my clients (this is important to do), then I’ll better facilitate their needs. If I have a client that just doesn’t mesh with my style, or my business practices, I’ll gladly refund them in full prior to our shoot. As my Father taught me, “All money ain’t good money”. He’s right, and oftentimes accepting jobs that just keep you trapped with the wrong people isn’t good. The biggest empowerment is letting go and saying, “No”. Change the people that you surround yourself with, especially your peers. Those with limited mindsets, and the ones who live in fear. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ve gotta take risks, and jump out of the mind frame of, “staying in your lane”. Tribe MikeCon is all about uplifting one another, and bringing forth the best in one another as we execute excellence; another reason my, “About me section says, “motivational speaker” because I make sure we get that motivation going all the time.
Now remember that little nugget of information about networking that I spoke of earlier in the last section? Networking is essential towards growth. A positive mental attitude will take you further than a negative one (I know, I tried it). You NEVER know who is looking at what you’re doing; on social media, or in person. People are ALWAYS watching, so be mindful of how you conduct yourself because it’s not always of what you know, but who you know. That’s how a lot of battles are won.
Don’t forget: Your when.
Take a step back into time…”When” in the beginning there was nothing. You had nothing, nobody knew your name, nobody had ever heard of you, nobody was working with you, and you were a complete, “nobody”. Now that you’re someone, and you’ve got a little clout, or as in layman’s terms you’ve got, “street cred”, you must go back to that. It’s called, “humility”. People gravitate towards that because it’s relatable.
When you openly speak, or think about your “when”, it’s gratifying to see how far along you’ve come in the chaos. You may have separated yourself from the pack, however you can’t live there in the past. You’ve gotta push forward to bigger projects, and clientele. My Mom calls that, “Being stuck on stupid”. Don’t be stuck on stupid. Raise your rates, expectations, professionalism, and character. I always tell people that I work with to, “Never go backwards”. Show the world what you’ve got. There’s a large amount of photographers that I met that gave up because they couldn’t move forward. They “hem and haw”, complain about not getting business, or they start unnecessary drama online because other people are out working and pursing their passion. Complacency never works out, and usually happens with those who aren’t goal oriented…MAKE AND WORK YOUR GOALS!!!!
Don’t forget: Your where.
Where oh where do you want to go? Good question huh? Well, that’s the, “Where”. Where isn’t just, “where do you see yourself in blah, blah years”. Your, “Where” ties into your goals. Write that goal down, or envision it. I used to walk around the grocery store where I lived and stop in the magazine section. I saw all of the fitness magazines on the shelf and kept telling myself, “I’m going to get there eventually". I’d look open up and look inside the magazines, then take a picture with my cell phone the contact information to the magazines so I could submit my work. I’d go onto social media outlets, and email them all asking if they accepted freelance photography work, and for their contact information. I have them all written down on my, “Magazine Submissions” paper in my logbook. Being submitted in real, in the store magazines was one of my goals. I wanted it for my people as well. They oftentimes don’t realize how “worthy” they are. My people (Tribe MikeCon) have worth, and I’ll always push the envelope towards getting them submitted. There’s a lot of patience, and heartache that goes with submitting to magazines, however if you’re willing to do the work, it’ll be rewarding towards you and your clients.
Knowing where you want to be, or rather where you want to go can also lead you towards pushing yourself to making your work better. You’ll start to develop new lighting, or editing techniques, or even change up your workflow. Focus, develop, and take care of your people!!
The biggest takeaway from all of this is…DON’T GIVE UP!!! I have a photographer friend of mine who lives in Norway named Dana Cole. A long time ago in 2013, I asked Dana, “How do I get better at photography?”, and she replied, “Just keep shooting”. To me that was priceless and I ran with it. Now, I still pass that same information along to others that contact me on how to improve. Do the work! As the movie, “Field of Dreams” says, “If you build it, they will come.”, but you’ve gotta market, sell and network…and that’s the truth!!!
Mike Conley of MikeCon Photography