Business and Marketing Lessons from Photography

Sometimes, the most important lessons about our own organizations or business practices come from learning about other industries. Looking at the same problems under a different light allows us to re-imagine our own paradigms and challenge our approach to our own obstacles. For me, I often find that those lessons come from the arts.

I spent several years running a photography business as well as half a decade in camera sales. I’ve found that one of the most important skills is the ability to choose the right lens. Ultimately, the quality of a picture is determined by the lens. The lens is the most important tool in the arsenal: a bad piece of glass on even the most high-end camera will still result in a poor quality picture. Conversely, a fantastically crafted lens on a cheap body can still deliver the most amazing results. The lens also determines the point of view: telephoto are were great for zooming in, wide-angle for capturing landscapes, macro lenses for extreme close-ups, and so on. It’s important to have the right tools for the right situation.

In our businesses, it’s easy to get caught up using the wrong kind of lens. We’re bent on the details when we need to step back and look at the bigger picture or we get so busy dreaming that we forget about the smaller steps that we need to take. Sometimes we can “switch out” our lens: adjust the point of view and re-compose the photograph entirely. We back up and literally do see the bigger landscape of things or we zoom-in and notice that some of the finer details really do improve the picture. In photography, there’s no “one size fits all” lens that is great for every situation.  In life, it’s the same way. We have different tools to help our perspective: family, friends, a faith, exercise, food, travel, reading, music, art, books and so on. These are inexhaustible sources of inspiration that we should turn to for re-composure of our souls.

When we don’t, it’s like we are stuck with the same lens. This is easier to spot in others’ lives than our own. It’s like when our friends simply can’t see their troubles in any light but their own: we’re able to offer more objective advise since we’re outside of the situation. In the same way, it is much easier to criticize another person’s business plan or marketing scheme rather than our own. Sometimes, we are too close to a project to look at it objectively. Actually, we are most of the time.

Just as an artist can pull a gorgeous sculpture from the miry clay, a photographer has the ability to perceive a picture that speaks volumes when others see nothing. Sometimes, it just requires looking through a different lens (even if that means borrowing one from a friend)…and sometimes that means changing the landscape altogether and getting some new scenery!


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