We all want to thrive in our photography profession. And most of us are on the right path. However, I’ve learned a lot over the past 10+ years in business and through one-on-one mentoring, mistakes that are repeated over and over. The top 5 I've decided to share here. I’ve faced some of them myself and knowing what lies ahead for those new to the business will help you overcome or deter you from making these mistakes too. So here we go:
1) Seeking the approval of other photographers. You so badly want to acceptance of your peers, that’s completely understandable. But your focus should be on your art, your business services and the things you are doing to better your business. Approval, so to speak, from others will come naturally and honestly, it isn't that important, what's important is how we treat and provide for our clients. I know we all want to be liked but you’ll be liked for the creativity you put into your work. Don’t worry if you post a photo and you don’t get accolades from those you admire, if you’re happy with your work and your clients are pleased, that’s what’s important.
2) You’ve lost your passion. Why did you start your business? Because you were loved photography. Once it becomes a business, don’t lose site of your passion. When the thirst is gone, the creativity, the desire to create and work more fizzles out. Keep that feeling alive. But how? With the number of clients, blog posts, accounting, website updating, etc., where’s there time to focus on this as a passion? I struggled for years wondering how keep my creative fires lit. The one thing I learned is you HAVE to force yourself to photograph for you at least once a month if not more often. Go for a drive and photograph your favorite landscapes, your favorite busy city scenes, or bring your kids and they can be your subjects. You need that outlet so carve that time for yourself.
3) Being a ‘yes’ person. You’ve been asked to photograph your friends birthday party, another friend’s graduation and your room mate from college wants you to photograph her wedding – but you don’t even do event photography. I used to be so afraid to say no. I didn’t want to let others down and it killed me to say no. But one year I almost walked away from this business because I didn’t know how to say no. Now if someone wants me to photograph a graduation, a birth or a party I make it clear I don’t do event photography. Or if someone wants me to squeeze them in but I’m booked, I’ve learned to say “sorry, I can’t.” - 99% of the time, they understand. It’s so hard to turn things down but it’s critical for your sanity, your family and your time. You can’t make up important family time…but you can make up sessions or photographing someone else at a later date. I still feel bad saying no but I do it and it’s been a ‘business changer’ for me.
4) A difficult client is ruining you. In this business you’re going to at some point work with a difficult and rather demanding client. It’s inevitable. And since this is your own business that you put your heart and soul into, it hurts even worse when a client asks for things above and beyond what you provide or is simply unsatisfied. I’ve been there and it stings. Again, out of fear that I couldn’t make everyone happy, I almost left this industry years ago. But my husband talked me out of it and taught me to have thicker skin when it came to business. So know that EVERYONE in this industry (and in every industry for that matter) will have a client they can’t please or who wants more. It’s part of the job…the unfortunate part of having a business and providing a service. But you’re worth more. You have clients that love you, you have talent and you have passion. Don’t give up because of a client who can’t be pleased.
5) Copycat. Be original. If you see work you like and a concept you love spin it your own way. We all admire other artist work and that’s healthy and normal. But it’s painful for the original artist to get bombarded with copycat images. Even though photographers are plentiful, we’re a fairly close community and we have each other’s backs. I’ve had numerous personal experiences on exact concepts being used (not a single element was changed – not one!). Those photographers are no longer in business. So be original. Admire concepts you like, but don’t copy them. Spin them differently and make them your own.
We’ll all face bumps in the road running our own business, that’s part of growth and learning. Hopefully some of these ‘mistakes’ seen in our industry will prevent future mistakes for you. Keep photographing. Keep creating. And keep the passion.