There is probably no better place than Curaçao to be a professional photographer. The views are unbeatable, the weather is always camera-ready and there’s always a new angle to discover. However, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Working on the island can get tough- harsh lighting and extreme heat come to mind- and the small scale of the market isn’t easy to navigate successfully. Want to give it a go anyway? Theo Meijer has some handy insider’s tips for the budding photographer.
Less is more
As a newcomer you might get tempted to ask an established photographer to mentor you, copy his or her style and take on every assignment you get thrown your way. Before you know it, you’re working crazy hours without much to show for. Sooner or later you’re going to realize that a) you’re a copy cat, b) your work isn’t getting any better or more fun and c) people aren’t too keen on referring you. “The solution to this common problem is to simply pause and think. What makes you or your style unique? Once you’ve established that, only take those assignments that let you further develop your style. You may not make millions from those assignments, however you are investing in your future,” says Theo.
The photography business on the island is crowded to say the least. In order to be able to make a living from your art, you need to stand out. And the best way to do that is through your work. Having a mentor can be life-changing, but don’t forget to be you. Make sure you take what you learn and apply it in an original way. “Try to look at tried-and-tested locations in a new light. Literally. Get out of your comfort zone and experiment with other types of art. Experiment with paint, design, installations; whatever works for you. I’m constantly trying something new; pushing the boundaries. Some work, others don’t. But it helps me grow as a photographer,” says Theo. Check out some of his more experimental photography here.
Referrals = business success
Just like every other entrepreneur, photographers on the island need to know the basics of running a business and marketing that business in order to survive. However, don’t get blinded by the hype of marketing, social media and Google rankings. The most valuable business asset you’ll ever have in a small, crowded marketplace is referrals from your clients. People are far more likely to book a photographer through referrals. “Make sure you invest in your clients. Keep to agreed deadlines, avoid surprising your client with a higher invoice and make sure your work is top notch and presented in a fun way. That additional couple of guilders for writing a nice card with the DVD or that cup of coffee when delivering your work, will pay off,” says Theo.
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