How watching Formula 1 made me a better photographer.
Please let me start by quoting a man wearing glasses.
This means not breaking the rules, but thinking outside the box or even doing what it isn't illegal simply because it has never been done before so there is no precedent.
This way of thinking is one of the things I love the most from the Formula 1 world and, over the years, it has allowed teams to come up with never-seen-before solutions like ground effect, active suspension, active aerodynamics, traction control, carbon fibre chassis or mass dampers, most of them eventually banned by FIA but currently common in the automotive industry.
This I find so inspiring. And as the extremely competitive sport that it is and the extremely competitive motorsport industry that it carries with it, I have always seen it as an exaggerated example that helps us understanding the way any business work. Because, at a higher or lower lever, every single business belongs to a certain competitive market. Remember, taking great pictures ain't easy, but being able to create a successful business around your photography may be way harder than that. All your government cares about is you paying your taxes and not doing any stupid illegal stuff aside. All your clients care about is you not being a creepo, fitting their budget and quality standards and delivering before the deadline.
From there, whatever you do to make the most out of your personal situation and maximice your profit is all up to you. So what are you doing to beat your competitors?
A few years ago, when I was still based in Denmark and didn't have much money, I got in contact with a new bikini brand that wanted to book me to shoot their Summer campaign. Sadly though, it was the middle of February and the streets were (not surprisingly) still covered in snow. They wanted to be able to start using the images the first week of March, so their initial proposal was simply shooting the entire catalogue in studio as they were just starting the business and their budget wasn't that big. Even so, I made them an offer they couldn't refuse.
Bikinis are tiny and don't take much space, so it was pretty inexpensive for me fitting them all in a suitcase and flying to my hometown in Southern Spain, where I could stay at my parent's and from there drive and get to a beautiful sunny beach in a bit more than an hour. I was already in contact with model agencies in Spain and knew the market, so it wasn't hard to find the right model for the right price either. A real win-win situation that made we both happy as they were getting campaign images with a real summerish feeling and I got the chance to spend a few days with my family and friends.
And that is how I ended up shooting the image that covers this post and still has a place in my portfolio. I could have simply shot on studio and send my invoice, but it is maybe thanks to this way of trying to always add value to my work that I am still working for this client.
Likewise, more than once I ended up shooting in Denmark for my Spanish clients. Models in Denmark are a dime a dozen and teenage new faces with next to no experience are so cheap to book. Of course they aren't the best ones, but if all you care about is a unique face to shoot wedding dresses in studio and they really don't have to move much... It is a no-brainer to me.
D'you see what I mean?
So it was a no-brainer for my clients in Southern Spain either when I gave them the chance to shoot in my studio in Denmark with the sort of faces it was impossible to find in Sevilla unless you booked a foreign model on stay from an agency in Madrid or Barcelona, which tended to be way more expensive even without counting on travel costs. Just to give you an idea, for less than the price you pay to count on a Nordic/Russian (and often under 18) face and shoot in Sevilla, I could normally (thank you Ryanair) fly my Spanish make-up artist team mate to Denmark with all the clothing and book a young Danish new face for the job. Surprised?
No matter what phase of your career you are dealing with, things are hardly ever gonna look "ideal". It is therefore all up to you finding the way to (and modifying Eddie's quote) always try and look outside the parameter to see how you can stay within the rules and regulations but actually improve your photography, maximice the benefit of your business and get the best profit you can. I hope this gives you something to think about today!
And by the way, for those who don't know who he is, Eddie Jordan is mainly known to be the former team boss and founder of former UK based Jordan Grand Prix Formula 1 team. In short, he knows what he is talking about.