Being Unique Is Not The Same As Exclusive (Or Scarce)

from the a-bit-confused dept

Taylor Davidson alerts us to an odd blog post with suggestions on how photographers need to adapt to the changing market place. As Davidson properly notes, there's some good points mixed in there with some really odd conclusions. The writer does a decent job explaining how the market has shifted -- with the ease of digital production and distribution, the old exclusivities have gone away. But, from there, gets confused about what to do with it, focusing on trying to build up artificial scarcities or suggesting that photographers try to ignore basic economics. That's not going to work.

The key point is that the writer seems to think that the key scarcity is uniqueness, as if there's some exclusivity to it. Uniqueness is a good thing, but it's not the same thing as exclusivity (again, a point Davidson makes). Uniqueness is what gets you noticed (promotion) and what makes your real scarcities (time, access, experience, etc.) worth more. But the writer of the post seems to think that uniqueness can only be developed by shunning others, learning from no one, and trying to hide all of your ideas. Some examples:
Hide your best work. Only your clients should see it. no one else.
I can't think of an idea any worse than this. Earlier, the writer suggests focusing on commissioned work. You don't get commissioned if you're hiding your best work. Your best work is the calling card for you to get commissioned work.
Do not share or post your techniques. You will only be popular with the ones that have no imaginations. Like leeches, they feed on others knowledge.
Yes, because all brilliant photographers are simply born brilliant, and never learned a thing from others. The statement above does not mesh with any creative process I know. Sure, there will always be some copycats and "leeches," but if you are an innovator, that's only good for you. It boosts your own reputation as being a trendsetter. Furthermore, most truly creative people use the ideas of others as a part of their own, and build on them -- taking pieces of what they find from others, but still building on them and creating something new and unique. Hiding your techniques doesn't make you exclusive or your work more valuable. It likely just means you're cut off from what is state of the art.
Never, ever ask for the opinion of another photographer. If its good, they will copy you, if it's bad, they won't tell you.
Someone's sounding a bit paranoid here. Collaboration and feedback are good things. They're what help people grow. The problem is that the writer seems to think that this market is a zero sum game, of sorts. If one photographer has a good idea, it's one less good idea for the rest of the world. That also explains the following:
Do not copy. If you have an idea, look to see if it has been done. If it has, drop it. Move on. be creative.
Of course, an awful lot of creativity is done by unique individuals looking to redo the work of others, but adding their own style and flare to it.

All in all, I recognize that it's tough for content creators in disrupted markets to come to terms with the market challenges they're facing, but locking everything up isn't the answer. Cutting yourself off from the world, and hiding your best work, is not the answer. That seems only guaranteed to make your own market dwindle. No one will recommend you. People searching for you won't find you. Your work may be unique, but you'll have missed out on valuable ideas and feedback from others. It's hard to see how that's a winning strategy at all.

Filed Under: photography, scarce, unique


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  1. icon
    Tek'a R (profile), 31 Aug 2009 @ 6:39am

    Re: "free isnt always the answer"

    Congratulations! you missed the point entirely.

    If, for example, you make your money by producing.. oooh.. custom artwork for a variety of things, would it be..

    A) Better to have older work spread wide, with plenty of attribution so people know where to find more.. and Pay you for new things.

    B) Better to keep every scrap of paper locked in a vault. After all, Everyone knows you, right? you don't need any kind of free publicity and advertisement.

    Think it over, anon.

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