You’re a young photographer, just starting out. You run around the streets of your hometown, hunting for great street shots. In your free time between studying and doing your thing on the street, you make some cash at McDonalds, saving up for the photo expedition of your life. In the evenings, you dig around on Internet forums, looking for advice that will help you understand more about your new passion and master it. You spend nights sitting in the dark, or you destroy your vision with Photoshop Elements (a shame to waste your cash on the expensive CS4). Right now you’re figuring out how to make a new mask, so you ignore your friends when they bombard you with gchats. Day in and day out, you think about the moment you’ll show that breathtaking set to everyone. In your mind’s eye you see their limitless fascination.
STOP! Hold it. That’s not everything.
It’s true that a certain American writer and philosopher once said: “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door,” but think about it: wouldn’t it be worth it to give up an hour spent in the darkroom, half a day hunting on the street, an evening shift at the restaurant and concentrate on other, oh-so-important aspects?
The first thing you should do is read Robert Cialdini’s book: “Influence: Science and Practice.” It wouldn’t hurt either if you bought “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind” by Gustave LeBon – it’s a pretty cheap little book, and you shouldn’t pay more than about $3 or $4 for it. It would also be worthwhile to save a couple opinion- making blogs and sites about photography in your RSS feed, as well as other places where you can read reviews of photography exhibitions and events. But what if you don’t like to read? Not to worry.
- Start working on your tolerance. The effect will be that you will be the last one lying under the table, you’ll impress the people you’re drinking with, and you’ll be the one who gets the most out of conversations over drinks.
- Go and see all openings and free lectures, big or small, about photography. Arrive first and leave last. Sit in the first row and ask questions. Try to be memorable.
- Never, ever say something bad to someone about his or her work. That kind of luxury is, unfortunately, reserved for doyens of photography or critics, who are paid to do that. Try to see value in others’ work that you don’t see right away, not because it’s not there, but because you still don’t know enough about art. Use words with exclamation points, like: “great!” “fantastic!” “timeless!” “classic!” “masterful!” “deep!” “sensitive!” Avoid the word “cool!” You can do it with a smile on your face, but be careful – your smile could be misunderstood sometimes.
- REMEMBER, THIS IS IMPORTANT – the ancients knew it way back when: “De gustibus non est disputandum“ (in matters of taste there is no dispute).
- Don’t be a know-it-all. Even if it seems that you know best, others are thinking the same thing.
- Be friendly, pleasant, and honest. At least try to give off that impression. Greet others sincerely, shake their hands firmly, and schmooze until you drop.
If you still have free time, you can take some pictures. Not too many, though. Five a year is absolutely enough.