Part 1:When Winds of Change blow hard, you might want to check your navigation skills.

Comparing your photo career to a ship upon the sea is probably a way-overworked metaphor but begging your forgiveness, I’ll set sail on a cliche-ridden sea; it’s still a good analogy when thinking about plotting the course of your photo business. [my apologies in advance to the expert sailors among my readers for my technical mistakes]

In my long career of working with professional advertising photographers I’ve always noticed that there are two types of people who set out: those with a clear destination in mind, and those who seem headed out for a pleasure cruise with no particular destination in mind. As it’s been said, if you don’t care where you’re going, then it doesn’t much matter which way you go or what map you use. However, if you do have a goal in mind then you’d better have an accurate map– and the skills to get yourself back on track if, and when, you are blown off course.

In this article I’m going to address the skills that the “sailors” who actually have a destination need to use on the sea of photo success; skills that will serve them no matter how choppy the economic seas…and yes, this economic climate is one whopper of a storm.

Those of us who sailed through the recessions of the late 1970s and early 1990s have the perspective of having survived what, at the time, seemed to be career-killing storms. Sailing through those recession storms taught us a lot about what you need to survive when things start to look really choppy. Survivors of those turbulent times learned that a keen analysis of the situation, flexibility, and a willingness to adjust course, is what got them through it.

Any sailor knows that the wind can change quite suddenly and unexpectedly–just like the photo business did with the advent of digital imaging. By analyzing the wind–noticing where it’s coming from and how fast it’s moving–the skipper can change the ship’s angle to the wind to maximize the speed and direction they’re sailing. By making adjustments in response to the changing environment, arrival at the destination can sometimes be faster than if they’d followed their original course.

By changing their tactical approach i.e. trimming the sails to maximize the angle and direction, they still achieved the intended result. Similarly, the wise photo/sailor who early on adopted a digital imaging work flow found that clients could be served more rapidly. In addition, images could be digitally tweaked to perfection in pre- and post-production–both of which were new value-added services which clients loved.

But those who adopt the new–and now critical– skills of integrating memorable branding across all customer touch points, really have the skills necessary to navigate these turbulent times. The destination achieved: strengthening of existing client relationships, more business, and new opportunities.

It’s stating the obvious to chronicle what happened to those photo “sailors” who failed to see–or chose to stay the same course–when the first big tech storm blew across our industry. Those who made no adjustments to their course (e.g. by clinging to the argument that “film had superior tonal range and repro size capability”) got washed away as the inevitable technological advances provided digital files now superseding the tonal range of film. Today’s able sailors knew how to tack when it came to the digital imaging storm; they’re set for that weather condition.

But then the wind suddenly shifted again: faster and better camera chip technology, put 10MP cameras in the hands of consumers for less than $500. And some of those consumers are responsible for their company’s marketing images. What angle do you have to take in that wind?