A photographer recently sent me a note after reading my free e-book, How Clients Make Decisions About Money. He said:
“I just wrapped up a portrait sales session, and I used ‘Shortcut #2′ from this free e-book to nab a $3000 sale!”
Thing is, “Shortcut #2″ wasn’t taught to me by another photographer.
The principle was pulled straight from the pages of psychology research on how people make decisions.
In fact, the vast majority of what you read on this blog traces its origins outside of the photography world. It mostly comes from psychology journals, piles of textbooks, and science magazines. Thrown in here and there are the writings of long-dead artists, or conversations I have with everyone from government administrators to musicians to online marketers.
There’s a lot we can learn from fellow photographers, naturally, but I do worry when I see people on a photography-only information diet.
Successful photographers have much to teach, there’s absolutely no disputing that.
But when we neglect in our busyness to look beyond photographers, that’s where we can get stuck on the “airplane” breathing re-circulated ideas over and over.
In the interest of embracing additional sources, here are just a handful of non-photography sites that have fascinating and profitable things to teach photographers (in no particular order, and with no claim that this is an exclusive list):
Naomi blogs about running a small business, but that’s not the only reason her blog is lovable. It’s because she’s the MASTER of making education readable. Take for example, this post about sending messages to your email list without becoming, and I quote, “a marketing skeezy pants.” She addresses your fears and provides concrete solutions, all while making you chuckle.
There are virutally no images on Ittybiz, which is usually a recipe for glazed eyes, but the text is so engaging you keep your eyeballs good and unglazed. Not only do you learn from each post, you learn something about how to write a post. (Love that two-for-one efficiency!) You walk away with interesting information, as well as a great model for how to educate your own readers.
2) Leonie Dawson.
Hers isn’t really a business blog. Well it is. But it isn’t. It’s about creativity and making your life what you want it to be.
Leonie is, and I use this term with utmost love, a bit “woo-woo.” We’re talking words like crystals, meditation, goddesses, and souls. She talks about her pregnancies and family alongside product creation and sales. It’s a glorious mix of whatever crosses her creative mind. It’s definitely unlike anything else I usually read. But perhaps that’s exactly why I wander back there every few months.
The main lesson I’ve slowly absorbed from her is that you get to be whoever you want to be. And whoever that is, people will love you for it. It’s strangely hard to stay true to what you’re interested in. We seem prone to drifting towards magnetic pulls of teachers or trends, wanting our lives to be just like theirs. But then there’s Leonie, flying her quite independent flag over her crystal-loving kingdom, and I think – yes. What you’re already interested in is enough. Pursue that, wherever it takes you.
3) Seth Godin.
You’ve probably heard of him – he wrote that trendy business book, The Purple Cow – but have you checked out his blog? If there’s a common thread in his posts, I can’t find it – his latest posts span everything from culture to media standards to how he writes books. And some are truly power-packed little plums.
They may not seem immediately relevant to photography, but many are. This post could speak to the photographer who has built a whole wedding business when they really want to shoot children (or vice versa). This post could speak to the photographer afraid to try a crazy idea for fear they’ll be embarrassed.
His posts are short enough that a quick scan of the latest nearly always uncovers something fresh and useful to chew on.
The author of this blog, Melanie Tannenbaum, and I once took a science blogging class together. (I’m counting on that being a claim to fame someday.) These days you’ll find her writing killer social science posts over at Scientific American, like this one about the psychology of power, as relates to the arrival of Kate and William’s little prince.
Her sharp skills include weaving pop culture and news in with principles of psychology. A good way to take in current events and absorb some interesting psychology while you’re at it. Many of her posts, like this one about “fighting fair” online, would be a particularly great read for photographers.
5) Social Triggers
Derek Halpern starred on CreativeLIVE recently, so you may already be reading his work. Derek and I sometimes draw from the same psychology research sources, though he frequently has a different take on them.
Social Triggers is particularly helpful for people interested in selling things online, however, many of the things he teaches you can borrow and repurpose for any given photography business. One of his strengths is building email lists, something that most portrait, pet, and fine art photographers could benefit from. (I recommend reading this post on where to place email sign-up boxes.)
Honorable Mention: Commencement speeches.
This one might be cheating since it’s not a “website,” but it’s worth bringing up.
Every spring I eagerly await the newest crop of commencement speeches. Sure, many are “you can do anything you want to” philosophy-lite rehashes of stuff you’ve heard before. But some colleges nab interesting big-names (and some interesting no-names) to meditate on the most important things young people should know as they prepare to plunge into post-college life.
If a skilled writer or thinker sits down and distills their advice to the rising generation of citizens, it’s probably worth a read.
I particularly recommend J.K Rowling’s “fringe benefits of failure” speech, or Stephen L. Carter on resisting simplicity. And while you’re at it, you might check out the little book 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said. (Chapter One, “Your Time In Fraternity Basements Was Well Spent,” has some surprising research to back it up.)
What are your favorite non-photography areas to mine for fresh information?
Who do you follow that you find helpful? Would love to hear in the comments!