I love photography!
I really do. Photography was a hobby and an obsession before it became my profession. I chased and consumed all things photography, and at the time, I had no idea that it was going to be my only source of income for the next 25 years. On top of that, I had no idea at the time how much work was required to run a business.
I’m not trying to scare you away from making photography your career. I just want you to have an advantage as you venture into a highly competitive, over saturated, and often undervalued profession that is photography. If you think there’s no room for you and an over-saturated market means you can’t make a living, then you would be wrong. Regardless of what anyone has told you before and despite what you may feel, there is plenty of room for anyone that is good, dedicated, and professional.
There is always room in any market. The trick is to find your client.
By the way—The term “Professional” as I’m using it doesn’t have to mean full-time. Being a “Professional” is about how you carry yourself and the quality and integrity you display. You don’t have to adhere to Webster’s definition of a professional: “(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime”. If you treat the industry, yourself, others, and your clients with respect and behave professionally, you are more than fulfilling the role.
There’s room for you! You can make it in photography and yes it’s worth it. Like any pursuit, it will be difficult, and there will inevitably be trying times. However, you can make it happen. Keep in mind though—You love photography right now. It’s maybe your hobby or a serious creative outlet. However, the moment you turn it into a business the story changes, and for a lot of people, the fun element will be gone. No longer are you getting up 3 hours before sunrise, driving 2 hours and freezing the entire time for the best light because you “want to,” it’ll be because now you “have to”. If you want to keep your car and buy groceries, you need to be out shooting. Shooting is only part of the business, though. You need to market, shoot, sell, print, deliver, and follow up over and over and over and over.
You don’t have to work for free
Pretty much every major industry within photography has been diluted and in many ways de-valued by an over-saturation of people not taking care to appropriately price and behave. So many new photographers think that charging less and getting a shoot is building a business. On the contrary—That practice is only destroying their own and others financial future by setting meager expectations of price.
Concert photography is an excellent example. So many are willing to shoot for free to get experience that they fail to understand and recognize the job and profession that is Concert Photography. In doing so, this mentality is only setting themselves up for future disappointment. If you shoot for free and allow an industry to use you for free, someday you will want to be paid and they will just find someone else that will work for free as you did. Don’t get upset when this happens, that’s how they were trained. But I digress……
One interview after another, and another…
As a full-time wedding photographer, every initial meeting with a potential client is like another job interview.
Every time you want to solicit a company or a person to hire you for a shoot, you’re applying for a job. For my business, Imagery Concepts, we go through the process about 30 times a year for the last 25 years—That’s 750 successful job interviews. It’s a little stressful to say the least, but that’s precisely what’s required.
How to make the 10% count
As I was making notes for this article I was actually surprised by how quickly I came up with jobs we do for our business that don’t include any photography. Here is a list of nearly 60 activities we are responsible for that don’t require me to photograph someone:
Learning your gear – Shutter speeds – Aperture – Depth of Field – Lens Choice – Understanding light – Data Management – Color Management – Software for editing – Lab orders – Sales – Marketing – Pricing – Taxes – Insurance – Business License – Branding – Website – Bank Accounts – Business Cards – Letterhead – Advertising – Merchandising – Vendor Accounts – Payments – Social Media – Twitter – Instagram – Facebook – Pinterest – Linkedin – Email – Voicemails – Attire – Appointments – Client Meetings – Scheduling – Accounting – Phone Calls – Texts – Messages – Mistakes – Vehicles -Maintenance – Office space – Leases – Contracts – Deadlines – Vehicles – Data Plans – Subscriptions – Licenses – Permits – Memberships – Employees – Investments – Education
I tend to believe in focusing on what I’m best at. At Imagery Concepts, my wife and I work together. I’m the creative and primary shooter. She handles sales and communications (which includes social media). We work together and make decisions together. As a team, we do all jobs as one person, but it’s the specific tasks that we divide. This is key for us because I don’t want to do sales, but she loves it. I love learning new gear, software, and techniques while she would prefer to talk with our brides, vendors, and help plan the wedding day. It’s a perfect combination for us. With this system, the 10% shooting works for me.
I know you can do the same. You may not have a spouse that’s willing to do your sales, but you can find someone to help or you can build your business so that your sales process requires less of your attention, ultimately allowing you to focus on what you prefer.
How to reframe your business to your benefit:
- Step back and look at your business or the business you want to build.
- Make a list of the jobs you want to do and a list of those you don’t.
- Try to get someone to help you with the less desirable tasks and focus on the ones you like best.
That last step is crucial. It will not only help you keep your sanity, but I believe when you are not burdened with the responsibilities you dislike, you are more open to new ideas. You will have the freedom and the space to allow the best of yourself to grow and flourish. This is the ideal situation for you to innovate your business and become more marketable. If I spent all of my time doing the tasks my wife doest that I don’t prefer, I wouldn’t have time to learn and grow my photographic skills. When I have time to grow, I become a better photographer and that alone will keep me in business.
Embrace the 10%
If you can make that percentage even larger, a big high-five! Share responsibilities where you can and focus on that which you are best at while remembering that, when you’re finally shooting and all the other work has been done, you can enjoy your craft.
So why do it?
Why go through all of the challenges to do the part that I love so infrequently? It’s because I love photography. It’s because although I may only shoot a small fraction of the time compared to the work it takes to run a business, the business keeps me in photography. I may not be shooting all the time, but with everything I do, photography is at its core. I eat, breathe, and sleep photography. Photography guides my vacations and has influenced who my friends are. It’s my every day all day and for me, so worthwhile.
Do what you love, and it won’t seem like work.