This is a guest blog post from Nancy Young, who runs the excellent PhotoDoto website. She writes tons of inspirational articles on photography and web design, despite the fact that she is an economist by education. She enjoys reading, learning SEO and also losing her mind to French movies. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.
When dreaming of becoming a professional photographer, it’s easy to hide behind rose-colored glasses, which make everything look easy and fancy. Most people are attracted to the idea that they can get paid for their hobby. But becoming a pro photographer is really challenging. There are a lot of people who started photography businesses, but failed in the first year, as they struggled to make the money that they expected to.
Owning professional equipment, receiving compliments from friends on your photos and having the desire to become a pro is not enough to become a professional photographer. Here I have assembled 10 of the most common myths about professional photography to warn you about possible mistakes when going into this business and how to avoid them.
Everyone who owns a professional camera can be a photographer.
There are so many people who still think that all you need to become a pro photographer is to grab the latest model in the fanciest pro camera range and print a set of business cards. Does everyone who owns an oven know how to bake a cake? Of course not! The same applies for professional photography. Being a professional photographer these days means running a business and making a living from it, it’s much more than just pressing a button to get nice pictures. Setting up a photography business will make you a wearer of many hats: you will be your own marketer, designer, accountant, and only then a photographer.
Pro photographers work at times that suit them.
No way. You’ll be surprised to know that being a portrait or wedding photographer means you need to work every weekend and evening, as people are busy at their own jobs during business hours and are only available for photo sessions on weekends. So, many photographers find it much better to become baby photographers, as moms and babies are often available during working hours for a photo session.
Getting lots of compliments about your photography automatically upgrades you to Pro.
Maybe your friends and relatives love your photography and give you tons of compliments, but this does not mean that your potential clients will love it, too. Your friends like you as a person and they compare your photography to the snaps they take themselves. However, potential clients will compare your photos to the ones they see on billboards and glamorous magazines. The only time that you should think about becoming a pro is when people are willing to pay you for you photos.
Everything can be fixed with Photoshop.
This is the biggest photography myth that you will hear. A person who knows Photoshop’s features will know that everything can’t be fixed with this program. Photoshop can’t make a bad photograph good. It’s not able to correct bad composition, lighting or depth of field. However, Photoshop can make a good image an excellent one if you know how to use it.
A $100 photo shoot means $100 in your pocket.
This is certainly not true. You need to take into account the time and gas you spent to get to the location, you need time to post-process the images, proof them with your client, and finally deliver them via email or in person. Moreover, sometimes you need time to set up the photo shoot on a new location or pay to rent a photo studio. In this way, it becomes clear that getting $35 for a one-hour photo shoot is actually not bad. It’s difficult to figure out how much to charge for your sessions. You need to sit down and think what expenses you need to include in your price and only after that can you make an accurate decision.
Networking is optional.
While becoming a photographer, you’ll find out early on that without networking you’ll never be successful. Networking with other photographers from your area, local makeup artists, clothing stores and other photography related industries will make word-of-mouth work for you. For example, when you do a wedding photo session, you can take a picture of the bride’s bouquet and send it to the florist. You can do the same thing with the venue and hairstylist. Seeing how beautiful their work is on your pictures will make them want to recommend you as a photographer to their friends.
You don’t need a portfolio site for your business.
Just having a nice website won’t bring in clients, you need to do a lot of SEO and marketing to make it work. Your portfolio site is a must while setting up your photography business. If somebody asks you to show your pictures, you can easily send them a link to your portfolio site. This makes it easier to connect with your clients and book photo sessions. You can also attract more visitors from Google to your site by having a regularly updated blog. As you can see, having a portfolio site can be very beneficial to you. If you have a limited budget and don’t feel like hiring a person to create a site for you, you can create a portfolio with some free site builders, such as Koken.me or Defrozo. The latter allows you to not only build a mobile-ready portfolio site, but also to create a blog, client galleries, and manage various photography-related tasks using a single login.
Clients have the same creative vision as you do.
Sometimes you may think you have taken the best photos of your life, worth an award at least, but your client won’t like them. It happens. We all have different creative visions and tastes. Clients care more about what they look like on an image, than about the image as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, your photos need to be creative and stylish but ultimately your client needs to be happy with the photos. Just make sure to ask a few questions before the photo shoot: ask the client what he/she would like to have Photoshopped? Decide which parts of the client’s body need to be highlighted and which hidden. Allow clients to decide for themselves what photos to buy from the photo shoot. These simple tips will help you to avoid misunderstandings and make your clients happy with the finished product.
Working without contracts is good for your business.
A handshake deal may be sufficient when doing a shoot for family members or close friends, but it is not good for business. Some people are totally uninformed about the legal aspects of professional photography. Give your clients a contract and refuse to take pictures before the contract is signed, because just one lawsuit can sink your photography business.
People can’t wait to read your blog.
Some photographers think that 10 random images from their latest photo shoot are interesting to prospective clients and site visitors. If someone signs up to your blog, it is likely that they have already seen your photos on your portfolio site and they already know what you’re capable of. You need to share some interesting and useful information of your blog that will interest people. This will also make it more likely that Google will put you on top. For example, you can write about your photo shoots, give some tips on what to wear for various photo sessions and how to pose, explain everything about why a contract is so important and why your pricing list is more expensive than the photographer next door, and so on.