As a photo editor at Wonderful Machine, one of the hats I proudly wear is as a creative coach. Through monthly conversations, emails, editing support, and research, Creative Coaching allows me to get to know individual photographers and tailor my feedback to best support their long-term goals. Although wide-ranging and flexible as a means of supporting photographers, Creative Coaching is largely based around three major areas we try to address: refining presentation, sharpening brand focus, and fleshing out the portfolio via self-assigned projects.
It was through Creative Coaching that I first began working with Utah-based adventure, lifestyle, and fashion photographer Keith Fearnow last August. Keith is an incredibly creative person, someone eager to shoot and push himself to refine his craft. But he needed some help focusing his presentation, solidifying his brand, and executing self-assigned projects that would show his ability to tell stories.
My biggest goal was to get more commercial photography work because I wasn’t getting enough paying jobs. Other goals included learning to properly reach out to brands and building a better portfolio.
My conversations with Keith began, as most of my Creative Coaching relationships do, with a review of his website and a discussion about his ideal clients. It was clear from the get-go that Keith had a robust portfolio of work to draw from that was not currently being showcased on his website.
Something I learned quickly was that my online presence — website and social media — wasn’t ready to be seen by the commercial clients I want to attract. I was not presenting my best work or doing it correctly on my website. Overall, my presentation was sloppy, unorganized, and I was showing way too many images, none of which I realized until I signed up to work with Honore.
The first priority for us was talking about how to build stories into his presentation, and to highlight projects that would appeal to the kind of adventure, lifestyle, and athletic brands that Keith is interested in working with.
Since Keith already had a nice-looking logo and some strong branding in place, there was less work for us to do on that front. Our next step was to restructure his site to create a greater visual impact. For example, although Keith is a talented landscape photographer, having a designated gallery of landscape imagery was less useful to him than incorporating landscape imagery into his adventure and story-driven work.
Honore taught me how to properly display my work online and strategically stay in front of the companies I want to work with. Calls with her also help me focus on planning ahead with what I want to get out of a shoot for website, social media, and marketing purposes.
After tackling the website, the gaps in presentation became much clearer; all that remained was to fill them with new projects. Keith and I talked about the kinds of brand narrative and lifestyle stories that he might be able to shoot, ones that tapped into his deep reservoir of enthusiasm, ideas, and stunning locations near his home. Keith made incredible strides through his ambitious self-assigned work, and we quickly incorporated these new projects into his website.
Each self-assigned project should be a chance to try something new. As an artist, it’s really important to chase curiosity and ask yourself when planning a shoot — and even during the shoot — ‘what If I tried this?’ on self-assigned projects.
I think self-assigned shoots should always make you do something you’ve never done or something you’ve only got limited experience in. Simply put, the goal of a self-assigned project is to grow. Grow your skill. Grow your team/connections. Grow your portfolio. I don’t think there’s a bad time to ask for creative coaching help if you’re serious about this and want it to be more than a hobby.
As a photo editor, over the years I’ve had the privilege to work with photographers at every stage in their career, and to observe the unique challenges for all of them, no matter how established, to continually distinguish themselves amidst the endless noise. Creative Coaching gives me the opportunity to share some of the lessons that I’ve learned. Helping photographers like Keith take on creative challenges and refine their presentation is one of the most rewarding things that I do.
Need help expanding your portfolio and refining your online presentation? Send us an email to learn how we can help grow your business.