Being a photographer these days is pretty hard work. Not only the level of competition but also being able to cancel out the noise to stay true to yourself and your style. That’s before even trying to keep up with trends, new gadgets and technology launches. Whether you are a pro or amateur, things seem to move at the speed of light. But there are also a lot of myths out there. Things that seem to have become “the right thing” which are simply not the case. So here are 4 realities to be aware of as a photographer.
Don’t believe the social media hype
It seems like to be anybody these days you have to have a high profile social media presence. You need thousands and thousands of followers and people liking and commenting on your posts. Why is it that we have become so obsessed with this phenomenon? Well, it’s partly due to this myth that having a lot of followers leads to more work. That simply is not the case.
I know of a famous photographer on Instagram who has millions of followers. Yet for some strange reason, he still has the need to advertise his products like ebooks on a regular basis. You might argue that he is simply trying to increase his sales. But if what we are led to believe is true about platforms like Instagram, they are there to connect you to your customers or followers. So if you have a million people following you that should, in theory, mean you have a million customers.
But the reality is that is not true. Only a small number of those followers are really engaged with you and your photography. So don’t believe the social media hype of others and don’t get yourself down about why don’t have more “likes”. It is far more valuable to have a few people who are genuinely passionate about your work than thousands who are not.
Free work leads to paid work
This is more for those who are wanting to earn money from their photography but still valid to anyone with a camera. One downside of digital photography and especially social media, has been the rapid growth of free work. Often clients will use the carrot of “you’ll be credited for your work”. Most photographers who agree to work for free do so with the belief that it will lead to paid work in the future. But from my years of experience and other photographers who I have spoken to, that rarely happens.
Think about it. If a client can get away with not having to pay for work, why should they do so at a later date? They will just believe that they can get free work next time. Unfortunately often it is the big companies who can afford to pay for photos who are the worst offenders. Because they know people want to be associated with their brand. If not you, then another photographer.
Now I’m not naive enough to think that this will stop anytime soon. Or that there is never any value in doing work for less than it might be worth. But you will often find that if a client likes your work enough they would be able to find the budget to pay for it. Even if it’s less than you normally charge try to get something for the work. Because ultimately the more “free work” that is done by photographers, the more difficult it will become for you and the whole industry in the future.
If you have great photos, you will get work
Having great images doesn’t automatically get you work from clients. Of course, it will certainly be necessary to have great work to impress clients, but that alone will not work. These days to be a successful photographer you also need to be a good marketer. But that goes beyond just sending a few emails out to clients. You need to think about everything from SEO to even advertising. There are so many different avenues available that by not exploring them you will be missing out.
You will have to actively go out and look for clients and pitch them ideas to get work. Very rarely will you find people just coming to you if you are just sitting around posting the odd picture here and there on social media. So, a solid portfolio of work is a good basis, but for success, you need so much more these days.
Don’t say “yes” to every job
There’s no doubt about it that in the current era, you need to have more bows to string than just specializing in one thing. For example, many photographers might also be videographers or writers. More and more clients these days want the complete package rather than just one element. So if you have the skills to do other things make sure you shout about it.
But this also means that you shouldn’t agree to do jobs or projects that you don’t have the skills for. Because the damage that can be done to your relationship with a client for a poor job is far worst than explaining to them that what they need isn’t what you can offer. Not only will they respect you more, but they are far likelier to then consider using your services when the right opportunity comes along.
This might all seem daunting. It isn’t supposed to be. Rather it is there to hopefully guide you in being able to create a successful photography business. There will bumps along the way and at times you will make mistakes that you will learn from. You will also probably discover some more harsh realities about being a photographer. But with the right attitude and knowing some of the above you will have a better outlook for the future.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.