Photography Income and Intuition

Have you ever felt like you are on a hamster wheel with your photography business? Or maybe like a clone of thousands of other photographers out there, but you aren’t sure what you can do to break away from the mold? Maybe, you haven’t even given yourself permission to break away, because you simply don’t know your options. The first question you should ask yourself is, “am I happy with my photos in my photography business?”

.

Starting A Photography Business

Fearless and Framed is the new kid on the block as far as photography vendors go. You may wonder, ‘why should I trust this company?’ While F&F is growing, I (F&F Founder, Marie Masse) have been around the block more than once. My story begins long before my photography journey. At 17, I began working full time with a corporate gig. I moved up the latter and even jumped companies a couple of times. I bought a new-build condo just before my 20th birthday with no help. I was going to be at my job forever and loved it. Then, the credit crash hit in 2008 and I lost everything. I never even finished college, because I thought I was on the gravy train with my job. Starting over, having lost my condo and all that I had worked hard for, I decided to do something a little unorthodox.

I had 6 months to vacate my condo and find consistent income to have a new place. As the hour glass began, I took on a part time job at a restaurant and spent most of my time building my network-marketing business. There was no room for failure now. It worked! By 2010 and 2011, I reached several months of selling over $8,000 and a couple of times even over $10,000 in product sales where the products averaged under $50 each. Business was my life. I was also married in January 2010.

In 2011, my husband and I decided to move. This move was a big decision business-wise, because I couldn’t pack up my network of customers. I’d have to start over… again…. and it was my intentions to do so. The ironic part is, once we moved and settled, my heart was no longer in the business. I had picked up my Canon Rebel T2i and was hit with the photography bug. So what did I do next?

I got into the photography business to make some quick cash.

There, I confessed.

By the end of the first year in business, I wasn’t happy. The reasons why I’ve stayed are going to surprise you, so keep reading. First, I’m going to grill you: did you start your photography business for the right reason? More importantly, are you staying for the right reason?

 

It’s a great idea to pin this image so you can easily reference back to this post.

.

 

 

Photography Income and Intuition

In the beginning of business, how were you getting session bookings? Were you taking on any that came your way or were you being selective? Have you changed in your approach as your photography itself has evolved?

Think about it. 

My first year was spent taking whatever clients I could find while, truthfully, still learning in both the technical and style aspects. Along the way, I became a clone of photographers I saw on the internet. I think it came from being in a hurry to “be good at it” so that I could generate income and book more sessions. Sitting in parking lots before sessions, I’d browse Pinterest for quick inspiration. I love Pinterest and certainly still do gain lots of inspiration from there. The difference is, back then, I was allowing myself to damn near replicate what I was seeing. I wasn’t being the photographer within myself. It was oblivious to me that I could bring something new to the table. Perhaps, that is just low-confidence, who knows.

I thought I had to create this gallery of cutesy photos with ‘happily ever after’ signs and have families walk away from the camera holding hands. In my head, mimicking these trends was necessary to make clients happy. No exceptions, had to shoot this way.

Seeing props other photographers were using led me to believe I needed those things too.

Listening to words that played on different photography styles (real, authentic, engaging, candid, organic, raw, posed, unposed, etc.) made me feel like, “oh, I need to do that.” The problem was, doing ‘that’ meant trying to do it all, because I thought it all sounded good. My shooting intuition was left behind.

I was shooting for income only… to be a client-pleaser rather than the professional I wanted to be sought out for.

Can you relate?

This is how I used to shoot:

trendy photography

 

Growing a Happy Photography Business

For me, it became about finding clients and bookings, not finding my style and proudly owning it. This made my portfolio look average – it blended in with so many other photographers. Let’s face it and stop beating around the bush, there are many photography trends. And that’s fine and dandy. In fact, these photos still captivate me – like a newborn posed in the most angelic way stops me in my Facebook-newsfeed-browsing tracks every single time. There will always be paying clients for trendy images. Just like when you see your BFF get a new pair of boots, then you want a pair too.

 

If you have heart palpitations when you see a newborn photo and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that photographing these sweet loves are your calling – then give newborn photography your all.

If you are a romantic and deeply love the honor and opportunity in spending your days with couples that get married – then be that rock star wedding photographer.

If you have a desire to be in a world of high fashion and want to make high school senior girls feel like they are on top of the world during a session with you – then go get ’em and be a senior photographer.

If you don’t want to do a damn thing I’m saying here, then don’t. The idea is, do what your heart and intuition tell you.

How are YOU going to find true happiness if your intuition is driven to shoot totally different than what you are currently shooting? Only you can make the decision to shoot how you want.

 

This is how I shoot now:

Anna is the youngest sister from the photo collage above. Do you see how you can gauge who she is in the photo here whereas the photo above is just another pretty picture (so to speak)? This is where I’m driven, storytelling. It’s not the right way or the only way, but it’s my way, and that’s all that matters.

photography income

 

Why I’m Still a Photographer

Trying to wear both the student and entreprenuer hats will confuse your potential clients.

How can clients know what to expect from you when it’s all over the place? How are you going to be happy if you have led your clients to believe they are going to get one thing and then wish you were shooting in another style? How are you going to find the clients that match your style if you are showcasing photos that represent something totally different?

Are you shooting what you love?

I’ve been in these shoes. When I realized that my personal style and taste is drawn to documenting and details, I slowly transitioned my photography business into doing so. It was time to let go of any pre-conception rules that were in my head. It was time to stop driving this business on income and drive it on my artistic discretion. And this very love affair with documenting and details is exactly why I’m still a photographer. I’m elated with my photos. My artistic ability is shining through my images and it’s paying off with both clients and my own happiness (and confidence!).

If you want to feel fulfilled in your photography business with your own fingerprint, begin now. When you shine, people will be drawn to you. Your income will follow. If you are chasing income first, then passion, you will eventually burn out.

Homework:

Grab the freebie above – often, we know WHAT we want, but sometimes have trouble communicating with our clients. Sit down for at least an hour. Pull up your photos from the past year (or couple of years). Browse them. Sort them into the “I totally freaking love this” or “I never want to shoot like this again.” See what you learn about yourself.

Maybe you already know your style. Now it’s time to start owning it. Build a portfolio based on your style. Make up a character that represents your target audience and write to them. Write about why they want to book a session with you. Use pieces of this in your marketing. Say goodbye to anything else and believe in YOU with all the passion to fuel an everlasting pilot light.

For some of you, this may feel like a step backwards letting go of income in order to build yourself up. But imagine what it will be like when you are elated with your photos and you can recognize yourself in your work – then having clients coming to you, because they recognize your style.

Lift up your fellow photographer friends and share this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please comment below or send me an email at marie@fearelssandframed.com

 

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • I love this. Actually, I completely ADORE this!

    My images started to come out the same after a while- generic. I lost my confidence at some point and started to just crank out images that I thought people wanted. At some point, I stopped being myself. I kept one thing in there that I always do naturally, though, and my clients began to pick up on it.

    I’ll always remember the client that reminded me that I’m the artist, and that there are specific things that I do in every single photo shoot, regardless of who the subject is. This client gave back my confidence. At the time, I was focusing more on senior photography, but this client hired me for a package- maternity and newborn. During the maternity session, I said, “Okay, I’m going to have you both come here in the tall grass, and I”m going to shoot through it.”

    The reply amazed me. “I love it when you do things like this!!”

    That’s when it hit me. My “fly on the wall” angles were my favorite shots usually- but in that moment I realized I wasn’t the only one paying attention to this. With every idea that followed, I heard over and over “you’re the artist!” and “I trust you!” (even during the newborn session!). When they ordered, they mentioned ordering my “art” (vs “pictures” or any other term).

    In order to have more clients and experiences like that, I need to SHOW what makes me SHINE. That’s why I love this post so much- it’s so correct!! Off to do my homework. <3 xo SC

    • Love your comment!! What I want to know is why the heck do we tend to beat ourselves up? Like why do we assume we are doing something wrong, when in actuality, our creative judgement is usually spot on? Once we are freed from this thinking, the possibilities are endless – for real!

      • Right?? It’s all psychology and internal reasons I’m sure! I know confidence was/ is a struggle for me. Freeing ourselves is a huge relief. (To others- one trick is to stop comparing!) <3

  • I really really love this. It’s almost as if this was written just about me. I have just finished my first year of photography in “business”.

    Photography for me started 5 years ago when my son was born. I wanted to catch every little moment. I wanted to remember everything, and still do. I started to get really good and my friends / family started encouraging me to do it for money. After enough encouragement I took that leap. I took on almost any client who was willing to let me shoot them.

    This past year has been a Rollercoaster of not feeling good enough compared to other photographers and feeling empty because the posed images are not what I want. The images I absolutely love and cherish of my son are the details, him practicing writing his letters. The images where he doesn’t realize I’m taking photos or just doesn’t care.

    But at the same time I’m scared because I have worked so hard over the last year getting to the point I am at with the clients I have. Starting over is scary and intimidating even though I am not happy with what I am producing for those clients.

    But I am incredibly thankful for F&F for helping me realize this and beingso encouraging. Thank you!

    • Andrea,

      We owe it to ourselves to let our inner artist be the seed in our business. I’m so happy this post resonated with you. I’ve seen many photographers implementing “A Day In The Life” sessions as an extension of their brand. It allows for the photographer to be the documentary photographer within without completely shutting down the rest of their business. Maybe that is a good place to start for you 🙂 Thanks for the comment love!

      Marie

  • Holy moley, this is probably by far the most incredible and inspiring photography article I’ve ever read in my life. In fact, I’m almost speechless. Thank you so much for writing this! And all of your other articles! I’ve been reading through them all after discovering your blog and I am just so enamored by your authenticity honesty. I’m going to do this homework asap and start moving myself in the right direction.

    • Marlena, thank you for taking the time to send me a little note and for the compliments! I feel so strongly how I got to where I was in business, before I had my ah-ha moment, and just know that others likely feel the same. It feels amazing to be on a path to where my heart wants to go and I these posts do that for others. Have a nice weekend!

  • Wow! I just started creating my new website and brand. I keep going through old files trying to find the shots that are more authentic, but I’m finding that I don’t have many! Those are the shots I want to be taking. Last night, after finding your blog, I went to the park with my 4 boys and started taking pictures of them interacting and playing together. Getting details, expressions, etc… I love them!!! These are the things I want to remember. It was so invigorating. I guess I didn’t really think people would pay for that style of photography. But reading this has changed my mind. So, now I’m off to work on tweaking my new site to reflect MY style.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Yes!! I feel like we could be documentary photography besties. When I first started out I was shooting seniors and “glamour” and doing the whole senior model thing. My heart was not in it and to be honest I was not that great! Ever since transitioning to documentary-style photography I have a new love for photography and my passion shows in my photos now. I finally found my “niche” and have clients who understand me now, when before I was trying to be someone I wasn’t.

    As you said, it feels amazing to finally feel like you are on the right path and doing what feeds your soul. Love this so much <3

  • Thank you soooo much for this post! I really needed to hear/read something like this. I see so many beautiful photos and I say, those are so pretty but they’re not me. They’re not the type of work I want to do yet I still find myself struggling to make my work good enough to search for my style. I actually think I know what my style is but I think I have a hard time projecting this with clients. I did a 365 project two years ago and it really transformed my work, people started to notice, but when I had to do it for others, I freaked out and didn’t end up doing a good job. I thought they just wanted something pretty and afraid they might not like what I actually see, and honestly I’ve mainly struggled with this because people are sooo hard on themselves with body image and the few family/friends that were brave enough to tell me they didn’t like the photo I took of them because they didn’t like how they looked, really broke me down. Sooo….thank you for reminding me why I’m really doing this. If people genuinely like MY work, MY art, then they will trust me. I hope.

    • Hey Perla! Thank you for commenting. There is a brilliant, brilliant post being published on our blog this Thursday from guest writer, Michelle McDaid, that I KNOW will help you – or at least boost your confidence 🙂 Keep your eye out for the post and keep practicing – you’ll get closer to your dream before you know it!

  • Thank you so much for this!! No money is enough when you’re not in love with a particular shoot/style. And people sending Pinterest pins to show what they want copied/replicated, really Over that. I haven’t formally started a business per say, and that’s mainly because I don’t think I’m a good “order taker”. The Photos that take my breath away are truly the ones where my subjects don’t realize they’re being photographed. Birth photography is definitely something I would love to explore in the future. Love, love, love your blog. I learn so much every time. I’ve been thinking of starting a project 365 or 52, to re-ignite my passion. I started a blog a while ago, but it wasn’t photography related. Perhaps I could redirect it or use a platform like Zenfolio to document my creative journey and find my Voice?? I’ve found that I don’t like what other do. When I show an image off with pride, I often get – confused look from husband. I’ve learned that it’s ok, as photography is art, and is a matter of taste, ? Again, thank you for the inspiration.

    • You’re welcome! And this made me laugh, because I get the same “yeah… ok” look from my husband when I show him a photo I LOVE LOVE LOVE. My husband and I have very different styles, but you’re right, that is ok!! Thanks for the compliments on the blog too!