Sunday, 28 April 2013

How to get that dream assignment.

In my career I have been given some dream assignments.

A five day assignment to photograph the islands in the the Venetian lagoon (with my own speedboat and driver), the crowning of the world's youngest King, and the seal hunters of Newfoundland are some which stand out to me at the moment but the truth is all the work that I am really known for I have never actually been commissioned for.

A question I frequently pose at workshops is 'What is your dream assignment?'

The answers from the delegates range from shoots with super models, movie stars, top fashion magazines, National Geographic, you name it.
All laudable and great things to aspire to.

I then break the news to them.

On the balance of probability they are never going to get them.

Now this does sound harsh, but let me explain.

You cannot just aspire to be one of these photographers you actually have have to BE the photographer who shoots the kind of work which your dream client requires.

If you can clearly demonstrate to a client that you can and do shoot the kind of photography they use on a regularly basis your chances rise immeasurably.

Commissioners of photography at the very highest levels have fought hard to get their jobs and even harder to maintain their positions. They are not going to risk their necks on someone who is unproven. They need to know themselves and justify to their superiors why the job they commissioned you for was a rip roaring success or save their necks if it goes south.

This may sound like the ultimate 'catch 22' situation, not getting the gig without doing the gig first.

It comes down to a passion for what you photograph and translating that into self commissioning.

One cannot do it endlessly, but a few focused shoots on your chosen subject, to build a body of work which enables a commissioner to see that you can actually do the job will take you a long, long way.

Be prepared to face some harsh criticism and some tough meetings but even in these potentially disappointing or extremely rewarding moments you will be remembered.

An approach which focuses on something which is of interest and is of relevance to a chosen client will take you a long, long way. A stream of photographers will beat a path to see people who commission 'dream' assignments, but surprisingly very few will have a focused portfolio which is tailored to their specific requirements, something you can only do by being fully aware of what the client REALLY loves and uses all the time.

It is an approach I continue to use, and has served me very, very well indeed.

The phone is not going to magically ring, you really do have to make it happen for yourself.


ohnostudio said...

The dream assignments are few and far between and for so many, it's just never going to happen. I see so many who go through the motions on "routine" stuff - weddings, family portraits like they're saving all of their energy for "the big job". So sad. They fail to be the best that they can be for those run of the mill shoots.

What makes a portrait of your brother or sister less valuable than one of a celebrity? Shouldn't they deserve the same amount of attention that is bestowed on Beyonce, Elton John? Yet few see it this way.

Low value thinking will trap you in a vicious cycle that just perpetuates itself. You need to be the best that you can be every time because you never know who will be looking.

Look forward to your Lighting Secrets tomorrow - I have cleared my schedule. Geez it's like I'm your groupie ;-) but I do appreciate the value you bring so very much. Lind Regards, Libby.

ohnostudio said...

Oops meant to say Kind Regards - it's getting too late here to be typing ;-)

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Libby

Spot on.

Life is not a dress rehearsal, and though we all have to pay the bills doing everyday jobs, we should remember what inspired us to be photographers in the first place.

Low value thinking, a great expression.

A sure fire way to stay in the sea of shooters who do not rise above the ordinary.

Give every job your best shot and watch your happiness and career soar.


ohnostudio said...

I just had a ship sail on a large personal project. It's because this one is kind of time sensitive, and unfortunately I'm dedicated to a client for the next few weeks. But the saving grace is I had that a giant lightning strike to the head which I haven't had in a long time. I'm going t see what I can do about applying that idea to something in the future.

I enjoyed the Manfrotto presentation a it. The breakdown of the Admiral Nelson shot was great/ LOved the Canin Boy. THanks so much.

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Libby

It cannot be overstated how important it is to follow these 'lightning strike' ideas, you ignore them at your peril, for they are the life blood of keeping a photographic career alive. I do hope you pull it off, keep me posted?

Thank you for your kind words regarding the MSOX webinar, I'm pleased you liked it.



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