Tell me if this sounds familiar- you’ve just spent ten-million hours perfecting your website, and you’re so excited. With tears in your eyes, and in awe of your creation, you call your mom and have her check it out. First, confusion on how to get there. Second, long silence while she studies it. Next, a less than enthusiastic comment that it looks nice. And then, onto another topic. Ugh!
As photographers, we are natural gluttons for punishment. Who else tolerates 14 hour workdays, screaming kids, and several hours in front of the computer editing? So it is natural for us to keep coming back to our moms, spouses, and best friends for their disappointing input. Why do we do it? They know nothing about photography, and they are certainly not our target market. It seems so obviously a bad idea. Would you ever in a million years buy the same sofa that your mother-in-law has? Nope. So why would you expect her to understand your photographic vision.
And let’s face it, if you take their uninformed advice it can be very harmful to your success.
Once you have this revelation that those closest to you are not your ideal client, you’ll stop seeking out their unhelpful opinions. And you will find people who have worthy input.
You can’t flourish in a vacuum. You need outsider feedback. A good place to start is to find individuals who have a similar aesthetic as you, but that have an insight you might be lacking- possibly someone older or younger than you to help you understand how a different generation shops photography. Or, maybe, a friend who seems to have a rock-solid brand or artistic vision, that can help you hone your online presence. Or even someone who you just admire their networking skills to help you work with your clients more professionally. Ultimately, these should be people who inspire you, and would book you, if they don’t already use you for their photography needs.
Your clients are also a fantastic resource. Float potential ideas out to them. Get their opinion on mountain or lake shoots this year, if they like your longer sessions, or what they think of the new folio box collection you’re offering. However, proceed with caution. Don’t ask business questions about pricing, or how you run your operations. You don’t want them to think you are wishy-washy, or uncertain of how you run your business.
Now you might be thinking that we are leaving out the most obvious resource for guidance, other photographers. And as you might imagine, we are 100% behind being involved in your photography community. But you don’t want to get sucked into the vortex of looking like every other photographer. So take ideas and inspiration from other creative folks too.
A photography business is unique. We are not a normal 9-5, M-F. So trying to run your photography biz like you would a traditional office could hinder your potential success. Would working M-F, having a front desk receptionist to answer the phone, and pay for a waiting area be the best use of your resources? Maybe. But when seeking guidance, make sure you are choosing professionals that work in an industry similar to yours. And it should go without saying, people that are actually turning a good profit. Just make sure to take the time to dissect which parts of their biz might apply to yours, before doing a copy-paste.
Just like every family member is not a good business coach, not everyone in your community is your ideal client. Sure, it might sting a bit when your friend uses a different photographer but you have to ask yourself, are they really one of yours anyway? You want the clients that will not only seek you out but will refer you to everyone they know, and fully invest in your signature products. Because it is not only your images you want them to love. You want clients that dig everything you do. Love that gorgeous album? Yes! Happy that you can book your session easily online? Same here! Adore creating a whole wall of gorgeous framed portraits? Ditto! They are picking up what you’re putting down, sista.
Dear Ashley and Graham circa 2008,
Your business will not live and die by social media. You're going to be tempted to put more time into Facebook and Instagram than you do into in-person relationships because it will feel like that's what everyone else is doing; it will feel like the only way to keep up. Resist that temptation. Resist the urge to jump on the ever changing hamster wheel of social media. When you get on that hamster wheel it will feel like you're running as fast as you can and getting nowhere. And that's exactly where sinking unscheduled, unintentional time into social media will get you: nowhere.
Next to framed art, albums are a favorite, no-brainer product you should be offering every client. Albums are the one product that truly stands the test of time and will be treasured for generations to come. Not long ago, album design went a bit “photographers-gone-wild” with acrylic, metal, and even fur covers. Remember that panoramic ultra-wide album fad?
Luckily the tide has turned back to favoring a classic, luxury presentation.
Netflix. HBO. & Hulu.
That could be about 70% of my off season. The time a friend introduced me to Game of Thrones was the most epic two months of my life (sorry adulthood). BUT, the keyword in that first sentence is “could be”. My biggest love during off season is stepping out of my living room for a travel adventure.