The street photography secret ok Coke and Pepsi

I am safe to assume everyone knows about Coke and Pepsi and more importantly their rivalry. In a bid to overtake Coke, Pepsi did something in 1975 that would result in the biggest blunder in Marketing history…..and I believe there's a golden nugget of wisdom there too for photographers.


You know Apple right? iMac, iphone, iWhatever, it's CEO John Sculley (before Steve Jobs's return) previously worked for Pepsi, and he is mainly credited for the “Pepsi challenge”. You probably heard of it, Pepsi and Coke were presented to tasters with their label and surprisingly, people chose Pepsi over Coke a majority of the time. The campaign was a runaway success, but to respond to the campaign Coke made what is considered the biggest marketing blunder in history: it introduced the New Coke.


Everyone HATED it. They changed the recipe so that it could beat Pepsi in blind taste test and indeed it did,  but in actuality what it also did was alienate their core people: Coke drinkers.


Photography and Polarization

So, what does that mean for photographers? Simple: Embrace polarisation and don't try to be like Coke. According to the dictionary, the definition is to “cause people in a group to have opposing opinions”. I like to think that it's a bit like magnets, they are fun aren't they? If you drop a magnet in the middle of pieces of metal, depending on the polarity of the magnet some pieces will be attracted to the it and other pieces will be repelled by it. There's nothing you can do about this, it's a law of physics.


No, don't worry this is not physics class! it has to do with photography. Photographically speaking, if you show your work to multiple people it will attract some and repel some. And just like polar magnetism is a law of physics, I believe that polarization is also a law of photography.


Every shot you make is polarizing, some people will like it, some won't and there's nothing you can possibly do about it. Well… Actually…there is…you could try pleasing those who didn't like your work by changing your work, but just like Coke did, you will only end up repelling those you attracted in the first place. Likewise, keeping the magnet analogy in mind, if your turn the magnet around, it will attract the pieces of metal it repelled and repel those it attracted in the first place.


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It's all about focusing on your crowd as a photographer and keeping them in mind. If you shoot for your family, if they like it it's all that matters. If you shoot for clients, them being happy with their shots is all that matters. I think a lot of time, we try to secretly please other photographers rather than our intended group.  Sometimes I forget about that and I am surprised when a client just drools over my shots….I have to remind myself that I was shooting for them, who cares if the shots are not the pentacle of photography?


If you ever uploaded one image, just one online, you already polarized everyone: some like it, some don't. The thing to do is to simply aggreagate and cater to all that love your work. You probably already do so without thinking about it that way, they are the ones who give you a “Like” or a “+1”. These are the people who like your work, if they didn't they wouldn't have clicked on your page.


These are the ones who will throw you a bone when you have a book out or are most likely to buy a print from you. I really don't like HDR, what's an HDR photographer to do? Either continue doing what he or she likes and a bunch of others like….or give up the HDR style to please me and others who don't like HDR. The answer is pretty straightforward, continue focusing on those who like HDR!



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I think photography is about getting better than you were yesterday, but also realizing that since photography deals in the world of taste, it is by nature polarizing. I personally like the color Green, the not-technically-a-color Black, I also like Onions, Peppers, Jeans, Boots, etc. For each of my tastes you probably have a different taste and that's ok. Some photography like Nature photography is nice but sure ain't my cup of tea, and that's ok too.


Just to clarify, I'm not saying that if your images are not that great forget about the people who don't like it, there's always room for improvement, but more in the sense that whatever conscious path your chose in your photography from what gendre you want to focus on to developing your style, it will be polarizing.


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So go out there and show your work, it's a bit like throwing a net and see what sticks, those people who like it are the one who will end up buying a piece or two from you, not the ones who don't really care about your work. There's nothing to do besides realizing that polarization is a law, some people just won't like your work, and while it is tempting to cater to those folks, thinking of the New Coke pretty can hopefully safeguard you from that blunder. Let me know what you think of this idea in the comments below! Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.


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7 thoughts on “The street photography secret ok Coke and Pepsi”

  1. Hey Olivier.

    Thanks for this post. I am afraid that I have fallen into that trap several times during my journey as a photographer. Everyone wants their photos to be loved by everyone. But recently I had a dear friend back in Canada that sent me an email and told me “Kev, your pictures are really great, but could you post some nice landscape or flower pictures because your photos of destitute, homeless down and outers and those people in Ecuador you keep shooting, are just depressing” So because I value her friendship, I did just that and posted some “pretty” pictures. It didn’t kill me to do it and amazingly I received more accolades about those than any of my “depressing, real life, in your face photos. I could have easily changed my outlook to please those critics, but I didn’t because that’s not ME. So I have polarized those folks and I feel great about what I love shooting. Thanks buddy!!

  2. I am ok with both, you like or dislike my work – perfect. Of course I prefer that you like it, but failing that anything is better than you not noticing it! Sometimes you can hear why it is not liked only to discover they don’t like it for the very reason you took it; it still moved them but not in a way they like to be moved.

    Believe me, a shot not getting noticed (…meh) is horrid, way worse than it not being liked.

  3. Very helpful article, thank you so much. Its funny how you always discuss the very thing I’m currently preoccupied by and offer such encouragement. Actually ,I think Ive been really lucky that many people have really liked my work and I haven’t had much negative feedback from my work. You shpuld take crticism as constructive but not necessarily agree with it. I was told by a well known Magnum photographer after looking at my portfolio that he was only interested in looking at and comenting on medium format work. As at the time I was experimenting (very successfully) with a Fuji finepix compact camera and doing great things with it, to have my work dismissed put right was a blow but said more about him than my work. I am always the humble in the presence of photographers I greatly admire and would always take on board comments designed to improve my work but this one I chose to swerve round/ ignore!

    1. Well they are fallible people too just like us! I think we should have all the advice we can get and then deliberately chose the path that we want cuz at the end of the day it our work =)

  4. I fell into that trap thoughout my long career as a artist /sculptor and now doing the same thing with my photography .Your article has made me realize this so will try to amend my way .thanks

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