Is Your Photography Even Relevant?

Just yesterday I received an email blast from a ‘leading industry consultant.’ The consultant told her audience that (you) fail because you don’t have a body of work that will sell. You should check out your visual product, solid body of work around a specific topic and your visual approach. At the line ‘are all images paginated thoughtfully’ I got nauseous.

Is there anyone who can tell me what this email really means?

That is why I am posting this. Because the question is, is that kind of message even relevant?

It gets me upset because vague emails like this are a big black hole for photography professionals. A trap that is carefully crafted to confuse you. Why? Because these statements are designed to buy into your fears. Who isn’t worried if the site flows right and if all images tell the right kind of story? It is the big unknown that you are encouraged to pay dearly for. How can you deal with things you don’t even know?

Yes, you are right, it’s BS.

It’s relevancy that matters. Not an image or two and certainly not one opinion of an ‘expert.’ If you have ever been to a portfolio showcase you will agree that it is amazing how 10 people feel so different about the same type of work. Opinions are good but at the end of the day the client buys you and the experience that they have with you. Which is why you get the job and not the other guy (keeping my fingers crossed on that one!).

What really matters is relevancy. And here is your detailed breakdown of what that actually means:

  • Relevancy makes someone put down money to buy or license you and your work.
  • Relevancy features your ability to be current with colors, trends, techniques and composition.
  • Relevancy is you staying on top of the market place.
  • Relevancy means that it’s work you like and stand behind.
  • Relevancy demonstrates your unique ability to understand the challenges of your clients.
  • Relevancy showcases you as you and not someone else’ idea of what you should be.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in tightening the work. Often less is more. I do believe in specialization and niches. I also love great imagery. But I have been in this industry long enough to tell you that the only opinion that matters is the clients. WILL SOMEONE BUY THIS?

Do this tangible thing now:

Don’t look at your portfolio or your website but take time this week to get up to speed with what is going on in your industry. What are the trends? Who is making a splash? When you got the pulse then and only then will you go back to your online presentation and ask yourself: After what I just learned is this still relevant? And only then you act.


  1. says

    I agree completely that you need to keep your head in business mode not buried behind your computer.
    I feel that if we all were to follow the advice from an outside web designer who is probably not a profesional photographer, we would all have utilitarian boring websites with no sense of style or personality. In order to follow their rules, we would all look the same. I have been in this business for over thirty years, and I have never been without enough work to pay all my bills and bank a comfortable nest-egg. That started way before web-sites. If you believe that overhauling your website will bring you more business, you are focusing on the wrong issue. Remeber that you are in the “Business” of photography. “Business” always comes first. Photography is the means to the end of living a comfortable life. Face-time with clients is exponentially more valuable then “look at my website”.
    I spend more time keeping “relationships” with my clients so that I keep their loyalty. I never lower my price structure because I am a little hungry. I just go out and sell more. Sales cures everything.

  2. says

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE! I agree its BS. I also believe that most photographers (aka artists) are lousy business people and I fall into that category albeit 35 years in the biz community but I have failed to put into practice my skills re: photo biz.


  3. says

    Allen Penton • I have seen bad photography that the customer absolutely loved. Sorry, but most of our customers are not that knowledgable in what makes a “fine art” photography and what doesn’t.

    Having said that, they will often like the better photograph – but not be able to say why.

    I am beginning to be convienced that it is more about relationship and how they feel that you treated them than it is about perfect photographs. After all, art is something of personal taste, and we are much more likely to buy from our dear friends, those who make us “feel like a million bucks”, and those who “wow” us with their personal service and going that “extra mile”

    And I am working hard on improving my photography – but my business will grow more when I can improve my interpersonal skills.

    Just my thoughts.