The World's Most Helpful Photographer

09th October 2010
In: News
I’ve been worrying about three things recently – including the meaning of life! Hey, I’m allowed a midlife crisis, just like everyone else. I believe I have one solution that solves all three of my troubles – including the meaning of life (well mine anyway!).

Me contemplating the meaning of life



The problems
Firstly (and least importantly) I’m currently breaking one of my own rules. Let me explain. One great acid test to check if you have a good business model is to explain the benefits of your service (or product) in one sentence. This is far from easy with my business. If you’ve taken a good look around my website you probably noticed I do a whole raft of different things:

- Wedding and portrait photography
- Travel photography and travel writing
- Wildlife photography
- Corporate photography
- Copywriting
- Photography training
- I provide information about photography and photography marketing
- I even provide information on the best places to spot wildlife in the UK.

It’s pretty diverse, so it’s hard to sum it all up in one sentence. This means visitors to my website may get a rather confused message because each of my services dilutes the others.

I'm concerned my message is confusing!



Consequently this has made me worry that I have a weak brand image – who am I? How can I tie this all together? I love all elements of my work and don’t want to discard any of my business streams. What to do?

The third and final thing I’ve been worrying about is a more common concern, but the biggest of the three, by some distance. That’s right, the meaning of life! Believe it or not I really think I’ve cracked it. Actually, I could more accurately describe it as the purpose or goal in life. You may have read that Warren Buffet – one of the world’s richest men – has vowed to give away 99% of his fortune to philanthropic causes. Bill Gates has set up “the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world.” Two men who have it all and now want to give it back. For many people the only way to ultimately feel good is to do things for others. It feeds the soul.

So, I have a business that’s hard to describe, a weak brand image, a lack of direction and it’s all a bit soulless. Big problems!

The solution



I’m claiming the title of ‘The World’s Most Helpful Photographer.’ I love to help, I hate letting people down and I’m eager to please. It’s who I am. I’ve actually tried to fight against those values from time to time. I thought you had to be tough to be a successful. Fortunately it’s not necessary because I’m completely incapable of being a hard *rse anyway. Collaborating, affiliating, charming, helping, servicing and supporting will often get you a lot further than shouting, shafting wheeling, dealing and screwing.

In photography, as in life, just be true to yourself and who you are. That way you’re working to your strengths and you’re working with nature.

Branding myself as the World’s most helpful photographer achieves a lot of goals:

- It gives purpose and direction for me, my photography and my business
- It will be a constant reminder to me to make a positive impact, any way I can
- It makes me feel good and hopefully the people I help too
- And if I’m being completely transparent, it sums up my service well and will help create a stronger brand for me.

Code of ethics
It’s all very well claiming to be the world’s most helpful photographer; I need to start proving it. That’s the beauty of the idea – now I’m forced to be a better person.

I solemnly swear to do more of this kind of stuff (shot taken at a Kenyan orphanage my wife and I visited several years ago).





To really commit to this I need a code of ethics that extends far beyond offering a great service to customers. Just like the five pillars of Islam and the Ten Commandments I need to etch out the cornerstones of my philosophy. I have three pillars so far - here are my first thoughts…

Charity



My helpful philosophy has to extend far beyond my business. I already give some of my time to charities and give 2.5% of my earnings (on top of the usual sponsorships etc.) to charity, but I want to offer more time and more money. The more I earn the more I’ll commit to give away.

I also think it would be more meaningful to customers if they could see exactly how much money goes to charity depending on what service they are using. For example, if someone buys a wedding service then I could commit to giving £50 to charity while a family portrait order may yield £7.50. If customers want to request a charity then that’s fine too.

I’m also looking to undertake a challenge for charity. One thought that crossed my mind is walking the length of the country and offering my free photography and copywriting services to different charities in different cities as I travel. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

Environmental
The environment needs all the help it can get right now and the World’s Most Helpful Photographer should be doing more than most people. There are lots more things I need to do to be a greener person:

- I want a greener car
- I’ll start offsetting my travel emissions
- I’ll scrutinise my food shopping more closely. No-one in the UK should be buying South American Apples or bottled water from Fiji. Of course I don’t buy those things anyway, but I’m sure lots of unsuitable products do slip under my radar.
- I need to buy more Fair Trade products. I’m sure I must buy lots of products and services from companies with questionable morals. I know I could choose a more ethical bank for a start.
- Again, if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

Digger chopping down Malaysian rainforest


Clearly this is a work in progress but long journeys start with a single step. Forgive me for making today’s blog far more self absorbed than usual, but hopefully it will have got you thinking and sparked some ideas you can benefit from. Are you looking for inspiration in your photography and in life, then please feel free to use this blog as a forum to share your thoughts and ask for feedback from me and others. The World’s most helpful photographer is here to help you find success and happiness and find your own personal meaning of life.

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