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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org