Here’s a non-shocking statement; “Writing well creates more opportunities.”
Almost all of our business is now conducted in written form. And opportunity is the lifeblood of business.
Blogs and Journals
I have vague memories of discussing gigs on the phone.
I was reminded of that experience this week when a new partner and I were discussing an upcoming project, and we were doing it on the phone.
Yep, not a Zoom, or a Hangout, or a VOIP, or Skype, or Googleythingy…
I had my trusty Field Notes out and was making little scribbles of barely legible DonnyGlyphs as we planned our next steps.
Deja Vu, I thought as I hung up.
Up until that moment, we had been writing to each other, and going forward, we will be back to that.
Email, messages, texts.
Part of the reason for the phone call was expedience for both of us. The topics were changing fast, and the back and forth was imperative to be done quickly and agreed upon.
We were both mobile at the time of the meeting, so Zoom was out of the question.
It gave me pause to realize how important writing has become in most of our lives.
BITD, phone calls were the thing we spent most of our time doing.
Now, we spend that time writing.
And I think writing well is one of the most important things a photographer can do to set themselves apart.
No, you ain’t gotta be no Hemingway, dudes, you just gotta be competent.
I am certainly not going to put myself forward as an example of great writing, but I know I do a decent job at it.
(I was lucky enough to take a writing course I found on the back of a book of matches, “How to Write Good”. Cost me $50 bucks and I got good enough that I did the follow-up course, “How To Write Gooder”. It was money well spent, brother.)
1. Writing Proposals: Securing Opportunities
Writing proposals is a very big part of what we do, and what we need to do to get work.
Whether answering a request for a proposal or writing a pitch to a publisher, our command of the written word can be a deciding factor when they begin the consideration process.
Being crystal clear, decisive, concise when needed, and on point can give the reader a much more positive look at what you are offering.
And to add to this the fact that our bad grammar may cause someone to have a hernia right there in their office just makes it all the more imperative that we use grammar well.
2. Crafting Professional Emails: Building Client Relationships
I opened an email from a photographer recently, and it was one of the catalysts to this article.
Bad spelling (typos… or….worse?), a disjointed message that had me wondering if she was trying to sell me something or buy something. And no, it wasn’t a non-English writer.
No footer or signature.
Just. Bad. Business.
I ended up ignoring it because, well, ain’t nobody got no time for dat.
It could have been a sale, or it could have been an opportunity. But it was lost in the fact that it was incomprehensible, and working with people who do not communicate well can be very difficult.
I know you know what I mean.
(Yeah, yeah, I’ll find out someday that she was trying to offer me $11BN dollars and I am a total putz for blowing her off. Sucks to be me.)
3. Blogging and Journaling: Sharing Your Photographic Journey
I am still a big believer in the photographer’s blog. I wrote several articles about the switch to ‘platforms’ that everyone glommed on to back in 2012 or so.
Writing about the desert usually means going into the deserts of the Great Southwest. And since I have to go to the deserts, I should probably go on my motorcycle for lots of desert storytelling reasons. At least, that’s the stuff I tell my wife as I leave to spend a few weeks getting lost in Wyoming, or Montana, or Utah. Writing about deserts while riding a cruiser is one of my favorite things, although I do not do them simultaneously.
“We don’t need to blog; we have Facebook. It’s free, and we can have these cool Fan Pages where we can do everything for free. Did I mention it was free?"
I said it then, and I’ll say it now: do not plant your field on someone else’s land.
Facebook killed the free fan pages one bright and delightful morning and demanded that people pay to advertise their fan pages to the very people who signed up to be on the fan pages.
And there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.
Write your blogs and keep your online journals. Even if you write for Medium and Substack, you should make sure you write on YOUR own little piece of digital real estate.
Your own sites are yours: your field, your land, your writing.
For another thing, blogs, journals, and the like are vital for SEO. (I know you are sick of hearing about SEO, but it is a very real thing.)
There are a few practical reasons beyond the vital SEO stuff.
- Writing about your photographs provides you with fodder for more writing. And people love to read about photographs, their making, and the reasons behind their creation.
- It is a wonderful way to get to know your own work. I am not kidding. In my mentorships, I have the photographers write about their own images. Not novels, just a few lines. Everyone agrees; they begin to see their work in new ways, and the desire to do more work increases to a fever pitch. (That’s a good thing, no need for Tylenol or a mask.)
- Eventually, you may have enough writing and images that a book is just a matter of assembly. Creating slowly and steadily instead of sitting down and trying to do it in a few weeks or months. One blog post a week is 52 images and accompanying writing and that is a pretty good-sized book.
4. Describing Your Work: Articulating Vision and Intent
As I mentioned above, being able to write about photography helps you see better photography, whether as a print before you or a vision through the viewfinder.
And writing about other people’s photography is one of the ways you can expand your knowledge and visual literacy.
Here’s an exercise:
Choose ten of your favorite photographs made by other photographers. Write a paragraph about each one. Choose a writing voice that is you… funny, analytical, educational, whatever.
Choose ten of your favorite photographs — the ones you made — and do the same thing. Did you notice any commonalities?
Write a short story about a few of your images. Fictional or non-fiction. A fictional short story (300–500 words) is so much fun to do. And a 500-word description of how you found and made that image can be a blast to write and share.
Writing On Photographs
Each photographer wrote about their own photograph, or one by another participant. We put them together in a nifty little book. Download and enjoy photographers writing on photographs.
5. Marketing and Social Media: Reaching a Wider Audience
Whether you are working professionally or just having a blast with photography, we all end up sharing images on social media.
Being able to write a strong caption or give the information a potential client may need is vital for extending your reach.
Badly written LinkedIn articles or posts will never raise your visibility, except maybe to go viral for a faux-pas you didn’t catch and now you are the laughing stock of Twitter… I mean X.
I said above that photographers should blog on their own sites, and here I am writing on Medium. You should also be writing and sharing your work on Medium, Substack, LinkedIn Articles, or wherever you can get your message out.
And, of course, your own blog.
There are many more reasons a photographer should upgrade their writing skills.
There are many good writing classes out there.
I have taken Ash Ambirge’s twice and really love it.
It isn’t a semantics or diagramming sentences sort of thing; it’s a kick-ass engage with your reader sort of thing. You can find out if she is doing another one by following here.
Look for those workshops that focus on B2B writing would also be a suggestion. If we are thinking pragmatically, that is what we need to get right.
I am not suggesting that you become a Pulitzer Prize-winning author or quit your job to write the next great American novel. I am suggesting that you put some time and effort into learning to write a little better than you do—whether you are already good at it or just getting started.
And you may find you have a knack for it.
Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, bro.
BLACK FRIDAY CLASSES:
I am doing free workshops this Friday — Black Friday in the US. They require no fee, email, or registration. Just show up, and you are golden. Also, no sales pitches. Just free, one-hour courses designed to give you real actionable information.
You can find more on my website, Don Giannatti Dotkomm.