Tag Archives for " personal work "

Caution: Personal work could kill your commercial success!

Caution sign that reads

Be careful personal work could kill your career!

Over the last few weeks I’ve hosted a couple discussions in various LinkedIn Groups asking “does personal work matter?” Predictably many of the photographers, who chimed in, answered a resounding YES! We get to show our capabilities without the constraints of a client brief, art buyers love to see personal work, it’s satisfying, ect.

The answers that surprised me though came from the other side of the desk, from art directors, creative professionals, designers and editors from around the world:

I can see how personal projects can become an obstacle. – Creative Director, Serbia

All personal work could seriously affect your commercial success. – Marketing President, USA

I have not hired someone, because of their personal work. – Designer, Netherlands

No personal work to me is an indication of stagnation. – Magazine editor, Germany

Wait, what? I thought personal work was always a good thing. Something that would always benefit your career. “Be careful” warns the US Marketing exec. “If your personal work is too provocative, it may leave the wrong or negative impression in a client’s mind.” Another US branding director echoes this sentiment: “If [the personal work is] very offensive I would reconsider hiring the [artist].”  I hear it again and again: Have two sites.  What about the case that someone has done pro-bono work for a certain cause, that you feel strongly against?

Personal work can make you a killing!

Now to be fair each one of these people who hire us also said that personal work is vital, critically important and that they love seeing it. Just remember that the assumption is you had unlimited time and resources to craft this piece of personal work into the perfect calling card for your brand. “To me [personal work] matters quite a bit. (…) that’s where we most often have the chance to stretch our abilities, research new methods and test them” says a US director of marketing “pet projects may very well become tomorrow’s next big service!”

Your personal work shows me what you’re really passionate about, and how creatively and independently you tackle such a self-chosen project. It tells me how you work conceptually. I also get a good idea about the style you prefer and you feel comfortable with.” says the german magazine editor “Or how versatile you really are.

Personal work is a two edged sword

Personal work is a must for today’s creative. The fastest (and scariest) way to revamp your career is to throw out the images that show what you have shot and only show those images and projects that you would like to shoot. Christina Force a folio consultant wrote a great blog post called 4 reasons to throw out your babies. Personal work is what your passionate about, stand behind it whole heartedly. Personal work must be excellent, award winning, your highest caliber work. Personal work must set you apart from the pack–take risks, be willing to fail. If you don’t go for the impossible, your results will be mediocre and average at best.


This article was first published on the American Society of Media Photographers blog Strictly Business.

a couple of years ago

5 questions to answer before building your team

A team is good

There are hundreds of posts written on the importance of personal work, testing out new techniques and developing new concepts. Stepping out of your comfort zone is probably the most important part of becoming a better photographer, filmmaker or creative person. This week I know that my fellow ASMP photographers will be writing posts, that are brimming with wisdom about the ins and outs of how to set up tests, who owns the rights to the images, what you do if someone doesn’t deliver what they’ve promised, ect.

However before you can do any of that, you need to find people to team up with, you’ll need a few good men (and women). As an aside, if you’re thinking about getting into motion, you’re gonna have to learn to collaborate anyway – even though photographers can go at many assignments solo, it is much more difficult to make even a short film alone. Here’s how to build your team:

Who to look for:

Look for people, who love what they’re doing and who love what you’re doing. Those that want to be part of your team, because they believe in your project or are curious to work out the kinks of a new technique. Work with people who are better than you–much better.

I was editing ‘On Wings of Hope’ a few years ago and showed a sound engineer and composer friend of mine some of the raw footage: “I want to be a part of this project” he tells me, because he believed in the purpose of the movie. He’s the guy that ended up writing the soundtrack for the film [Full disclosure I did pay him for 3 years of exclusive rights to the music, but I paid him a lot less than he would charge on a commercial project.]

Where to look for collaborators:

You know the best place I find people who want to learn new things and improve their skill set? At workshops, seminars and classes. I’ve produced some masterclasses with others, such as Phillip Bloom, Nino Leitner, Sebastian Weingärtner, … I’ve volunteered at seminars with Vincent Laforet, Shane Hurlbut, … I’ve taught workshops on photography, branding, video, ect. on my own.

It doesn’t matter where the location is, who the audience is or how much money they’ve spent; I always find a handful of people who love to do more and have worked with countless participants on tests, personal work or regular gigs.

Another great place to find team members is on set, people you work with on your pursuits, their productions, other people projects. Always work with the best people you can afford on your commercial shoots, who know’s maybe they’ll help you on your next idea.

What to look for in team members:

Be on the look out for people who share