Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve heard this word an awful lot lately. I’m in Palm Springs, CA attending an ASMP National Board meeting. Our meeting has coincided with the timing of the Palm Springs Photo Festival, where dozens of photography influencers, buyers and makers of contemporary photography gather. Almost every conversation I’ve had in the last couple of days have been about “value”.

Most successful photographers or business people in general, would probably define “value”in monetary terms. To be successful, one has to sell the “value” of what they do, and how that translates to real dollars for a potential client. Now, in my opinion, to be good at any sales you have to either really believe in your product or be a very good actor – or both. My point is that to sell your “value” you have to start by first valuing yourself.

There have been days when I’ve beat myself up by allowing my self to feel “devalued” by how someone else acts toward me – it could be a client, a colleague, a relative, a friend – any human with an ego. I try to remind myself that my “value” is in staying true to myself, because that is what makes me unique and not just a commodity. There’s so many workshops and consultants these days teaching “how to’s” – from using gear, to selling photos, making a movie, branding yourself and on and on and on. I think we are all so overwhelmed at times that we don’t even remember who we really are.

At the end of the day your value is in how you perceive yourself and a strong sense of self has to come through if you want to sell your “value” to someone else. That sense of self usually comes from “doing”. When you are out there “doing”, you’re creating opportunity to happen. That’s something I am passionate about – the possibilities and the wonderment in that. When that passion comes through in your interactions with others – it’s positive energy that people can feel and most people are attracted to positive forces.

I must warn you though, that there are many people out there who will try to take advantage of someone who so passionate about what they do – and usually the human ego is involved. That’s ok, because when you determine your value and stop letting others determine it for you, it becomes much easier to deal with people who get gratification in undermining others.

There’s a wonderful scene in an old movie where Spencer Tracy plays Thomas Edison. Tracy (Edison) is in the office of a potential buyer of one of his inventions. (I’m using arbitrary figures to tell the story) The potential buyer was clearly an egotistical miserable guy and he throws out a price of let’s say $10,000 to Edison in a condescending way. Edison stands there speechless – literally speechless and the “buyer” begrudgingly says – “OK, $20,000” and Edison remains speechless. This goes on until the “negotiation” gets up to $50,000 and Edison finally manages to say, “OK” and they shake hands. The investor starts laughing in Edison’s face and shouts out “I was prepared to go to $100,000” and continues to laugh. Edison turns around as he is walking out the door and says, “I was prepared to accept $1,000”.

What does that say about value?

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