I’ve been heavily involved in photography for a number of years now and with that experience comes a few things I’ve noticed throughout the industry. As I peruse the photography forums and talk to photographers that are interested in doing this for a living, there seems to be this recurring theme that I hear. There is a hurdle or two we need to get past before we can really put ourselves in a position to be successful pro photographers. I’m going to get into 5 of the most common ones I come across.
Hurdle #1: I don’t know if I’m good enough to charge for my work
Photography is an industry full of self doubt. Even the pros doubt themselves. The fact is, what we do involves putting a creative piece of ourselves out into the world to see and be judged. That in itself is a major step, but to then charge a price to give that creative piece of ourselves to customers is an even bigger step. Another fact is, there are a LOT of photographers out there that are charging a healthy chunk of money for what could be considered mediocre work……and they are successful at it. Why are they successful? Because they’re good at business first and just ok at photography.
The key is, they are working to improve their photography AND GETTING PAID TO DO IT! If they can do it, why can’t you? The minute you stop treating photography like a hobby and start treating it like a business and start treating yourself as a professional, you will have crossed one of the largest hurdles in the path to being successful. Learn about the business side of things while you improve your craft. Your business sense and your photographic eye will improve simultaneously.
Hurdle #2: I can’t even afford the prices I charge
You’ve run the numbers and have built your pricing structure accounting for the cost of doing business. When all is said and done, you may end up pricing yourself beyond what you would even pay. THAT’S OK. If you are providing a great product and a memorable, unique experience, you can charge what you need to charge and you’ll find that there is a market for it. We do this to make a living. You have to get over that hurdle and look past whatever you may consider to be appropriate and price yourself so that you can sustain your business and be profitable.
Hurdle #3: I don’t have the gear I need to be a professional
This is one hurdle I hear a LOT. One way to catch an acute case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is to stress over “pro gear”. Photographers think that if they just get that one lighting system, that one lens, or that one pro level body, that would take them over the hump and into professional territory.
The fact is, the way to go about acquiring gear should be the OPPOSITE. Start with what you have now. If all you have is a D90 with an 18-55mm kit lens and a hot shoe flash, then work that combo to death. As your creativity increases and you begin to push the limits of your gear, the situations you find yourself in will dictate what piece of gear you need next. If you shoot landscapes and find yourself needing a wider perspective, then that cool lighting system wont do a thing for you because you need to be looking at wide angle lenses.
Let the work you do present the situations that dictate the direction you go with gear. The cool part about that is the fact that you’re already getting paid so you can pay for the new gear with cash and not charge it (which you should always stay away from).
Hurdle #4: I don’t know what I like to shoot so I’ll just shoot everything
It’s extremely hard to make a living being a jack of all trades but a master of none. When you are a photography newb and not charging for your work, that’s when you dabble and discover your style. Once you find your niche, become proficient in that. Proficiency builds confidence.
Would you go to a doctor that also fixes carburetors and does some plumbing as well? I sure wouldn’t! So, when someone asks you what kind of photography you do, and you answer “Whatever pays the bills!” what kind of confidence is that generating for that potential client? None! Figure out what niche gets your blood going and become knowledgeable in that niche.
Hurdle #5: I dont have a website or email address or anything to get started
This is probably the smallest hurdle to get past. There are so many options out there to get you started that this is really no longer an excuse. If you need a simple website to point clients to, take a look at places like Squarespace, Smugmug, or Zenfolio. They all have free options to get you going until your business begins to grow and your needs expand.
You can even just use a blog to show your work and update clients on what you’re doing. Wordpress is a great place to look for blog hosting. You can get away with a Gmail or Hotmail email account in the beginning. As you start to grow, I highly suggest getting your own domain and hosting email through that domain name. That looks a lot more professional. That’s really all it takes to get you going and there are endless directions you can go in once you start growing. The key is to just START!
If you’re really serious about becoming a successful photographer, it will take some work but it is far from impossible. There are so many successful professional photographers out here grinding away at it and constantly making progress. There really is no reason that you can’t do it as well.
As always, thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes with me this week. If you like what you’ve read here, please subscribe and share via the social media links. You can also find MTM Photography on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram so be sure to check out those pages! I’ll see ya next week!