PhotoChat; Making It In The Photography Buisness

PhotoChat is a weekly conversation between Photography Pro’s and Amateurs that takes place on Thursdays at 1PM EST hosted by Prime Social Marketing. To follow the conversation or take part use #Photochat on Twitter.

This blog post covers my longer answers to the questions that are condensed then put into tweets for the Photochat.

This Weeks Topic Is; Making It In The Photography Buisness

Q1: What made you first realize that you’d “made it” as a pro photog? If you’ve yet to, what may be a telltale sign of success?

I would say I have not yet made it as a pro, I do question sometimes if this is what I want or would I be happier as I am now an enthusiastic amateur and teacher. I would say that a big sign that shows you have made it as a pro is when you are being paid for work and getting commissions that are enough to support your living. This can mean that as with most work you can be a part time professional, work your day job, for me teaching, and get paid doing your photography work as your second job.
It can even be that for some photographers the day job pays for their bread and butter and the photography pays for everything else.

Though being a professional would be good, as an amateur, someone not paid, I feel you are less constrained and able to experiment more with your work. You can do this because if an experiment doesn’t work you may not have screwed up a client’s commission. History has shown us that it is sometimes the amateur who has pushed the boundaries of a professional field. A good example is Charles Darwin.

Q2: What are the first steps that a driven amateur photographer should take to become a pro and build a business?

The first steps I would suggest is to gain experience. It can be a vicious circle trying to get work and not getting it because you have no experience.
How to get experience?
It depends on your field. If you want to do weddings, contact a wedding  photographers and ask if you can work with them. I would not say work for free but I would say work without monetary pay and agree to keep some of the images you shoot for your portfolio. If the photographer already has a second shooter, ask to be a bag carrier. In a studio try to work as the coffee boy or an assistant. All of this even if at first you are not behind the camera will be a great experience to learn from. As photographers see you are keen or you see an opportunity you may step forward and do some work.

To build a business you need to build it. It will not be there from day one. Social media is really important now and you need to have a social presence and build this up.  Go to local events in your town and shoot them, post them online, make connections to local business but most importantly don’t hide behind emails, go and speak to people face to face. It is so easy for people to say no  to an email, a little bit harder to say no in person.

Q3: What are a few of the biggest mistakes to avoid when you’re on your way to becoming a professional?

In my opinion the biggest mistake that people make is offering to do something for free or devaluing yourself. Pricing is important and it is where mistakes can be made. Photography is not cheap and setting your prices to low can mean you will be quickly digging a hole for yourself. Also the opposite is true setting your price to high will deter people from hiring you. Find out what others are charging and how they are coming to this price. Then create deals that clients can pick and choose from so they feel they are getting what they want for a good deal. You can do work in exchange for work you need. A web designer may be happy if you pay them in stock images for example.

It used to be that photographers could make major profit margins from prints, but this is no longer the case. People know that they can get prints from the digital lab in town or their local supermarket, so you need to make getting a print worth it. Another option would be selling the digital image with certain licenses for example, one for social media and another for printing, remembering to resize the image appropriately.

Q4: What’s the toughest obstacle you’ve overcome on your journey to progress as a photographer?

Rejection. It will come and it may come often at the beginning and it can be quite a hurdle to keep persevering through what is a negative time. In “Batman Begins” Alfred asks the question,

Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.

This is a quote that I use to remind myself that when I something has gone wrong, to see what was the problem or the reason and learn from it.  With rejection this is what you need to do, think why, what did I do and what can I do differently. Don’t think negatively, the minute you have this negative suggestion in your brain it will eat away at you and you will act in such a way it will come true.

When I completed university I had many interviews and sent out a lot letters looking for work as well as applying for funding for projects. Rejection was common and I really got down because of it. In the end I had to suck it up and find work to pay the bills having photography on the side. I wish I had the knowledge now not to get put down by the rejection and had picked myself back up. Though hindsight is 50/50

Q5: What are the biggest responsibilities a professional photographer must maintain, regardless of the industry they occupy?

I have a one world answer, Quality. You have a responsibility to the quality of your work. If the work is rubbish or under par it will be seen a mile away and you will have a hard job retaining clients as well as attracting new ones. This goes for all jobs not just photography, teaching ( my main profession), Customer Service, Car Repair and even The Checkout girl in the supermarket. The minute the quality of your work drops you are in trouble, because if there is no negative response you will take this level of quality as acceptable and will be likely to lower the level again and again, until you have no work.

I would love to know what your opinions to the questions are. Do you agree or disagree with my answers? Either way you can let me know using the comment box below.

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Remembering the quote from Batman, inspired me to watch Batman while I finished writing the post. All of this inspired my design for the header image.

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