Business 101

So you bought a new camera and have started taking pictures, in other words you have gotten into this thing called photography. You start taking photos and after a while people start to notice your budding photographic skills and they mention to you that you should be doing photography full time and start your own business.

This brings up the first, of several, questions you need to ask yourself. The first question is where is the praise coming from?  And the second is should I really do this full time? The answers to both of these questions require some deep thought and some serious critiquing of both your work and yourself.

Let’s look at the first question; where is the praise coming from? It’s good that your friends and family like your photography and that they are also encouraging your art development; but we must take their praise for what it is, their opinion. Almost everyone has an opinion when it comes to art. When the praise for your photography is coming from photographers with 50 years of experience then you really have something. Before even thinking of starting a photography business you should get a real assessment of your photography from a professional photographer; someone who knows what fine art and good photography should look like.

On to the second question; should I really do this full time? The answer to this question is simple, should you do photography full time? No. The reason I say no is because in today’s market everyone with a cell phone thinks of themselves as a photographer. Digital photography has made it possible for anyone to get a good camera and start taking pictures. Because technology has made it possible for anyone to get a good exposure there needs to be something that sets you apart to make fine art photographs? This is where the assessment of the professional photographer comes in.

Now the problem with those two questions above is that most people think about those questions and ignore the business questions which are of equal importance. Now let’s be clear the business man and the photographer are two separate people, both roles can be played by the same person but they must be separate. I have seen it several times, photographers will post situations on Facebook; situations like they were contracted for a job and during the job the client requested additional services and the photographer didn’t know how to respond. The response to the previous situation is simple; this is where the photographer steps back and the businessman steps forward and tells the client that yes the photographer can provide the additional service; however, those additional services will come at an additional cost. Is this response going to make the client happy, probably not. You must remember that you are running a business and that your goal is to make money.

Now let’s say that you have decided to start your photography business; there is another set of questions and concerns that must be addressed. The first concern is a website; a good web site is a must; however, a good web site is not going to be cheap. To set yourself apart from the masses you need your own website, don’t rely on Facebook; you should never have to login to see an artist’s portfolio. Charles J Lewis said “If you can’t tell a prospect what it is that’s unique and special about you then there’s only one thing that’s going to determine where she goes for her photography – price.” (Lewis, Charles J., What Makes You Unique?, Professional Photographer January 2004, pages 18 & 19). Once again we must set ourselves apart from the masses that are relying on Facebook for their photography website, a good website is one way to do that.

Charles J Lewis further said “We’re talking about producing good work, and then helping people make the decision to hire you over all the other photographers in your market area, even though you aren’t the least expensive photographer in town.” (Lewis, Charles J., What Makes You Unique?, Professional Photographer January 2004, pages 18 & 19). Look at this statement, first we need to produce good work and then we can help people make the decision to hire you. This goes back to getting an honest opinion of your work from someone that knows what good photography looks like.

So you have made it this far; you have some talent, you have started your business, and you have something to set you apart from the masses; on to the next step. What is the next step you ask; why it is branding. “It’s vital to your success that you know exactly why someone should select you over all the other photographers in your area. And then it’s vital that you talk about these unique factors to all your prospects – in all your marketing, your phone conversations, and in person.” (Lewis, Charles J., What Makes You Unique?, Professional Photographer January 2004, pages 18 & 19). All of your communication needs to send the same messages. This does not mean that you read from a script, it does mean that you have a consistent message.

So to recap, remember “Here are the most important questions of your photography life…. What’s unique about you? Why should someone hire you, over all the other photographers in your area?” (Lewis, Charles J., What Makes You Unique?, Professional Photographer January 2004, pages 18 & 19).


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