It’s a new year. Full of new prospects, goals and new photographers! As I go over my own business aspirations for 2013, I can’t help but reminisce over what I would have done differently in my journey. Would have become a professional photographer at all?
In 2005, the newborn professional photography business was, in my opinion, not as competitive as it is today. I was fortunate to start at this time. Today, DSLR cameras are at a low enough price point and workshops abound so it’s pretty easy to get started. No, this isn’t all that is needed to start a photography business (not by any means) but so many think it is and that’s really what matters. This post is not going to be a winey complaint filled blurb. Instead, I hope it helps those considering the field of professional photography (or those just starting out) better understand what lies ahead given my discussion of my own mistakes.
1. Pricing. Yep, I said it. I was too cheap in those beginning years. I didn’t make a profit and lost so many clients when I finally did get my business on track to make one. Why did I give up all those precious moments away from my family to go into significant debt? If you love photography, keep it as a hobby, take pictures for free to build up your portfolio. Then when you open your business, start at pricing that will turn a profit! Or just keep it as a hobby!
2. Props. The abundance of throws, cute buckets, baskets, backdrops, chairs, hats, headbands – they are all adorable and so irresistable. But, they are also expensive!!! Personally, I felt I had to continue to add to my collection to have something new for each client and keep up with the “big” photographers out there. I realize today that those big photographers are most often given those props by the various vendors to show them off and sell to photographers like myself. Find new ways to use what you have and more and more I find myself drawn to the simple baby portraits – that is what will be timeless in my opinion. It doesn’t matter how cute your props are, your photography technical skills have to be perfect.
3. Post production. Yes, you can get it right in camera. BUT, I never realized when I started how much editting time goes into the images after the shoot. That baby’s red skin and baby acne - it doesn’t go away without some photoshop. Fix it for 60 images, yes – that takes time (and you should have a session fee to compensate you for your time on the computer.)
4. Marketing. I spent so much on marketing materials in my first few years. I bought lists and sent postcards using those expensive templates you can purchase online. I didn’t target my market very well and it was a waste. We are definitely lucky with facebook and twitter these days as it has opened up a very inexpensive way to reach lots of clients. But, are they your target market?
5. Figure out your niche. When I started, I photographed families, children, seniors, babies, animals, maternity - you name it. I was very stressed because I wanted to provide clients with a perfect product. I realized I am not a jack of all trades and have settled on maternity and newborns. Newborns are my strong point, I enjoy it and look forward to these photo shoots and think it shows in my work. I still enjoy the little kids too (those 6 month olds are perfect and can’t crawl away yet and those expressions of toddlers – priceless!) and photograph them if contacted but it is not something I market to specifically.
Would I become a professional photographer again? Maybe, maybe not. I love what I do but financially, it’s getting more and more difficult to maintain a salary that pays more than a minimum wage job. Ever wonder why so many professional photographers 0ffer workshops and actions, etc? Because it is VERY difficult to make it on photography sessions alone. More and more I see so many of my sucessful professional photography friends contemplating leaving the industry for more lucrative careers to suport their family. So, before you begin, really think about the outcome you hope to attain from all your effort and expenses!