We live in a world where everyone carries a camera. Images are so plentiful that if they cost anything at all they can be purchased online for a few dollars. It seems that the law of supply and demand would keep images cheap.
So how on earth did Peter Lik manage to sell one image for $6.5 million?
Well you have to know Peter Lik to understand that. I have had the pleasure of being friends with him for more than 20 years, starting right back when he was working from home, shooting pretty much anything that he could get paid for. And as always there is much more to the man than the headlines suggest.
This is what sets him apart from others:
1. He is the hardest working man I have ever met.
A lot of people say they work hard, but Peter takes that to a whole new level. When I first met him he was a 20 hour a day man. He was either on site taking shots, or sorting them, selling them or promoting them. He worked harder than anyone I have met and he always hustling to make a deal.
2. He always backed himself absolutely.
Ten years ago, Peter made his boldest move. He packed up his camera gear and headed to Las Vegas. He opened a gallery in the revamped Caesars Palace, a bold, expensive and risky manoeuvre, that just so happened to pay off big time. But he was always bold, thinking big, making incredible galleries with incredible fit outs and investing every cent he made back into the business--for many years. Underlying it all was an absolute and utter sense of believing in himself, even in the tough times.
3. He knows his market incredibly well.
People can argue about the aesthetic value of an image, is it art or isn't it? None of that ever bothered Peter. He had an incredible eye for what people were prepared to pay for, not just what they would admire or say nice things about. He could do this with coffee table books, prints, even furniture and he shot what sold. There is a great line "knowing your market is the key to capturing it" and Peter knows his market better than most.
4. He values himself and his work and he isn't afraid to charge for it.
The fact that he sold one image for $6.5 million should prove this. But this is not an isolated transaction. Peter has sold other images for six and seven figures on a regular basis. This just happens to be the highest paid one to date and no doubt he will break this record at some stage soon. One of the biggest issues with entrepreneurs is that they simply don't charge enough for what they do because they lack confidence.
5. He has stayed true to his course and he continues to strive to master his craft.
Peter has been a landscape photographer for decades. He has simply tried to take the shots that others haven't, or redo the classics and make them better. Every year he takes his photography to a new level, as he goes to greater lengths to get the perfect image and he pushes himself harder and harder. Not many people would know that he almost died in a helicopter crash on a shoot in Northern Australia. That would have been enough to turn most people off. Not Peter--it pushed him forward, fired him up to push more boundaries. Like most 'one percenters', the elite in their space, he is absolutely and totally driven to keep getting better.
6. He has avoided listening to the haters.
Anyone who is great at what they do attracts those who snipe at the sidelines (those who are generally not very good at anything but experts in finding fault in others). In the creative world of photography and art, there have been and there continue to be plenty of people who say there are better photographers than Peter, or his work is not art, but none of them have sold an image for $6.5 million. To be successful for any period of time you have to learn to block the negativity that sadly comes with having a high profile.
7. He knows how to leverage his past success and past failures.
Not everything Peter has done has been a success. He's the first to admit his failings, but like most successful entrepreneurs, when he gets it wrong, he learns from his mistakes, adjusts his plan and pushes forward. At the same time, he knows that success begets success, so he is not afraid to promote himself and his success. The time for modesty is long gone in the cluttered, distracted world that we live in. Sitting back and waiting to be found tends to result in a long wait, leading to disappointment.
Peter should inspire all of us who want to be extraordinary at what we do, no matter how 'tough' the market may be, or how competitive it is.