A photographer recently reached out to me via email and asked me, “Why is it so important to shoot so much new work? My current rep keeps asking me to shoot more and more but I already feel like I am shooting a lot. I did 3 personal shoots last year and added almost 10 new images to my portfolio. Shouldn’t that be enough?”
When I first read the email, I was surprised. How could he think that was enough? And, if his rep was asking for more imagery, then shouldn’t he trust that she had reasons to ask for it? I didn’t know much about this particular photographer so at first it was hard to answer his question. I felt like I needed to know more about his marketing, who his target is, what the images were like, etc. I wanted to reply with a link to a post I wrote back in 2011 titled, Are Your Shelves Stocked, a post about the importance of shooting new work.
But then I realized, he wasn’t looking for that magic number (which I so wish existed!) but he was starting a conversation with me about the actual value of new work nowadays; a conversation we have within our own group all the time. I heard his frustration about the pressure to keep shooting and sharing and I knew he wasn’t alone. Here is what I told him.
• Over the past few years, the competition has grown so fierce that it has become necessary, actually crucial, to show relevant, new work often. If you are a newer photographer you need to show range and breakthrough the clutter. If you are a more seasoned photographer you need to show that you are still creating inspiring work, that you are still out there and that you too can break through the clutter. No matter what point you are at in your career, you need to always keep shooting.
• Every year, the photographers that add the most amount of new work to their portfolios/websites are always the photographers that are the busiest in our group. ALWAYS. There has not been one year where this was not true.
• When you share new work with your rep, you give her (or him) the necessary tools to market you and brag about you. Promotional opportunities exist with new work and they are 99% non existent without it. When a photographer gives us new work it is added to our website and all the other sites that they host portfolios, it is sent out as an email blast, designed into a PDF( if there is a story or multiple images in the series) to be sent to a targeted group of followers, used in advertising and promoted on social media. Our to do list is long when we have new work to promote. Without new work to promote there is no to do list. The opportunities we can create for you are minimal at best.
• Finding the time to shoot new work is not easy. Neither is constantly being inspired or inspiring. But, nowadays there are so many ways to connect with others in our industry to partner and create together to keep the creativity fresh.
• Think less about how many new images you create per year and think more about what you will shoot next and when. Then, shoot it. Even if it ends up not being one your favorites, you shot it and made room in your brain for the next idea. There is something to be said for momentum.
I then asked him to be honest and ask himself if he added almost 10 new images to his portfolio last year, were they part of series or more stand alone images? Were they truly almost 10 images or 3 series of 3 images each? Was he and his rep able to maximize the exposure of the images or did he just add them to his site and use them in an add or two? Did he shoot them over the course of the year and spread out his promotion or was the last time he showed off something new a few months ago?
I ended by suggesting he shift his thinking away from feeling pressure to provide even more new work and to move more towards recognizing the opportunities that will exist to promote him if he has new work to share.