The introduction of digital cameras and camera phones has created a huge shift in the photographic industry.
Photography was once considered a highly technical field that required specialized training and knowledge. This is still true, but there is a misconception that photography is easy now, and anyone can do it.
To become a successful photographer, you still have to know how to get the best out of your camera and shoot in manual mode. You still have to understand the physics of light and know lighting techniques. And you now need computer skills and knowledge of software like Lightroom or Photoshop.
Photography is still a highly technical field with a steep learning curve. The difference is that it’s easier to take certain types of pictures, for certain audiences.
For example, if you have a large Instagram following, you can shoot for brands with your iPhone. You can take family or children’s portraits exclusively outdoors in natural light. You can photograph people’s pets.
Due to the Internet and social media, there are definitely opportunities that didn’t exist before, and a way for potential customers to find you.
This also means there is more competition in the photography field. To make sure your photos stand out, we’ve put together these quick tips on how to make it as a successful photographer.
Pricing and the Value of Photography
With so many photographers with widely varying skill sets, the value of photography has come to vary greatly as well.
There is always going to be the photographer who charges $500.00 to shoot a wedding, or $150.00 for a portrait session. If this is not you, you don’t have to worry about these photographers.
People who hire a photographer to shoot the most important day in their lives for $500.00 won’t or cannot hire you for $2000.00. They are not your target market. So when someone shoots for a super low price, they don’t actually take anything away from you, even though it might feel like it.
If you want to be a successful photographer, I would caution you about charging too little, even in the beginning. It’s too hard to raise your prices significantly when you have built up a client base.
You can’t make a living if you’re charging low prices. You’ll have to work so much to make money that you’ll eventually burn out and hang up your shingle. A photography business is a very costly business to run. It can take a while just to start to break even.
That being said, I can’t tell you what to charge. Every market is different and everyone has a different cost of living. The important thing is to know your numbers. Know exactly what your cost of doing business is, and the total sum of your personal expenses before you start charging clients.
I believe you can still make a living as a photographer in 2018. But as with any business, it takes time to build, and you’ll have to do other things to bring in income when money is tight.
There is one major thing that you can do to increase your chances of success, and to establish yourself quicker.
But first, let’s talk about mindset.
Business First, Photography Second
You became a photographer because you’re a creative person and want to be behind the camera. It’s not for the marketing, invoicing, and countless mundane details of running a business.
But this is what you have to remember: your photography business is a business. This should always be foremost in your mind. If want to do photography for a living, rather than as a hobby, you will need to remember that you’re a business person first, and a photographer second. This is the only way you’ll make any money and survive.
If you don’t have this mindset already, then you require a shift in your perspective.
There are things you need to do to be successful in business, no matter what kind of enterprise you run. The foundation of all business is relationship. Networking and relationship building is where you need to put your focus. Most of your energy needs to be spent on this.
And when I say networking, I mean in person. If you’re spending all your time on social media, then you’re doing it wrong. You need to get out from behind the computer and go meet people.
I’m not saying social media isn’t important, because it is. It’s not a good idea to be a photographer without an Instagram presence. But unless you already have a massive following, most of your efforts are best left for personal networking.
How to Network
There are a lot of ways to network.
You can go to trade shows and relevant Meet-Up groups, small business association meetings, or even join your local professional photography association. You can learn a lot about the industry and other photographers can actually be a great source of referral.
Where and how you network is best determined by your niche. For example, if you’re a boudoir photographer, you can approach a lingerie shop and offer a free session to the owner for giving out your business cards. As a wedding photographer, you can take a similar approach with bridal boutiques and hair salons.
The most important thing you need to be doing is approaching the people who represent your target market or have access to your target market directly. It will take some sleuthing on your part to find out who these people are. Quite often it will just take a phone call.
For example, if you’re a commercial photographer, you can call marketing and advertising agencies. Once you find out who it is that you need to speak with, you can send them an introductory email with a PDF of your recent work.
Ask for a few minutes of their time to enquire about what their photographic needs are and their process of hiring photographers.
If you’re contacting an agency, ask if you can make an appointment to show them your print portfolio. They might be too busy for this, but you can drop it off. Just make sure you introduce yourself when you bring it by, so they can put a face to a name.
Always go in with the approach that you’re trying to find out what your potential clients’ needs are and how you can help. They will appreciate it and you’ll feel less like a used car salesman.
Once they have given you their time, be sure follow up with a small gift, like a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. The next time they need a photographer, you may very well be the first one that comes to mind.
Your efforts might not pay off right away. It can take several months to net results, but by being consistent with your networking, you will gather momentum and build up your business
The thing to remember is that you need to be doing this all the time. Networks need to be maintained, or they won’t be there for you when you need them.
Whether you’re a blogger or new photographer, there is a market out there for you. The trick is to identify it and then go after it. You can’t rely on your website traffic or hang around on social media, waiting to be discovered.
The key to becoming a successful photographer is the right mindset, along with constant and consistent action.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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