How to Stop Your Clients From Asking You to Take Pictures Like Axioo


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   by Edward    19 Comments  →

Disclaimer: Me and David Soong of Axioo‘s are good buddies. We’re even planning a few projects together this year. So as you are going to read in the post, it’s not discrediting Axioo in any way. The featured image of this post are Maureen’s and Antii’s, from when we were fooling around one sunset in Finland. 

* * *

This one’s for the photographers.

Countless times young photographers come up to me and ask the same question: “Potential clients always come up to me and they showed pictures from Axioo’s blog and they asked me, ‘Can you shoot us like this?’ – I hate it. It hurts my feelings. What should I do?”

(I can see here from the digital realm that some photographers are bitterly smiling.)

Well, the fact is really simple.

People come to you to ask you to do somebody else’s work, because they see you as a person that can hold a camera, but not someone with a distinct and particular style they can look forward to.

I am sorry, but that is the bitter truth.

After being asked that question, I always asked them back, “Okay, so you don’t like people told you to do Axioo’s style. So just tell them that you don’t do that.

But then, when they ask back, ‘Okay, so what is your style then?’, can you show them something?

Most of the time, suddenly there’s a lot of crickets in the room.

Dead silence.

Think about that for a second.

Every successful photographer (or artist) that I know have this distinct voice, this obvious character in their work. Less of a repetition, more of a nature of seeing things. Spell out his/her name, and images started popping out in our heads. That is ‘the voice’.

If you are just starting out, or even if you have been doing this for quite some time, and you want to be an artist that people value and appriciate, there’s no other way than finding your unique, true voice.

It is not easy and of course it is not instant. Apart from them obvious genius prodigies, here’s a couple of tips for the rest of us:

1. Stop opening Axioo’s blog every single day. Or any other blog that you fond of for that matter. People seems to forget: you are what you eat. Guess what happens when you look too much at certain photoblogs? You become a photocopy. They way you see things, the way your reflex reacts, the way you solve problems, comes down to those images flying in your head because you see them everyday. You can learn, be inspired, and be challenged by visiting other people’s work, but be aware of how much dosage are you taking in. If you’re a customer to-be or a fan, by all means visit the blog everyday, but if you’re a photographer that want to have your own voice, be careful of what you eat.

2. Check out other stuff than photography mumbo jumbo. Read more other stuff than just the new lenses and photography seminars. I bought my last photography magazine about three years ago. Read architecture, design, business, economics, money management, even faraway topics like gardening. You’ll be surprised at what can get you inspired to do fresh work.

3. Go and experience life. The great writers don’t do great works while reading blogs and checking out their laptop specifications. They go out and see and feel. Then they write.

4. Be true to yourself. What is it that you like, not what it is that’s popular nowadays? Do you like the pictures that you shoot? Or do you have no idea what’s to like and what’s not? Answering these questions truthfully is a start towards self discovery. I respect people that say their work is still crap more than the people that tell me how awesome it is.

5. Experiment. If you don’t know what you like, try a bit of everything, and see what sticks. Not too long though. See no. 1.

6. Show work that you want to do. Don’t throw every work you did on the website. Put stuff that you want to do more of. It’s definetely better to have a small number of work but with precise and strong style, than having a large number of pages but it’s tasteless.

7. Be famous for being stubborn. Great artists are not famous for their tolerance traits, but for their stubbornness on making a vision come to life. If you believe in a style/concept, and you know that you can pull it off, then do it!

8. Realize that this is something that cannot wait. You can wait and wait and say ‘Ah, I can look for my voice any other day’, and before you know it, you’re just another guy with a 5D Mark II amongst millions others. Looking for your voice needs a constant, conscious effort.

And you know what, I’ve been there. People have compared me to others. I know it’s painful, but as long as I had nothing to show my potential clients, that was the state that I will always be in.

But believe me, once you have your voice, your strong body of work; once people can recognize you amongst the crowd, the nasty could-you-shoot-us-like-this clients will stop showing up on your door.

They will look for you, because they want to be shot by you.

I will leave you with the video of Jeremy Cowart (one of my inspirations) flipping his new printed portfolio. From the first page to the last, you can see his ‘voice’, crystal clear.

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  • Marisha Dalimartha

    Love the article…thank you so much ! You boost me up !! :)

    • Edward

      Always a pleasure :) Please share this :)

  • @rini3pujiastuti

    ”1. Stop opening Axioo’s blog every single day.”

    Sungguh2 cekakakan baca kalimat iniiii!! Mulai sekarang saya akan subscribe blog ini saja! Sungguh2 menyenangkaaaannn membaca semuaanyaa!

    • http://www.edwardsuhadi.com/blog Edward Suhadi

      Hai Rini. Kamu semalaman baca blog ini ya :) Thank you for all the write ups. More to come :)

  • http://twitter.com/pebzunique Febryna Halim

    i love this so much! Honestly write

  • http://www.facebook.com/anez.lustig Yohanes Kusika

    weel said !! 
    you born original ! don’t die a copy !

  • Matias Tjhin

    new idea for me….

  • William Photography

    Well said Edward!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/jeberok Bernardo Halim

    hal ini terjadi sama saya, saya lupa, cukup lama, kira-kira 1 tahun lalu. mereka juga merefer ke nama-nama fotografer lain, mau dibikin seperti fotografer A, B and C. 

    Saya respon dengan pertanyaan “Mau kita buat lebih bagus?” 

    mungkin couple kesulitan juga mau menjelaskan foto yang dia mau seperti apa secara verbal

  • Jeber

    hal ini beberapa kali terjadi sama

  • http://www.facebook.com/erwinwijanto Erwin Wijanto

    kayaknya gue bakal di traktir makan ama si Awie ni hahaha jk jk :p LOL

    • http://www.edwardsuhadi.com/blog Edward Suhadi

      Gw traktir juga deee :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/erwinwijanto Erwin Wijanto

    Great post Ed !! haha.. 

    Be true to yourself.. !! very important indeed Ed .. but you can always open Axioo blog every single day.. :) as long as Axioo blog though.. and Stop Going to others Blog look like Axioo works !! 

  • Llq

    ah ha.. ini yang dibahas di meja makan dengan spaghetti dua rasa waktu itu.. =)

  • Leony

    Actually Ward, gue rasa ini bukan cuma soal photographer aja ya, tapi soal semua seniman yang seringkali “terpaksa” ngikutin keinginan client atau trend yang sedang berlaku, sampai akhirnya jadi tidak punya ciri khas, and I am happy that there are still some artists that stick to what they believe, even though sticking to that No. 7 appears to be annoying for some people.

    Boleh ya gue nulis buat clients. For you clients our there, PLEASE PLEASE, be true to yourself, know what you want before you decide to hire the artists. Don’t try to change them to follow your will. Instead, pick your artists based on your preference and give them room to make your day even better than you expected. NEVER compare them with other artists! They’re ARTISTS for God sake! They have their own personality, and that’s why you hire them!

  • Ivanmario

    i love you edward…muah! ha ha

    • http://www.edwardsuhadi.com/blog Edward Suhadi

      Love you too Bang Ivan :)

  • Anonymous

    OMG!! It’s finally up. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I wish someone taught me all this when I was starting up. Guess I just had to learn it from multiple different sources.

    Find your voice. Be true to yourself. Look inside. Trying to be someone you’re not is frustrating. And don’t forget to have fun doing it.

    • http://www.edwardsuhadi.com/blog Edward Suhadi

      Hai Wie! :D