Coherence and Productivity


Photo by Barry Schwartz

There’s no standing still when you’re an entrepreneur. I’m a one-man band, a typical circumstance for a photographer. My skill-sets include all the mechanics of running a business while at the same time sustaining a holistic view of how it all works in combination. Roughly speaking, my skills fall into three categories, but they are irrevocably connected:

Process-oriented skills are focused on the idea that time = money; in other words, skills that keep me efficient and support high-quality work.

Technical skills involve learning new software and buying new hardware to remain competitive. As a professional gear-head, this brings particular joy, sorrow, and frustration ( just like the rest of life).

Soft skills are the hardest to develop and the easiest to maintain; for instance, simply trying to be a nicer person with better listening skills, which comes in handy outside my professional arena, as well.

The most challenging soft skill is learning to take a step back in order to put my career into context.  I’m not alone in this, it’s a entrepreneurial requirement for plumbers, lawyers, teachers, and creatives of all kinds. Sometimes it comes down to simply being able to recognize when skills I’ve come to rely on no longer serve me well.

I photograph a lot of architecture. After much study and picking the brains of colleagues, I developed a process of blending images in the computer to make up for the limits in my camera (and my poor lighting skills). Lighting spaces artificially takes a lot of time to do well, but my new process enabled me to light less – or not at all.  A great bonus is the software allows me to produce substantially more images during the limited time I am on location.

I got so dependent on that process it took longer than it should have (about a year) to recognize that my latest camera had improved so much over the previous model that I could get away with blending fewer images: I could be more efficient.

Another perk: now, on location, once I’ve gotten the images I’m contracted for, there’s often “extra” time when I can slow down, take a breath, adjust my perceptions of the space, and perhaps, if the creative gods are with me, produce an image that is aesthetically above-and-beyond what my client anticipates. This makes my day. And hopefully encourages my client to hire me again.

It took awhile, but now my skill-set includes a facility in recognizing when I need fewer skills to accomplish the same or better result, a kind of virtuous circle.

Next up, another soft skill: learning when to stop working on Sunday nights in time to watch The Good Wife.