Do you have a passion for photography?
Are you truly passionate about photography? Great. But I need to have a quiet word with you about that, because here’s the thing – no one cares. Truly, no one cares that you have a passion for photography. Probably not even your mom by now.
Ever seen a guitarist shred like crazy? A glass-blower carefully creating delicate art pieces? Or a dancer performing gravity-defying moves? Yes? Well, do you think they have passion? Sure they do. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing, at the level they are doing it at. But do they insist on telling you, or do they just live it and act it and be it and show you? Exactly my point.
While this may sound like the start of an irrelevant rant, indulge me for a few minutes. The words, “I have a passion for photography” on your website may actually hurt you with prospective clients!
Let’s say you want to learn how to play the saxophone, and you check out two music teachers …
The first one tells you how much he loves Jazz. How he lives and breathes Jazz and loves the sound of the saxophone. Oh, and how he loves Coltrane. How he loves the beautiful sounds from his Selmer Mk VI. And he plays you some riffs on his horn to show you just how cool he is and that he knows his chops.
The next saxophone teacher you check out, asks you how long you’ve been playing. He asks you to play a few notes so he has an idea of your level of experience. Then he tells you that he is sure he could have you play competently in six months’ time. And in a year you’ll be jamming to some Jazz standards. And that in two years you’ll be improvising like an old Jazz hound.
So which of those two saxophone teachers sound the most appealing to you as an aspiring musician? The one with oodles of passion, or the one who sounded interested in you, and told you how he could help you to achieve what you want?
Now, about your passion for photography
Similarly, does your photography website tell people how passionate you are and how much you love photography … oh, ever since you had a camera as a little kid? Or does your website tell prospective clients how you would work with them and what you could do for them as a photographer? Think it over for a while – do prospective clients really care about your level of interest in photography, or do they care about how their event or portraits or wedding would be photographed and shown to them?
When you meet prospective clients, remember it is about them. Not you. And definitely not about your passion. The same goes for your website – delete the words “I have a passion for photography”. It should be apparent in your portfolio anyway.
So, are you passionate about photography? Of course you are. Otherwise you wouldn’t be devouring books, magazines, web articles and DVDs. And you wouldn’t constantly be shooting and learning and fine-tuning what you do, and how you see things. You wouldn’t be striving to become a better photographer if you weren’t passionate about all of it.
Just don’t tell the world about it. Remove the word “passion” from your vocabulary. Instead, show the world. Live it and breathe it and do it. Create!
- Critique – photographers’ websites
- Photography clichés
- You must have a great camera
- So you think P stands for Professional?
- Photographers: what’s holding you back?
- Create emotional impact!
33 Comments, Add Your Own
1Roy Barnes says
I love this article. It makes such perfect sense and is so well put.
I have a passion for reading the intelligent and meaningful words of Mr van Niekerk!
Agreed. Right up there with ‘I love my job/have the best job in the world’.
yessss indeed. :)
4Leigh Catley says
Great message Neil, one that needs to be heard by many. I was wondering, is there a back story to this post? a catalyst that caused you to write it? Seems like there may be a good story there.
5MP Singh says
Very Succinctly put !
Great write up, thanks Neil.
6Donald Rodriguez says
Totally agree! When you are an event photographer they expect a service from you: to make the best photo’s for them. They hire you not for your passion (or what else drive you) but for the results you can produce. Pretty awful I say because passion guides you to incredible results more often than a business oriented nature!
8Antony BC says
I totally agree Neil. I never say I’m passionate about my photography. If I wasn’t, why the hell would I be doing this? As you said, people should be able to tell from the images you present them with, just how much your work means to you.
My last wedding clients to confirm their booking sent me an email saying “Thanks so much for meeting with us yesterday. It was very clear to see that you are very passionate about your work. Following the meeting with you, we both came away feeling that we would really like you to capture our wedding day through your photography.”
Capture THEIR day, through MY photography. I was so pleased, and I couldn’t help but think “They got it!”.
9Adrian R. says
Ya’ know, I’ve always enjoyed the works and words of wisdom of Mr. Neikerk. No joke. In fact, I’m here to say that he has been an inspiration to me, as he got me what I needed to start and shoot confidently with off camera flash and strobes. But I can’t say that I agree with the above. Clients usually want to know who you are as a photographer and I agree that your work should always precede your said “passion” or “love” for the craft, but we are more than just “photographers” and to tell you the truth, connecting with a client is a very complicated process, which goes beyond creating wonderful photographs. I hate the cute, syrupy introductions where fake abounds but I don’t really see why using “love” or “passion” to describe one’s “drive” for creating something beautiful and meaningful, can be such a detrimental move.
I listened to the podcast where this idea first (I’m assuming) came into conversation and I remember having the same reaction to it. I can see why a blog entry was in order. I actually appreciate the insight even though I don’t fully agree with it.
After all, here’s a paragraph taken from the Mr. Neikerk’s intro page (which btw, I remember reading with, honestly, great interest):
“What drives me as a photographer: That I love photography for a variety of reasons. The stimulation and excitement of responding to new situations satisfies both my analytical and creative sides, and I also truly love working with people.”
Loving what you do and/or having passion for your work, I think, is a defining factor, as long long as you keep it real. That’s all!
10Neil vN says
Read that part of my bio in context to the whole thing.
11Lynn Clark says
I have a passion for earning a professional wage through work that not only brings me joy, but also can profoundly change how a woman feels about herself, and particularly about her body and her sensuality. Photography is the means to that end. If I were simply passionate about my photography, I’d take pictures of flowers and print them for my own walls.
I help small businesses write website copy, and the About page is always the most difficult. People in general struggle to write about themselves, and I believe that’s why so many of these pages are so, well, generic. It’s such a missed opportunity to provide information that will allow clients to connect with you. And, connection = you’re hired.
12Jacques Bartie says
Great point Neil, you even made me go and check my website text :)
Always enjoy your input thanks for giving .
13Adrian R. says
Neil, isn’t that the truth with everything we write?! I actually did read it and not just five minutes ago. My reason of copying and pasting that excerpt was done purposefully — somehow, your post didn’t capture the complexity of using words like “passion” or “love” because it’s, indeed, part of a general context, which somehow, your post missed to address. Anyway, it’s all good. Best to you and yours!
14Neil vN says
My bio as it is currently (on my wedding site), was a reaction to the generic “photography is something I am passionate about”, and I realized I had to come up with something more engaging and interesting. It’s a work in progress and needs a lot more editing and trimming down.
I don’t think we ever get to a final version of a website. There’s always something to tinker with and improve. :)
15Michael Warren Jr says
I concur. Also, just because someone has a “passion” for something doesn’t mean they will be successful at it.
From what I’ve experienced you need to have a “passion” for business as well (personally I love business but I’d be willing to bet that most photographers don’t)…….LOL.
One of the best advises ever, it is simply words of wisdom from a pro which should be put in practice for the rest of us. Thank www for putting us in such a real time close network, it’s just awesome.
17Andy Lim says
Great analogy of the saxophone teacher. Website copy should be written with a marketing intent, and marketing is about making the client feel that they will benefit from using the photographer’s service.
So true Neil. My passion for my wedding photography goes far above about anything else but that did not keep me from filing bankruptcy a few years ago and it still isn’t helping me much so my passion is doing nothing for me.
I follow your blog and pick up helpful pieces of information. But I have to respectfully agree with Adrian R’s post above. There is nothing wrong whatsoever in letting others know about your passion, desire, excitement, etc. Many people are working in careers that they couldn’t care less about. Dead ends. To be working in a profession that I truly enjoy is a blessing, and I’m not shy about sharing that enthusiasm with others. Anyone who would take your advice and delete their own descriptive words from their website isn’t showing much dedication to personal convictions. My wife knows that I love her, but she still likes to hear those words. See what I mean?
20Neil vN says
It’s not as if Photography is going to doubt your commitment to it. So that analogy doesn’t quite work.
Unless, telling your wife you love her, is analogous to you telling your clients that you’re committed to do your very best for them. And then we’re right back to it being about your clients rather than about you you you.
21Rich Poinvil says
Adrian R and Neil (Hi Neil!)
+1 for both
Words can be worth a lot or they can mean nothing to the person viewing a your web site. In the end though, it’s the photographs that do the talking for you.
I’ll keep “love” or “passion” when describing my relationship to the craft because it’s just the truth bursting out of my sole.
22Jon Lloyd says
I knew this would come up again! and when I saw your Blog title I thought you had done a back-flip so I had to read on… and fortunately I was mistaken! It’s obviously a topic that hits a nerve because you are correct, we all have a level of passion for what we do with photography. But passion is like faith and I’ll go with that as an analogy.
I am not a religious man but I respect the views of those who are, until that moment when they try to force their religion on to me. Then I get annoyed, and of course I won’t buy it.
I enjoy the history of religion, the buildings and the pageantry, just not the views.
I view the statement of “passionate about photography” as superfluous. Take my mountain bike photography. Do I tell the 16 year old Downhill hotshot that he will like my photos because I’m “passionate” or do I show him how I made the other hotshot look and that I can make him look really rad and cool while he tail whips and gets big air?
You have to connect with your client (potential or otherwise) and when you connect – exploit the connection. Two words: Red Bull.
great post and great wisdom from all. Im in the process of writing my website and I struggle with the about me page. I currently have the cliche ‘I remember my fathers camera from a child blah blah’ because its the truth. But, thanks to mr Nvn’s blog yet again I have a lightbulb moment. Its true, a potential wedding client probably isnt that interersetd in the ‘fathers camera’ story, they are interested in what my passion transalates into and what i can do for them. You can convey passion and love in the images AND the words without directly using the cliched stories (regardless of truth) and certianly without using the words passion etc etc.
I think this is a very tricky subject and what works for some may not work for others. But they key here for me is about being unique. Does a potential bride want to read another backstory about how passionate you are or does she want you to tell her / show her what you can do for her on the biggest day of her life……
Im off to have a cup of tea and think hard, again, about my website and what it says …..
take care and thanks
Like anything no one wants to hear you blowing your own trumpet. People are more interested in themselves and how you can help them not by how much you know.
So, in other words, show your work, but keep your mouth shut? I agree, it’s not all about the photographer. But people are interested in who they hire, even if it’s a limited interest. A long-time client hired me not just after reviewing the images, but calling a reference and asking about me personally. Many clients have told me that there was a “connection” that went beyond the photography. The images might show your style, but your personality doesn’t necessarily speak through the photographs. No one wants to work with a great photographer who happens to be a jerk. I respect your opinion regarding “passionate photographer”, but it doesn’t apply to everyone.
26Neil vN says
Christopher .. you conveniently took this discussion to an extreme in an attempt to prove some point? You’re now saying that the other option is to be a jerk / shut your mouth?
How does this make any rational sense?
I’m just curious, Neil. Why is it OK to share something about yourself on a website or blog, but letting others know that you have a passion for your work is off-limits? You started this conversation with what appears to be a pet peeve of yours. Is it rational? “Truly, no one cares that you have a passion for photography.” I disagree.
28Neil vN says
Christopher … read the part where I explained this in terms of the music teachers. I can’t make it more clear than that.
Where most photographers have their websites be a showcase for how awesome their photography is, it is in a “me, me, me” kinda way.
The essential part of what I am trying to explain here with this article, is as how Greg describes it in his comment: “they are interested in what my passion translates into and what I can do for them.”
Andy Lim neatly summarizes it: “Website copy should be written with a marketing intent, and marketing is about making the client feel that they will benefit from using the photographer’s service.”
Now, in terms of a bio, sure, that’s what a bio is – it is where you give your potential clients (and the wider world) a sense of who you are. This is the opportunity to be personable and engaging, and tell your client that you are competent and qualified. It is also a good time to avoid clichés. And I guarantee you, that the vast majority of photographers use that phrase about having a passion for photography.
Being passionate has NO bearing on how qualified and competent you are to do the work required.
Do you want to stand out and differentiate yourself? Then start by avoiding that cliche. Read the other comments posted here in reply to this article … most agree with me on this that it is one of the most obvious of clichéd phrases.
The main reason why it is clichéd (aside from it being seen on majority of photographers’ websites), is that it is so self-evident. Working as a photographer is not the same as working on a factory assembly line, or such. If you didn’t truly get a thrill with the sound of the camera’s shutter firing … then it makes no sense to be a photographer. So the passion thing is obvious. It’s there.
If you feel the need to tell the world how intense interest in photography … then find other more eloquent and interesting ways to show it and describe it than in those mundane words .. “I’m passionate about photography.”
It’s funny, I look at photographers sites from time to time, and whenever they start talking about how “passionate” they are, I say to myself, “who cares”. 9 times out of 10 their photographs let on that they’re not as passionate as they say they are. LOL
Great points Neil!
BTW, what podcast was brought up? Do you have one?
30mister O says
Ha! This has long been a pet peeve of mine.
Don’t TELL ME… SHOW ME!
Glad to see you share the same “passion” mr vN
You have a valid point, Neil! People looking for a photographer will hire you based on what you can do for them and how well they like your personality. Good photographers are easy to come by, but a photographer who takes care of their clients and gives them what they want is apparently not so common. I got hired recently to shoot a wedding by a girl who said she interviewed seven photographers including me. She said she was amazed at how the other photographers rambled on about themselves, yet never seemed interested in her. Fortunately, I hate to talk about myself so during my interview my main goal was to ask her what I could do for her, what were her expectations for a wedding photographer. I asked about her family, where she grew up, how she met her fiancé, etc. All these questions give me a complete picture of what her personality is like, and in turn I get an idea as to how I will approach photographing the wedding. After our interview she said she was already comfortable with me and felt like I understood her. She felt she could trust me. During the conversation she said she could tell I loved photography, because of the way I treated her, by wanting to get to know her so that her photographs will be an authentic representation of who she is. I hope this helps!
Thanks Neil… A real eye opener.
It would be like a guy walking around saying he’s funny,.. instead of actually just saying funny things. That’s a good point.