Look Beyond Photography: Episode 41 “Learning to Say “No””

Seems counterintuitive, but one of the hardest lessons we learn in business is when to say “no”.

When we start out, we’re convinced that we need to take every job or assignment that anyone is willing to throw at us.  Seniors?  Yep.  Weddings?  Yep.  Families?  Yep.  Sports teams?  Yep.  Cars?  Yep.  Pets?  You betcha!  I mean, it sounds right…  Take every job that will pay you to be there.  But, I want to assure you that is a dangerous way of thinking for multiple reasons.

There’s an old expression that goes “Jack of all trades, master of none”.  This refers to someone that can do a little bit of a lot of different things…but they can’t do any of those things really well.  That’s because their time and attention are divided between many different areas.  Most clients, and most new photographers, think that once you learn “photography” then you can do anything.  Well to clarify, once we learn “photography”, we can do any assignment better…but that doesn’t mean we’ll be great at it.  With all  of the subjects listed above, and all of the subjects not listed, each has their own unique subset of skills required to photograph them well.  Each has factors outside of how to set your camera that affects the way the photos turn out.  It’s only by specializing in these particular areas that we are able to concentrate on the unique qualities of each subject and begin to truly refine our craft and skill in that area.  Plus, this makes you more valuable…just think of the medical profession.  Whose skills are worth more…a general practitioner, or a surgeon who specializes in a specific medial field (ie, brain surgeon)?

Learning to say “no” also gives us freedom.  I don’t know about you, but that is a nice aspect for me.  After working a job that caused me a great deal of misery and grief for so many years, it is very refreshing to have the freedom to decide how I choose to operate in my day to day work.  This includes the freedom to tell a potential client, “No, I’m sorry we don’t offer that”.  Maybe it’s an assignment that we just don’t have time to fit in…or it could be a subject that we’re not familiar with and are unsure how to photograph well…or maybe it would be a job that interferes with plans in our personal life…or maybe it just wouldn’t fit within our brand.  Whatever the reason, learning to say “no” will allow you opportunities that you would otherwise not have.  That doesn’t mean we get to say “no” to everything…we do have to stay in business.  Sometimes, we still even need to work on projects we don’t really want to.  But learning that “no” is an option that will greatly relieve many stresses on your life and business.

Avatar Fire Bender

Fire Bender – Joshua Hanna Photography

The last point I’d bring up (for now) is that learning to say “no” will also help us protect our brand.  If you’re new at photography, then chances are you haven’t even begun to think about having a “brand” yet…but the time comes when we realize that we need to do something that sets us apart from those around us.  We can develop a brand by choosing our photographic specialties and incorporating our artistic style into what we offer.  But we can’t carry that brand across every area of photography (at least not successfully).  Don’t believe me?  Look at any of the most successful and most skilled photographers out there that you can think of.  You’ll find that in each one, the type of subjects they shoot and the style of work they create is very limited, and very specific to them.  They may deviate on occasion, but for the most part this is absolutely true.  In fact, you can typically recognize their work without even knowing who took the photo, simply because of the kind of subject and artistic styling used to create the image.  This helps to define their “brand”.

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed today, understand that you don’t have to do it all!  “No” isn’t a bad word…and when used in the right context it is actually quite powerful and has the ability to allow for the best for you and your customers!