A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon down in Leatherhead at the headquarters of Callaway Golf to photograph some competition winners from Golf Monthly. The prize they’d won was to have a putter custom fitted, and then made up and delivered to them. Custom fitting is really starting to catch on in golf, as serious players are realising that there is so much variety in each person’s swing that buying a standard club off the shelf may well be handicapping their game. Having a set of clubs that are fitted for the way you play will obviously improve your game, and some fitters boast it can take as many as 10 shots off your handicap. I’m not a golfer, but I understand this is a good thing!
The process of custom fitting involves a combination of technology and hands-on analysis by the custom fitter, and the balance between these two varies from fitter to fitter and brand to brand. Some are very heavily reliant on their clever radar launch monitors that tell them how far the ball has travelled, along with spin, launch speed and stacks of other info. Others place much more emphasis on the personal side, spending longer analysing a players swing, and even building in lessons as well (many fitters are qualified golf pro’s, and have come into it from this background.)
What occurred to me, having shot this process many times in the past 3 years, is that even though Golf is quite a big industry, the job title “golf club custom fitter” is hardly a recognisable, commonplace career, and as such there is no accepted stereotype of how one should behave. If we think of Doctors, Policemen, Pilots, Teachers and any number of job titles, an instant image (good, or bad) pops into our heads, and we judge our experiences of those people against these long held stereotypes. The first time I shot one of these fitting sessions, it occurred to me that the guy doing the fitting was free to choose how he provided his services, and what impression people were left with of the custom fitting experience. There’s no fixed template for how a fitter should behave, although it should be obvious that many of the key skills in any job (good interpersonal skills, communication, ability to create an instant rapport) will be as useful here as they will anywhere else.
Now, what has any of this got to do with photography, I hear you cry? Well, the parallel should be obvious – who’s to say what a “photographer” should be like, and how they should behave? Since the vast majority of photographers are self employed, and answer to no line manager/supervisor or similar figure it’s up to you how you want to brand yourself and portray yourself. I realise we’ve had a bit more presence in the media over the years, from Blow Up and Peeping Tom, to Spiderman’s alter ego than have Custom Fitters, but that doesn’t mean our image is set in stone. The opportunity is most definitely there to mould your business in a form you choose, and bring as much of your personality to bear on it as you wish. It’s your call whether you want to be a cold, technical still-life meister, who’s respected for your laser-like clarity and ability, or a sensitive, egotistical fashionista whose creative energy is matched only by their temper tantrums. Just remember that your role and your public image isn’t set in stone, and be aware of what a large role it plays in getting (and keeping) you business!