Mostly Lisa – Mostly Okay

Some of my students are getting ready to get into photography in a more professional manner. Some want to become wedding photographers, some fine artists and a few, bless them, photojournalists like I was way back when in another time in another galaxy. And, the big question for all of them is how do I get work?

Well, first you’ve got to be a better than average professional photographer. The good news is this is easier than it looks. For every mega-star celebrity photographer like Jasmine Starr (who works damn hard at keeping her photos in the public view using a lot of social media like her website) there are 100 or maybe a thousand photographers that nobody is every going to hear about let alone hire. These are the guys and gals who charge $800 for a wedding shoot and think they’re doing well to get that much. That’s a far cry from guys like Gary Fong (celebrity photographer and investor of the Lightsphere) who charge over $100,000 for big shoots and are worth every penny.

So how do you separate yourself from the crowd. Lisa Bettnay is a good example. Lisa, who uses the brand name, Mostly Lisa (clever but a bit dipsy but don’t go changing it now)  is a really good photographer out of Vancouver. She’s really smart with a degree in I think linguistics and big-time model-pretty in an early 30ish sort of way. She’s been a featured guest on one of the blogosphere’s most popular podcast This Week In Technology episode 191 hosted by Leo Laporte.

On TWIT Lisa said something to the effect that she was having problems creating a place for herself in the world of photography/social media/TV personality/contributor to a local Vancouver newspaper. Leo had suggested earlier that she tone down the wacky “Lisa” stuff she had on her website and she did.

Big mistake in my opinion. Lisa was blessed with not good but great looks. (They may prove over time to be both a blessing and a curse my dear.) She obviously wants to be known as someone with a brain as well as beauty. Fair enough. But Lisa go with the beauty first. We all buy stuff that’s attractive. We keep it (or buy more) because it proves to be useful. Become the personality that you are and then become the contributor that we want to thank and call our friend.

For me, I still say that as a photojournalist my job was to take “pretty pictures.” Sometimes the images are horrific (I won some awards way back when for photos taken at one of the first high school shootings in North America where three died and 17 were wounded.) but they were awfully good images. Go see the 2009 winning image of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. (The Globe and Mail has the photo reproduced full-page size in today’s paper. It’s awful and beautiful in the same moment.)

My point: You’ve got to get their attention before you can get their business.

If I was as good looking as Lisa (and if I was half my age and not so ugly), I’d paste my good looking puss all over the Internet and I’d be shooting photos day and night posting them and talking about them and loving them like my own children.

And then I’d wait for folks to find out (a) how good a photographer I am (And btw Lisa I don’t remember you talking about your photography at all on TWIT so, for me, it came across for me a little bit like you were just a talking head like Shira Lazar who I found annoying as she chattered on somewhat vacuously. I guess cute doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I’ve seen way too much cute over the years for it to leave a lasting impression.) and (b) how smart I am (and Lisa there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re smart as heck. I loved your self parodies. I thought they were clever and not cute but that’s just me.)

And yes for the junior psychologists out there (remember I was trained in Solution-Focused Counselling at the University of Toronto) I can see that I am talking to myself and that’s it’s time to stop typing and get out shooting even though as Leonard Cohen says I ache in the places I used to play. Lisa, get out there. The next 30 years will go by in the blink of a pretty girl’s eye.

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