“We’re not going back to normal.” ~ Max C.
Max C. is a professional photographer. He’s been a photojournalist and, most recently, a wedding photographer. He’s had to adapt to new challenges throughout his career, typically driven by technology — the shift from analog to digital photography and ever-improving cameras on smartphones.
However, the latest challenge has not been technological, but viral. And not in the social media sense.
Because October’s theme is opportunity, I chatted with Max about how he’s coping with the impact of COVID on his current business.
For the past few years, Max has been a relatively successful wedding photographer, with a strong reputation in his community.
However, with the advent of COVID, weddings have basically ceased to exist. Wedding vendors are going out of business. And wedding photographers’ work has dropped precipitously.
Photographers Have Always Pivoted
Because it’s such a technological medium, photographers have always adapted.
Digital photography turned the world upside down in the mid-2000s. And the iPhone changed photojournalism when a reporter could carry their camera in their pocket.
A number of wedding photographers pivoted to family portraiture, which was easier, but not nearly as profitable. Moreover, there aren’t a lot of 60-year old wedding photographers. It’s a physical business that involves carrying a lot of gear and constant movement. To keep current, one has to adjust to constantly shifting trends — both in equipment and in styles.
So Max saw the handwriting on the wall.
While he loved photographing people and “the great moments of their lives,” he often sought solace in the woods and trout streams near his home in western North Carolina. And of course, he always took his camera.
And he shifted back to analog photography — using film rather than digital technology.
As he chronicled his adventures in the woods, he noticed he was taking some unique photographs. “I see things in ways that most people don’t see…I see adaptivity in nature,” like a tree growing out of a rock by a waterfall in unique light.
Soon Max had developed a niche of nature analog photographs. He scheduled a show of his best work in a local gallery. He selected his photos, printed, and mounted them. Then COVID happened and his show was canceled.
So Max’s challenge is how to get his work in front of people who want it and can afford it. A hundred percent of his sales now comes from his website. Most of which are from local clients and a few from former wedding clients.
He’s published a book of his nature photography and essays that’s available. And he is transitioning a hobby channel on YouTube to a channel, where he’ll take people along on his adventure in analog photography.
Lessons Learned (Max)
Max is incredibly excited about his pivot and he knows that it has to work. He may not be exactly sure how he’ll market it; and while it’s scary, there’s no alternative, because he doesn’t want to get a “real job.”
And there are just not enough weddings happening now. Many of his peers have become paralyzed, wondering how they can make their business work. “They’re can’t. We’re not going back to normal.”
So Max will keep experimenting with marketing strategies and will patch together a number of platforms to get his work known.
Lessons Learned (You)
What opportunities can you take advantage of during this disruption?
What are you REALLY good at that you can pivot to create even greater value for your team or your organization?
How can you tell the story of your pivot so that people who matter (bosses, clients, customers) see your value?
What’s the first step you need to take?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I always enjoy hearing from you.
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Image copyright: Ed Sweetman