Thursday, April 22, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

Whether you subscribe to Charles Darwin's theories or not, you've no doubt heard of him and his ideas.

One of the best-known of Darwin's theories is "Natural Selection." In a nutshell, natural selection says that species who do the best job of adapting to their environments have the best shot at surviving.

Some people attribute the term, "survival of the fittest," to Darwin. Sorry. Darwin didn't coin that term. Herbert Spencer, a philosopher, coined it. Interestingly, Spencer was writing about economics when he came up with his four-word, oft-quoted, phrase. Spencer did, however, read Darwin's theories on natural selection and, it is said, was heavily influenced by them. Hence, Herbert Spencer's term, "survival of the fittest," was born.

I don't need to tell anyone the world of photography has dramatically changed in the last few years. Today, the environment photographers find themselves in is, in many ways, unlike any we've seen in a very, very long time, if ever.

First off, within many photographic environments, there exists more competition than ever before. Way more!

Darwin recognized the impact of competition between individuals of a single species. (Yes. Photographers are a unique species. Leastwise, from my POV.) Darwin theorized that, within a given population, the individual with, for example, the sharper beak, the longer horn, or the brighter feather might have a better chance to survive and reproduce than other individuals.

What do feathers, horns, and beaks have to do with photographers?

Perhaps not much, unless you're a nature photographer.

Or, possibly, a lot.

Brighter feathers can be related to standing out from the crowd with one's work. If you're shooting stuff that looks the same as much of what everyone else is shooting, there might be less chance your work will attract mates... I mean clients. Sure, sometimes clients expect results that look like what everyone else is shooting. But when it comes to attracting new clients, it's the work that resembles bright feathers, not dull, that often scores new gigs.

When I think of longer horns, I'm not thinking that shooters with really long, white, lenses are better able to survive. (Again, unless you're a nature photographer. Sports photographers too!) I am thinking that, with all the competition, longer horns relates to greater ferocity. In today's world of photography, being fierce will take you a long way.

Sharper beaks might be analogous to better skills and tools. Good tools, e.g., cameras, glass, lighting gear, and more, give many photographers an edge when competing in their photo environments. Whether those environments are wedding and event photography, nature and sports, commercial, editorial, or glamour, the right tools for the job will take you further. Skills are self-explanatory. Honing ones skills, like sharpening ones beak, will give most any photographer an advantage.

So if you're thinking it's getting more and more difficult to survive in today competitive photography world. (Something I think about constantly.) Maybe it's time to sharpen your beaks, grow those horns out, flap your wings and puff your chest with the brightest feathers you can make. Doing so might not automatically prove Darwin's theory... then again, it might. It might even help make you a buck or two.

I think Darwin would agree, the two pretty girls at the top, Charmane and Kita, wouldn't have much trouble surviving in many human populations and environments.


Tazmania said...

Survival of the fittest does not always mean survival of the best.

An example is large game. Hunters go after the best and leave the average and below average behind.

jimmyd said...


That's kind of my point. Think of clients as hunters. Some of my most rewarding clients were ones who specifically hunted me. I'm not saying I'm the best, far from it, but in the eyes of those particular hunters/clients, I was the best for them. Leastwise, that's what they thought.

Pawel Niewiadomski said...

@Tazmania: there's nothing "best" in the nature. Best is only a play on circumstances ;-)

@Jimmy: awesome analogy. I don't know how you come up with things like that. Great observer! :-)

Von said...

another excellent post.

John said...

I think Pawel has the right idea. The "best" adaptation may NOT be the one we think is best. The species that succeeds is the one that reproduces most effectively.
But I agree about needing to adapt and change with the times.