In his seminar, “Learning to Thrive as an Artist: Business, Marketing and Style for Photographers,” during PhotoPlus Expo this past week, Seattle-based commercial photographer John Keatley neatly summed up one of the themes of the 2015 PhotoPlus Expo conference: In a market in which technically proficient, beautiful photography can be and is created by the masses, professional photographers are “hired [by commercial clients] to create something scarce.” Personal style and vision are essential, in other words. “Anyone can learn to master technique,” Keatley says. “No one can replicate your decision-making process.” The talk was an abbreviated version of the three-day workshop Keatley puts on a few times each year.
In his relationships with clients, Keatley defines his style through the work he chooses to show, and how he talks in meetings and during creative calls as he’s bidding on jobs. Keatley says his “goal in talking to a client is to show them that I think about photography in a different way.” He shared with seminar attendees the dictionary definition of style and said he believes style “is not something you choose, it’s who you are.” He made an analogy with acting style, sharing a video in which the actor Brian Cranston talks about a revelation in his career when he stopped worrying during auditions about getting a job and started concentrating on showing who he was as an actor.
Keatley urged his audience to contemplate who they are as photographers by coming up with 7 to 10 words that describe ideas, attitudes and other things they value, and thinking about how those values manifest themselves in their work. Keatley also urged his audience to understand that developing one’s style “is a journey,” and it’s something that a photographer develops and evolves throughout their career.