For many creatives value is something we wrestle with throughout our entire career. How do you value your work? Or I hear the question of I just don’t know what to charge… More often than not I witness photographers undervaluing their creative product or service.  

I think that we creatives do that for two reasons: Fear of being told no, “I don't think you or what you make is worth that.” The other is: We don't want to loose the business to a competitor. 

Let’s unpack those two reasons why we undervalue our work, starting with the “fear of being told no”. Somewhere down the line we have come to believe that “no” is a bad thing. It has taken me years to realize that “no” is sometimes hard to hear, but may actually be a great thing. Hearing no can be discouraging if you let it influence you negatively, or it can influence you positively by helping you refine and focus on potential clients who may be more open to seeing the value of you and your craft.  

Another plus to receiving a “no” is an affirmation that maybe it’s for the best that you and that client aren't meant to work together. When I am working with a client, I want them to want to work with me and if they were on the fence about it or uncomfortable with the rate, but go forward with working with me, that misalignment can infect the whole creative process for us, and then limit everyone from doing their best work. 

The other reason we undervalue our work often is that sometimes we don't want to loose the business to a competitor. I am going to make this really simple for everyone: competition is supposed to make us better, not mediocre. The race to the bottom is fast. If you're truly creating something remarkable then getting into a bidding war with a competitor is honestly not worth it. You'll end up selling yourself short while risk damaging the reputation of your brand. When presented with this situation of possibly undervaluing your work, “just to get the gig”, ask yourself, “is this the kind of customer I want”, and “are they going to allow me to deliver my best work, or am I going to have to lose profit or cut corners.”

I would encourage you to sit with these two questions for a while and think about the last time you feel like you undervalued your work and what that made you feel like. It probably made you feel pretty lame, am I right? Write down some ways that you can prohibit yourself from doing that in the future. Set some rules for yourself and from a business standpoint, know your bottom line, know your costs, know what it will take to do it the right way and provide your best work and you’ll know whether to negotiate further or to let it go. 

Last note on value. There is only one person designing, writing, delivering a performance, or lighting people for a photograph exactly the way you do -  that’s you. It’s you that is what gives your work value. 


Your Turn

How long have you been holding back from doing something that you've been wanting to do creatively? We’ve all done it, why is that? For some, like me, it may be a time issue. I simply am not committing the time needed to make it happen. Others may feel it as a risk or fear in shifting their focus, even momentarily. The point is not why you haven't done it yet, the point is why you should do it.  

Just think, pushing that project through could be the one thing that opens your mind to a different creative process. It could show others and yourself that you're capable of more than what you have been sharing publicly up to this point. Sometimes us creatives get more caught up in what others are working on that we become distracted and even demotivated to create. I am not sure why we tend to feel that way sometimes. It seems like, if anything, it should be a catalyst for inspiration, and push you to move forward with that project you've been putting off. 

Look at it this way, you don't know what you can create until you do it. You could have done some amazing work in the past, but you won’t do any more amazing work until you go do it. Inaction is worse than any creative risk you could ever assume. Inaction is what fuels the mind to become distracted and uninspired.  

I challenge everyone to push that creative project you've been wanting to do to the head of the priority list. Promise yourself that you will make time to create something new without anyone but yourself speaking into the direction. 

This could be the one piece of content/art that you could be remembered and revered for. It could be the photograph that changes the course of your work from here on out. It could be the song that opens a new door. It’s your turn, go and make it. 


Four Mistakes You’re Making at Shoots

1. Not being prepared, creatively and technically.

“Winging it” is not an option if you're going to do this for real. I have tried, sometimes it worked and others it was a complete slow motion train wreck. So about three years ago I started being intentional with my preproduction. I would sit down with the clients requests and put together a solid creative brief outlining the setups/looks we would do on shoot day. I would take that brief and review it with my DIT and my producer to make sure we had thought out everything we would need in gear/location/logistics world.  The other thing I started doing was having a backup for literally everything. Lenses, bodies, computers, hard drives, locations, even personnel. If you're not doing these two things right now, then I would encourage your to put together a preproduction flow that works for you. You want to be set and ready come shoot day. 

2. Failing to be firm on your rate and production needs to execute the shoot.

I get that budgets are budgets. Sometimes they are pretty tight and others they are wide open based on the needs of the shoot. Bottom line is that you have to decide based on the budget and your rate (while considering the production expenses) if it is doable. Here’s a secret, it’s ok to say “no”. I have done shoots where the budget was maxed out but we needed additional people or gear to really truly do it the “right way”. A while back I told myself and the team that if we find ourself in a situation where we are limited by budget or time, and cannot execute the shoot to the best of our abilities and offer the client our best work, we simply say “no” to the gig.  This upholds our production quality while also aligning with our core values. Some may say, “but you're losing business” - maybe so, but this is the nature of growth. At the end of the day, if we do a shoot and cut the corners to fit in a unrealistic budget or timeline, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, because chances are it will show up in the end product. Now you tell me whats worse, saying “no” and losing the business, or saying “yes” and it not be the best we could have offered the client. Saying “no” is ok and is necessary to build your brand integrity.

3. Not serving the client as you would want to be served.

You all know the golden rule right?  This is the photographer golden rule: “Serve the client as you want to be served.”  I don't have a whole lot to say here other than, how you act on set, treat people on your crew, and communicate with the talent sets the tone of the entire shoot. I personally want an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration. I want the shoot to be energizing and positive for the client and talent. Think of how you approach the client and your team on set, are there ways you can improve? Always.

4. Trying to be someone you're not.

You are an artist, be who you are and not like some other photographer you have seen on set or in a video. No client wants to work with a poser. Look at some of the most amazing artists out there and they all did one thing: be true to themselves. That action is what made them and their work remarkable. Think of Andy Warhol, truly a unique individual with a specific approach to art that will always be revered. This wasn't because he looked at someone else and tried to emulate, this is because he followed his heart and knew who he was as an artist. 

Keeping a Creative Flow

Creativity is a flow, sometimes we get rushes of ideas and are inspired heavily all at once. Other times it is a struggle to have an open mind, or not feel burn out with creating. The other aspect of this is on the backend once we have created something, we tend to be quite critical of our work, when just moments before we were excited about what we created. Needles to say it’s a daily battle for a creative, so here are five ways keep a creative flow. 

1 - Shift your perspective.  

Think of this like looking out a plane window from take off to cruising altitude. A lot of times we are looking at things from on or near ground level, but like in flight as you gain altitude your view changes. You begin to see things as you didn’t or couldn't before. Shift your perspective from the ground level to a broader high altitude view. Maybe for you that looks like laying all of your current work out and doing some editing, or looking at how much you have truly grown in your work. Another thing to look at is how your work is impacting you and the people around you. When we start to shift our perspective we begin to see things differently, and some things for the first time. 

2 - Break the routine.

I have a dog and she loves her routine, I mean it is clock work, food, walk, nap, play, and so on… Routines are incredibly great for structure and holding yourself accountable. Although if your routine is adversely affecting you, it may be time to change it up. Just a slight bit of change in the routine could have a major impact on your day and creative process. For me I try to have one afternoon each week that is a random afternoon where nothing is scheduled and that means I can spend time outdoors, at a coffee shop, creating in some other fashion, or just catching up on some things that I had been putting off.  Routine gives balance, but slight changes here in there can keep things fresh and feeling new. 

3 - Fellowship.

I know creatives who are introverted and extroverted, regardless, you need to make it a point to get together with a fellow creative, or trusted friend each week for some one on one time just to catch up, share stories, work through things that you or they may be dealing with. A lot of times this helps affirm that you're “not alone” in whatever situation you may be in. It also can be a light hearted time where you both are energized by each others stories and conversation. I can feel energized even after a conversation about gear with one of my other photographer friends. So not everything has to be heart or deep content. It’s just that you are out there putting into relationships that matter. 

4 -Study some other expression of art than yours. 

As important as it is to be aware of what other artists like you are creating and have created, its also important for you to seek inspiration through art forms other than yours. As you begin to do this you will find, other art forms that inspire you and feed your creative drive. For example, I like to study music, architecture, film, and culinary arts. After visiting a place with incredible architecture, I feel energized and excited to have learned something new that I can share with someone else. 

5 - Know who you are and who you aren't creatively.

As I meet with different photographers and creatives, it’s easy for me to tel pretty quickly the artists who know who they are creatively and the others who are still working on it. Both are great places to be, although working through whoyou are and aren't creatively helps build your identity as an artist. Knowing that can help you focus your creative passion in a direction that can lead to a more sustainablegrowth and workflow as an artist.