Becoming A Professional Photographer in 2014 (And Living An Amazing Life) – Part 3.

This article is the last in a 3-part series which examines what it takes to succeed to become a professional photographer in 2014. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

professional photographer

The PHOTOGRAPHY Context.
It’s been said that you don’t need fancy equipment to take great photos. That’s true, but I think only partially – otherwise you’d see sports photographers at the Olympics wielding Canon Rebels, which you don’t.

At a certain point you will notice that you have outgrown your equipment. Notice when it’s letting you down and, when it’s time, find a way to get stuff that enables you to push your envelope, whether it’s renting it, borrowing it or buying it.

 

When Is The Right Time?
Great question, though I don’t think there’s a formula for it. It’s something you have to figure out through instinct.

To make this more difficult, you need to balance the decision to spend money on equipment against your other business expenses (for example, a very real and difficult to answer question “should I buy another prime lens or spend more money on AdWords this month?”)

 

Your Workday.
As an entrepreneur, you’re a business artist. In other words, you’re free to put together your business in any way you want.

You can sell prints or files, shoot weddings or toddlers, position yourself as a luxury or cheap service, have people working for you or not, etc.

It means you can design your future workday to your needs. Don’t be under any illusions – every business owner has to do a good amount of stuff they don’t like. But through awareness and strategic decisions you can tweak your business, so that your workday is filled, to a considerable extent, with activities that bring you pleasure.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

becoming a professional photographer
My Personal Workday.
It took me a while to figure this out, but I noticed that I’m most fulfilled when I’m doing one of 3 things.

I like shooting, planning a shoot (creating concepts, looking at photography from other genres to borrow ideas, visiting locations to plan how I’ll light and compose) and writing about experiences I’ve been through (what I’m doing now).

I’m least happy when I’m bogged down in logistics, which is why all of my back-end systems are designed to be automated and efficient. My workflow is streamlined, I don’t sell frames, canvases (and I even rarely sell prints) and I have outsourced my editing process to two excellent retouchers (who are now better at it than I am).

 

More Workday Stuff.
I’m also quite active, so I’m happy to do 4-6 shoots in one weekend. Some photographers, who are older and have kids, cringe at this proposition and for them 1-2 shoots per week is ideal.

Obviously that has implications on your revenue, margins and choice of market.

Following your market needs is important, however you need to balance that against your lifestyle choices (again, because there’s no point having a photography business if you’re stuck doing stuff you hate).

 

You Deal With People Like You.
For me, the ideal customer is a relatively young professional couple with 1-2 young kids. Not rich, not poor – simply aiming to succeed at work while not losing focus of what’s happening in the family. In other words, someone who is not unlike me.

I’ve had a few clients who were clearly in a different league money-wise. They’re often upheld amongst photographers as “dream clients” because they’re not sensitive to pricing, though I found it difficult and less fulfilling to photograph them.

My best work happens when I have a real, unforced connection with my subjects.

 

Why Kids & Families?
I shoot kids because I’m a fairly active person, I enjoy banter and I’m genuinely fascinated by kids’ stories and dreams. I also get touched by closely-knit families who don’t lose love for each other despite being caught up in challenges of work.

I can’t stress this enough – choose your photographic art to be centered around people who you can relate to and you like spending time with.

 

Time Alone.
I find it easy to think strategically only when I go for a walk by myself, preferably somewhere expansive with no human noise.

I often meditate on my breath as I walk. I also have my iPad with me, so that in case a tactical thought pops into my head, I can make a note in my diary to take care of it at another time (instead of mulling over it there and then).

I become aware of the bigger picture.

I think about the problems that the photography community is experiencing. I think about the problems my customers have told me about. I think about weaknesses in my business. I think about what my perfect photography business would look like.

During periods of this contemplative solitude I’ve been able to make my most sound decisions.

 

Active, Rather Than Reactive.
I got to a point recently where I could just sit in my inbox all day, reacting to things that pop up and taking care of everyday tasks.

I’ve found that a day of inbox-centric work doesn’t leave me fulfilled and isn’t very productive, either.

Since then I have adopted a different model, in which I look at my inbox 3 times a day. I have 30 minutes of inbox time first thing in the morning, at 630am, then 30-60 minutes again around lunchtime and then just before I knock off for the day (about 6pm).

Amazingly, all of the inbox stuff gets done anyway and I have a full day to achieve other things.

 

The End!
My aim here was to delve deeper into the nuts and bolts of starting a photography business.

Throughout, I was trying to illustrate that the photography element of this equation is relatively small.

This is not to say that being a great photographer is unimportant – in fact, balancing your art skills with your business and personal development skills is one of the greatest challenges you’ll face.

Just don’t forget which way this cookie crumbles.




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1 Comment on "Becoming A Professional Photographer in 2014 (And Living An Amazing Life) – Part 3."

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Iván Barreto
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Hi,

I’m very young and I’m trying to start my own photography bussiness in my town while in the school, I might say that this series have been open minded for me, because you taught me a lot of things I wouldn’t even think about it, now I understand the power of a blog, because at some time it was like talking to you, like having a conversation and it’s been revealing all this points that you made, and as you say it’s time to make some action.

Thank you very much

Greetings from México

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