11 Myths About Running A Photography Business

Dusk Thoughts

I can vividly remember the first day I opened my photography business. I had spent weeks getting everything in order, from my official business license to my website to my own, handmade personal logo. I had all my release forms printed out, a folder to keep them organized and a calendar all laid out, complete with color coded markers I would use for each different session I would (hopefully) be booking in the near future.

Oh yeah…I was fancy.

I was also naive. I took advice from anywhere I could get it, regardless of the source. Fellow photographers, internet business articles and Facebook photography groups were my best source of information, and honestly, it was quite a mixed bag. There was a lot of information that was complete (pardon my french) bullshit, and I wish for the life of me there was a way to go back and talk some sense into my early photographer self. However, since I’m still not the proud owner of my very own, personal time-machine, I figured spilling the beans to the rest of you might be just as productive.

Myth #1: The Photography Market is Over-Saturated – There’s No Room For You

I heard this little tidbit countless times during my first year as a photographer: that I better have a backup plan, that I shouldn’t invest too much money into my business because it was only a matter of time before I realized it was doomed for failure.

Here’s the thing – photography is an over-saturated market – with mediocre photographers. There are plenty of people out there with cameras calling themselves “photographers” that shoot on auto and have no idea what the hell “ISO” and “DOF” even stand for. And that’s okay! Those people aren’t your competition.

Your competition is the photographer that is doing exactly the same business model as you are, which (as you’ll read in the next point) probably isn’t happening. I’ll give you an example:

There are hundreds of professional photographers in my town, but I’d say the number of truly, truly exceptional ones are under 20. Of these, they all specialize in different areas. I know of maybe three utterly fantastic weddings photographers, two unbelievably talented newborn photographers, a couple boudoir specialists, a few senior photo pros, one fashion shooter, a couple insanely talented photojournalists and one unbelievable landscape/interior photographer. Then there is me who shoots fine art. There is plenty of room for all of us. Which brings me to Myth #2…

Myth #2: Fellow Photographers Are Your Worst Enemies

For semantic’s sake, I put this as the second myth, but really it should be #1, hands down. Your fellow photographers aren’t your competition – they’re your best allies! Let me explain:

Wedding photographers, for example, can only shoot one wedding a day (and many times, only one wedding per weekend), so what happens when someone calls for a day they’ve already booked? They refer out to other wedding photographers! As a fellow wedding shooter it’s in your best interest to have a fantastic working relationship with every other wedding photographer in town. If they can’t do the job, you’re first on their referral list.

Plus, with everyone specializing in so many things, it only makes sense to work together. Many wedding photographers aren’t interesting in shooting newborn babies, but you can bet a year after a couple gets married the first one they’re going to call as soon as they’re expecting is their wedding photographer. So refer to your favorite newborn place, and in turn they’ll refer weddings to you. Why wouldn’t they? A wedding sent to you is a guaranteed client the following year!

In addition, getting to know your fellow photographers also give you the chance to collaborate with something amazing. The photographers in Billings are now some of my closest friends and I would be miles behind in business if I hadn’t gotten to know them. Besides, who are you going to share nerdy photographer humor with? Because contrary to what you might think, your cat is not laughing at your random jokes about shutter speed and F-stop.

Myth #3: You Can Finally Get Out From Behind That Computer

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Sorry folks, but not quite. As a fine art photographer, the vast majority of my time is spend sitting behind a computer screen, editing individual pixels one after the other, but it’s similar with others in the business as well. The time you spend shooting is actually a very, very small percentage of how you’ll spend your time, and most of it will be on the computer. Editing, marketing, submitting content for publishing, writing blog posts, filing, accounting, and a thousand other things I can’t think of right now because I’m in the middle of Myth #4.

Myth #4: Owning Your Own Business Means Making Your Own Hours

Oh…honey. Owning your own business means working all hours. See this is where a photography business has the exact same quality as every other small business that has ever been in existence – you’ll work far more than 40 hours/week. It takes literally every ounce of time you have to get your business off it’s feet and moving in the right direction.

Myth #5: Your Photographs Sell Themselves

Oh dear God no they don’t. I admit it’s very difficult to sell in the beginning, especially since you’re fully aware of your lack of experience in the photography arena. If you’ve only been a professional photographer for three weeks it can be very difficult to convince a client they should hire you without sounding like you’re begging. But sales is all part of the game and the sooner you learn to sell yourself, the better.

Myth #6: A Successful Photographer Makes a Lot of Money

A successful photographer makes enough to support themselves as a photographer. That is all.

Myth #7: You Should Specialize. Immediately.

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Woah, calm down there. Photography is such a vast field, it takes a while to find out what you’re truly passionate about. I’ve gone from portraits, to night photography, to weddings, to pets, to fashion to fine art and loved every one of those genres…for a while. Then I moved on to something else.

Don’t tie yourself down in the beginning. Feel completely free to branch out among other areas of photography. Try a boudoir shoot or tag along for a wedding. Attend a fine art photography workshop (hint hint: here’s an awesome one coming up soon) or take on a couple senior clients to see if that’s something you’d be interested in.

Myth #8: “Natural Light Photography” Is A Thing

Calling yourself a “Natural Light Photographer” simply means you don’t know the first thing about alternative lighting. Don’t get me wrong, natural light is fantastic (it’s definitely my preferred method of shooting), but you can’t use it as a crutch for not learning how to use proper equipment. Intern at a studio and banish this phrase from your website.

Myth #9: It’s All About The Gear

You know the fastest way a photographer breaks someone of this thought? As soon as someone comments on how amazing our camera must be to take such awesome pictures, we hand it to them and let them snap a few on their own. Everything changes after that.

Because it’s not about the equipment you have, it’s about whether or not you know how to use it. I’ve seen photographers with incredibly expensive gear take some downright embarrassingly bad photos, while witnessing other photographers take spectacular photos on their iPhones. Don’t run out and throw a bunch of money at the newest thing – it’s better to have something modest and then spend your money learning how to properly use it before moving on to bigger and better equipment.

Myth #10: You Can Do Every Aspect Of Your Business By Yourself

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when a friend tells you they’re saving money by having their cousin photograph their wedding? Yeah, that’s the same feeling every accountant in the world gets when they hear you’re saving money by doing your own taxes. Certain things (like taxes and photographing someone’s wedding) should be left to the pros.

Myth #11: You Will Eventually Get Sick of Photography

I’m not going to lie – life as a photographer is tough, hectic and never seems to end, but here’s another secret – I love every second of it. In fact, the reason my work/free time lines are so blurred is because the first thing I want to do when I have some free time is shoot!

Think about it this way: I recently had a conversation with a friend about retiring. She said she’d happily retire ASAP while I told her I didn’t think I’d ever retire. She stared at me with wide eyes until I asked her what she would do with her time off and she replied with, “Photography.”

Exactly :).

RoughDraft

 

Jenna has recently returned from a month long stint in New York working with fashion photographer, Lindsay Adler (aren’t we jealous?!) To learn more about Jenna and her work, visit her website.

jennamartinphoto@gmail.com

 

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Isabella’s rebellion toward redefining beauty

Interview with Ella Photography

580150_10152677602665046_318687309_nMontreal has its share of photographers, but none like Isabella of Ella Photography. She believes that “no matter who you are and what you look like, you ARE beautiful”. She has been running her wedding and lifestyle photography business, Ella Photography, for a number of years now which she started after deciding that the fashion world contributed to a broken view of beauty. Fashion is fickle, and its images it promoted to young girls, such as her niece, gnawed on her conscience to the point where she realized she was part of the problem. “So I quit”, Ella recounted.

In a rebellious spirit, Isabella launched her photography business offering wedding packages and expanding into the growing market of boudoir photography. Boudoir photography is more elegant, sensual and quite intimate in comparison to weddings. Isabella believes that she captures what is already there. Her goal is to prove to her clients that “they are awesome just the way they are, right now”. By making her clients feel comfortable and “real” in front of the camera, the images could completely change their own perspective of “Beautiful”. Two years into her photography business, she was diagnosed with a thyroid condition that affected her eyes and challenged her personal view of beauty. The journey to her self rediscovery was challenging but made the belief in her cause even stronger. She understands the value of her company’s philosophy in making her clients look and FEEL beautiful.

For Isabella, photography was something she just did ever since she was a child. She hadn’t thought of photography as a career until one day, in her marketing job, she was given the opportunity to shoot fashion. Since then, she evolved and made it her mission to make the world a better place.

Her photographic style focuses on redefining the term “beautiful” to her clients and touches on emotions. “I like photographs that speak to the viewer, photos that evoke emotion”, she says. She makes her clients feel beautiful and she captures couples on their most beautiful day, their wedding day. With two lovable dogs and great clients, she says she wouldn’t change anything in her life right now.

Isabella says she landed in photography by fluke, but we all know effort and work was involved.  Coming from a marketing background she starts off with key advice, “Word of mouth is the best marketing strategy”.  With that said she also believes you must be genuine and provide great customer service so that people remember you and talk about you. Isabella doesn’t believe in competition amongst other photographers, because there is a client for every kind of photographer.

To keep the business side running smoothly, an accountant is the first thing you need to find. They can help you set up your systems, give you tips on managing money, and keep all the compliance work such as business filing, registrations, income tax filings up-to-date and orderly, helping you avoid penalties or fines for non-compliance.

Starting any business is challenging. She adds, “If you want something to happen, you will stop at nothing to make it work. Money should never be an issue. When starting out, everyone feels just as lost as you”. The best advice for that, she says is “Don’t give up!”.

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A Photographers Roadmap in 10 Steps

For anyone who has ever embarked on the road toward their dreams, the biggest question that comes to mind is, “How?”. How will I learn what I need to be good? How will I manage to make money? How will I get started? How will I get financing? How will I tell my boss I quit? How will my family take it?

Mystery

The road to success is easy and there are innumerable number of books, videos, articles, classes, coaches, retreats etc. that can give you a proven system that will get you to achieve your goals. The system is not the mystery. The actions are not the mystery. The information you need is not a mystery. What confounds people most is figuring what works best for them given some of the bad habits we all have. Procrastination, fear of failure and success, negative self-talk, doubt, and loneliness rear their ugly heads when we really want to move ahead. It’s not the lack of any one thing or cluelessness to the system or the steps to success that impede us but rather our own self-believing limitations. Much can be written about our self-serving beliefs but you can rather read that on all the other pop-psychology and motivational sites.

Almas imageHere I thought I’d introduce you to Eric Almas, Photographer. Eric, originally from Norway came to the US to study photography where he received accolades in his graduating year and onward. He is prolific in his imagery and shares his knowledge as any great teacher can.

I discovered Eric and his work in my own Photoshop class. In this video he gives us a short list of 10 steps to becoming a photographer. Now, as top 10 lists go, this one has some serious punch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDOKTnHvJW0

You should really watch the 5 minute video. Take a page out and draw a line down the center. Take notes from the video on one side and then outline your plan, ideas and actions to achieve these steps. Like I said the system is not a mystery, the information is not a mystery. Do it and you will at least move ahead a little bit.

Here are the headings of the 10 steps but you get more out of it if you watch.

1. Define your visual identity

2. See and understand light

3. Seek a mentor

4. Create images, don’t take images

5. Make an emotional and visual connection

6. Set goals and pursue them with tenacity

7. Shoot to exercise your creative muscle

8. Use Photoshop to infuse personality

9. Market to your audience

10. Don’t give up your dream.

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You are a Pie….wholly delicious

By Susanna Oreskovic

Welcome to Creative Collisions MTL and welcome to 2014. In this first post, I wanted to give you a backgrounder on how this blog came about and what you can expect to find here. You can find more about me on the What’s this all about page.

How this blog came to be:

Over time I have come to realize that many people are either creative, or want to be more creative. The ones we call talented are those that can successfully balance their creative expressions and channel it into a means to make some money, that is, make a business of it.

Just as much as I believe that every single person is creative (more on this later) I also believe that pegging ourselves as Right Brain or Left Brain types is a dumbing-down simplification that fills headlines pages on the internet.

Creative Collisions MTL came to me at a time when I was looking to find ways to share my business knowledge and develop my creative expression, primarily through photography. From others I sensed there was some mystique about knowing the sides of a ledger just as much as there was, for me, a sense of mystique about knowing how the creative and art world worked.

A taste of what can you expect to find here:

PieI love analogies and baked goods, so today I will start with Pie. You are a Pie! You are not a piece of pie but a whole pie, wholly delicious.

With all this talk about Left brain and Right brain we might think we are doomed to always be flawed. Never feeling good enough on the left brain side to think we can handle the analytical, pragmatic and sometimes routine side of business or never feeling good enough on the right brain side to think we can be the expressive artist or creative genius that we feel deep inside.

My mission is to debunk this myth, to prove that we all operate from a whole brain perspective, that you can learn ways to become more creative or imaginative or decisive or logical or any number of things. There is no flaw in you or the type of brain you think you operate by because like a pie, you are wholly delicious, talented, organized….etc.

The way to pie-dom

In showing you the way to being creative and business minded Creative Collisions MTL will bring to you the inside workings of business minded artists in a series of interviews. This takes some footwork so we are actively seeking people who would like to contribute some time and energy. You will reap benefits far greater than what you contribute. Make sure you go to the Contact us page to let us know your interest regardless of where you live.

We will also bring you teachable tidbits that you can use to become more creative, more business minded, more innovative….just more great information that you can use to move you toward your own goals and success. This may look like ways to get unstuck, or how to manage your workflow, or the dreaded interruptions we incessantly face every day. Living life is a challenge but living your best life doesn’t have to be. Stick with us and you may just be having your cake and eating it to!

Here’s to a delicious 2014.