Shoot For the Few, Not the Many

Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject

Dear friend,

I’ve been recently inspired by the Roman poet— Horace, who gave a lot of practical advice to other poets in “Ars Poetica” (the art of poetry):

What can we learn from poetry?

One of the practical tips he gave was to write for the few, not the many.

I think the way we can apply this to our photography — photograph for the few, not the many.

Do you like your own photos?

To start off, start off by photographing for yourself. Ask yourself the question, “Do I like my own photos?”

Once you make photos that please yourself, then seek to find a few others that will like your work. For me, that is just a few close friends, Cindy, and perhaps my mom.

For me, it means 100x more if Cindy or my close friends tell me that they like my photos, then getting thousands of likes on social media.

Shoot for your “inner circle”

It is easy to take photos to please yourself. Then after that, it is easy to photograph for your 3 best friends.

Consider these group of people your “inner-circle.” These are the people you are trying to please, and impress with your photography.

And I’ve also found, it is better to have a small (but very loyal following) than a large and mildly-interested following.

For example, from a business perspective, I sell photography workshops at a premium price. Only a few people who really trust me will sign up for the workshops — not people who are just mildly interested in what I do.

The same goes with your photography. If you make some photos that very influential people really like — they will help market and promote your work to a large audience. So in a sense, as long as you can influence 1 really-influential person, you’ve done your job as a photographer (at least in terms of marketing).

Alienate a wider audience

As my friend Charlie Kirk says, avoid to make “Ikea” photographs. These are photographs that mildly please a wide audience, but deeply impress nobody.

Don’t make generic photos for the masses. Make artful, soulful, and personal photos for the few.


Learn more: Personal Photography >