How to put together and present your vision as a photographer

We want to showcase what makes us unique in a way that feels authentic and real. There’s never been a more significant challenge since we live in a world where memorably presenting ourselves became quite a challenge due to how crowded the digital landscape became. The truth is that you can still stand out.

July 3, 2019
Reading time 10 – 15 minutes

As creative spirits, we feel the need to let people know about who we are, what we stand for, and how we plan to impact the world. It’s typical for artists of all kinds because this is part of the legacy.

By spreading stories about the vision, creatives not only find people who have similar thinking, but this is how they drive real change. The value of their lives lies in the way they succeed to pack their vision and attract similar people along the way.

Photographers make no exception. They too want to let the world know about what drives them and gather a relevant tribe of people around their visual work. They know precisely what they want to communicate and how they plan to protect the core from everyone who tries to mislead them.

Unfortunately, most photographers tend to race to the bottom because they don’t manage to craft an authentic story around their views, one that would make people love, remember, and feel driven by.

Most of the times, they just throw nice thoughts that lack meaning. Maybe they sound appealing at a first glance, but they definitely don’t leave a lasting impression.

Let me walk you through how you could put together a story that best represents your vision as a photographer.

What’s a vision in the first place?

The thing is that we often use the wrong words for what we want to communicate. We like to navigate through posh expressions to sound cool when, in fact, all we need to do is write the way we talk. There’s no need to impress anyone.

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There are loads of articles, books, podcasts, webinars, and so on, regarding what’s a vision, but I chose the one that I feel it’s most straightforward and actionable.

After having my fair share of struggles during the draconic process of crafting Pixelgrade’s vision next to Vlad, George, and Adriana (a consultant who had led the process), I feel like leaving the bullshit aside is the best thing I can do for you. That’s why I choose to share a resource I really trust and recommend Know Your Team:

A vision is a picture of a better place. You see this picture in your head: It’s what you want the world to look like because your product or team exists. In many ways, your team’s vision is your opinion for how you think the world ought to be. 

A vision answers the question, “What world do you want to create?” 

Vision is often misconstrued with other business-y terms, like “mission,” “purpose,” and “values.” But a vision is different from any of those things. For example, the vision of Know Your Team is NOT “software that helps managers become better.” Nor is our vision to be “innovative” or “authentic.”

Rather, our vision is “a world where managers and employees work well together, make progress, and communicate openly and honestly with one another.” It’s a place.”

Just for the context, Know Your Team is a lovely product that helps me tremendously as a CPO (Chief People Officer) because it facilitates internal communication on a more meaningful level.

Thanks to this channel, I can reinforce transparency and vulnerability across the squad because it acts like a safety net where people are more prone to talk openly about a wide range of topics.

For instance, at Pixelgrade, our vision is to support creatives drive an impact within their communities. It is both inspiring because it sounds like a challenging thing to do (and it is), but also strategic because it guides us regarding which action gets us closer to it and which not.

In the absence of the vision, it’s super easy to dilute our efforts while trying to fight all the battles out there. We need to keep the focus on actions which help us move the needle in the direction we want to.

Eager to know how we came to this vision for Pixelgrade? Read furhter to find out and for extra details jump to the Transparency Report #7.

How to craft a vision of your photography work

I encourage you to be honest with yourself and think if you really do this work because you want to have a positive impact or you simply are in the game because (insert whatever reason here).

Maybe because you can easily earn some extra cash, maybe because you like to have fun from time to time and take pictures of your family and friends, maybe because someone pushes you to keep going on this path even though you have so many mixed feelings.

No answer is good or bad, it’s just how things are at this point, but it’s way better to have a wake up call now than to face regrets later on.

The need for a vision often comes after several years of hard work. You did a lot of stuff, experienced plenty of things, rediscovered yourself during all these challenges, and you felt like you have a particular way of approaching photography. You have something to say that makes you, you.

At the opposite side of the spectrum, if you’re just scratching the surface with this type of work and you’ve heard that having a vision is the hottest thing to do, well, I encourage you to stop faking it.

Don’t try to fool people around because they will quickly feel that something is off. You cannot pretend that you reached a specific point when you did not.

Now, think about why do you do the work that you do. Simon Sinek’s book — Start with why — is a great resource that you can consult to make sure you followed an accurate process to find a profound answer. If you don’t have the time nor the energy to read it entirely, at least ask yourself ”why’‘ a few times in a row. 

The author suggest that you should do that five times, but be gentle with yourself, start slow, and grow from there.

Here’s how this could work out:

  1. Why did you choose do take photos?
    Because I like capturing people in certain moods and reveal their emotions.
  2. Why do you like capturing people in certain moods and reveal their emotions?
    Because it gives me hope that we live a good world.
  3. Why it is important for you to live in a good world?
    Because I had a complicated childhood and this is what I dreamed of since I was a child.

As you can see, maybe your motivation of being a photographer has nothing to do with shooting at weddings for instance, but with your inner need to have a positive impact and leave the world better than you find it.

This is far more powerful and inspiring than a trivial answer that you provide today only because you did not have the chance to access more in-depth areas within you.

However, the last answer can break the rules of the game you’re playing. All of a sudden, you will no longer feel trapped if you don’t take wedding commitments as this is your only chance to try something else.

You have the privilege to start thinking about other projects that match your why. Some will be around photography, some maybe not because, in the end, what matters to you is to live in a good world. And you can contribute in so many ways to make this dream come true.

How to put your vision in writing

Now that you got a better understanding of what’s a vision and how you can find yours, the next thing is to write it down on your website. You can also add it to your Facebook page, but I strongly suggest you make sure it’s well represented on your site first.

I already published an article about how you can mingle between these two platforms and which one fits which purpose.

#1 — Sum it up into one paragraph

Try to write down one paragraph which reveals your vision. Such constraints will help you be more specific and avoid useless accessories. You should be able to communicate it without efforts or too many words, so start with one paragraph only.

Here’s an example to inspire you:

My vision is to document life through photography in a way that change people’s lives. I strongly believe in the power of watching them evolve on their own rhythm in a raw and authentic way.

#2 — Provide a wider context around it

As you already noticed, your vision is rooted in your DNA. Make sure you offer a broader context about why it is definitive for you from top to toe. How it is linked to who you really are, where you came from, your own path.

An idea about how you can explore it:

Growing without my mom impacted me in so many ways. On the one hand, it forced me to act like an adult when I was only 10 years old. That definitely implies I’ve been treating life seriously and responsible from a very young age. Way too young to be honest. And now I pay a massive cost for the consequences.

On the other hand, I’m confident it increased my creativity because I always needed to find clever yet affordable gateways to navigate through life.

My ambition to document life through photography is heavily tight to memories and experiences I lacked as a kid. Therefore, I don’t want to miss any chance to capture emotions, moods, feelings because I am somehow afraid that one day, I will no longer have them. And that feels like I would lose for the second time.

Maybe it’s my way of coping with the loss of my mom, with the idea of regret, but it is definitely something that keeps my wheels spinning as a photographer.

I practice this exercise with every single customer I work, and I run it governed by authenticity and honesty. The raw within my photos is my way of communicating the language of love. Hope it is yours too!

#3 — Add a few details that make you proud

You can expand the context a bit more but do not overdo it. In the end, people want to get a glimpse about what makes you unique as a photographer and what was your tipping point, not to read an entire digital book.

Nonetheless, if you have some reliable facts which bring extra value don’t be afraid to share them, but make sure you don’t break the red thread. Smoothly integrate these details in the overall story.

Here are a few categories of information you might consider offering:

  • Number of years of experience
  • Studies
  • A special prize you got
  • A side project or a strong passion you have
  • Your favorite quote which defines your work

Check-up questions to make sure you got it right

The best thing about a story in general and vision is particular is its uniqueness. The more specific it is the best chances there are to resonate with a bunch of people.

Ask yourself how representative is it for your context? If you can replace your name with ease with any other fellow photographer’s, it means you did a poor job. Try again.

Be open to ask yourself some check-up questions, such as:

  • Does it sound memorable?
  • Did it move or motivate you in a way?
  • Does it accurately represent who you really are? 
  • Does it make you proud?

I looked after what I consider a well-thought vision of a photographer, but I must confess I had a hard time finding a good one. Way too many artists out there are inert, detached; thus, they lack a meaningful story about themselves. I came across one that is quite close to what I consider a consistent vision.

Check out the following sneak peek and feel free to go here to read the entire statement:

I’ve always been keenly interested in the different ways in which people find meaning in their lives. When I was a child, I could look at an image and feel as if I could walk into it. It is a magnificent feeling to be invited into another person’s private world, to witness their history and the inner working of what makes them who they are. My work thrives on this intimate connection.

I approach the people I photograph, with consideration and sensitivity. I want the people I am photographing to understand who I am and what my purpose is. Their permission and their understanding of my respect for them are essential in my process. In my view, people are the most sensitive of “subjects” to be photographed. 

Achieving trust—even with the camera positioned between us—is a genuinely heartwarming experience; it’s that feeling that keeps me on the road. These experiences, along with the resulting images, stir my soul. These people are not my subjects; they are my mentors. 

As Life photographer Ralph Morse said: “Photography is more than art, it’s knowledge.” In my genre of photography, I rely on intuition and sensitivity to document the lives of the extraordinary people I’ve had the privilege to meet and to preserve and share their moments of emotion and dignity.

I encourage you to stay true to yourself and invest time and energy in shaping your vision as a photographer, no matter if you shoot nature, couples, food, corporate projects, fashion or anything in between.

By doing so, you will win a lot of clarity in the long run, but also the great feeling of protecting your core and doing work that resonates with your values.

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