For those of you who don’t know – I’m a biologist by education and spent 16 years of my life in the Environmental Industry. So I decided to marry the two halves of my brain in this post (yes, if you must know, this was one of those “brilliant in the middle of the night right before nodding off to sleep because my brain won’t shut off” ideas).
So as my brain was spinning from subject to subject faster than my hubby can change channels on the TV – and as I’m telling myself that I only have 5 and a half hours of rest ahead of me if I get to sleep ‘right now’ – I had this inspired (or insane) thought. The changes that the Photography industry is going through right now aren’t much different than the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (yes, I know that natural selection is also based on HERITABLE traits….but bear with the analogy….my sleep deprived brain thought it was pretty cool).
So, briefly stated from Wikipedia:
Natural variation occurs among the individuals of any population of organisms. Many of these differences do not affect survival (such as differences in eye color in humans), but some differences may improve the chances of survival of a particular individual. A rabbit that runs faster than others may be more likely to escape from predators, and algae that are more efficient at extracting energy from sunlight will grow faster. Something that increases an animal’s survival will often also include its reproductive rate…By the definition of fitness, individuals with greater fitness are more likely to contribute offspring to the next generation, while individuals with lesser fitness are more likely to die early or fail to reproduce.
Variation (and therefore competition) occurs among the studios of any photography market. Many of these differences do not affect survival (such as logo colors, brand of camera*, hair color), but some differences may improve the changes of survival of a particular studio. A photographer that excels at customer service will be more likely to retain customers who will refer them to others, a photographer that offers a unique selling point will attract more clients. Something that increases a studio’s competitive advantage will also include its success rate. By the definition of fitness, studios with greater innovation are more likely to continue to grow, while studios with lesser ability to change are more likely to fail to grow and die.
We all know that competition in the market is increasing at an exponential rate. There has been a veritable population explosion (some would argue overpopulation) of the animal called “photographer”. Not only is competition increasing, the very environment in which we exist is rapidly changing and photography studios are closing almost as quickly as new ones are emerging. This isn’t any big secret. So do we sit back, do what we’ve always done, complain about the changes, and hope that natural selection takes care of the weakest of the species and gradually removes them from the evolutionary chain, or do we evolve?
The saying goes “Adapt or Die”…come on, it isn’t that extreme. It’s more like adapt or suffer a slow, miserable, painful decline of “reproductive success” while you cling longingly to the hope that things will change and watch as the offspring (business) that you’ve poured your very heart and soul into gasps its final breaths because you continue to do what you’ve always done and expect things to have a different outcome. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating – but I want to you consider, for a moment, the idea that it MIGHT JUST BE THAT EXTREME. Yes I’m talking to you, and myself, and every photographer out there who REALLY wants to make it in this amazing industry. Whether you are relatively new to the bushiness or are an “seasoned pro”.
In my mind, evolution is critical to survival and competition enables (and drives) adaptation. Don’t just sit there hoping the market will change. Use the changes in the marketplace as your evolutionary springboard. ADAPT! Change your perspective, change your outlook, change the way you interact with your clients, change your product selection…change your mind and start thinking of ways that you can be unique, be exceptional, be unconventional, and be the photographer that your competition cannot be!
How can you be the most attractive peacock,or the stag with the largest antlers, or the lion with the biggest mane in your market? How will you adapt so that you survive to shoot another day?