We all start "some where" in a new adventure. The beginning stages of photography are full of mistakes made over and over by every new person who has bought a camera in hopes of starting a photography business. The most frequent one is thinking photography is a 100% profit, incredibly easy profession to jump into. All that's needed is a "good" eye, a camera, a lens, a passion to capture pictures of people's little moments...and the love of pizza, cats, and Jesus.
There is nothing wrong with pizza, cats (well.... maybe...), and Jesus. But there is so much more to becoming a photographer than just having an "eye", a good camera, and a decent lens. The amount of business smarts, time management, discipline, patience, people skills, organization, ability to strategize, marketing skills, education, goal setting, phone skills, typing skills, design skills, social media management, web presence management, networking, and dedication HEAVILY out weighs the actual photography part. In fact, holding a camera in my hand is just a tiny fraction of what happens in the studio. Running a studio is business coming in first and having a "passion" coming in dead last.
Over the last few years I've become a mentor and public speaker on top of everything else; it's inspiring to me to inspire others! I work with helping serious beginners all the way up to other professionals increase their skill sets. I get to travel the country teaching at photography conventions, host workshops, and coach one on one. I have made my own path to finding mentors who have shared their education with me. These are business leaders I trust to help me travel down the path of success; not by holding my hand step by step but encouraging me to take the leap and kick me in the butt when needed.
The Mistake: Lacks the understanding the basic fundamentals of photography:
Camera settings - shoots on auto or predetermined factory settings
Exposure - under exposes or over exposes unintentionally, consistently
White Balance - creates images with a color cast unintentionally, consistently
Lighting control and patterns - wither available or in studio, uses term "specializing in natural light photography"
Posing - allows clients to pose themselves 99% of the time in unflattering poses
Lens choice - how their choice of lens has an effect on the way the subject looks
Tips for Fix:
Camera settings: Read your camera's owner manual! That little book that comes with your camera has a wealth of important information in it. Take a couple of hours to sit down and learn your equipment - even seasoned professionals take a moment to review the information from time to time.
Exposure: Don't rely on the back of the screen to show you what your photos will actually look like! If you're wanting to be a professional or wanting to be a better professional invest in a light meter! They are really easy to use and will tell you exactly where your settings need to be. It pays to be accurate and not just guess.
White Balance: Get yourself a 18% grey card and learn to use it religiously! Your photos should not be green, red, yellow, blue, cyan, or magenta.
Lighting Control: Even "natural light photographers" need to know how to control light - reflectors add light, scrims reduce light, flags blog light. Learn to see where it's falling and manipulate it into something beautiful. Light should have personality and character, it should flatter your subject not make it look fat and flat. I LOVE teaching lighting - come to me and I will help you learn how to sculpt with it!
Posing: Study old world masters. Your subjects should have shape and form to them, not just stand there like a squared up stiff brick in the middle of the photo. Hands should be soft and light for women, tough and thick for men. If there's two of something they need to be on different planes and if it bends bend it! You can add 10 pounds and take off 20 just by the way you pose someone.
Lens Choice: There is no one choice of lens - each has their own job and can be used creatively to break rule; that is once you know them! Wide angles create much more distortion. That mirror sticker "Objects appear closer than they are" is true for wide angles - body parts closer to the camera with a wide angle appear larger than they proportionally are - you can add weight. To flatter your subject the standard "portrait lens" choice is 100mm or more.
Over doing too much
Over shootings: rapid firing and taking 400 pics during a shoot is what we call is "Spray and Pray"
Over giving: no one needs all 400 of those pics
Over edits - no one has time to "edit" all 400 pics and you shouldn't rely on trendy "actions"
Over charges (anything is too much) before they are ready to
Tips to Fix:
Over shooing: Take your time to recognize bad light, poor posing, clothing sloppiness, crazy hair, squinting. When you slow down to shoot with a purpose your skill sets will improve, your time retouching will become less, and in the long run when you're pricing correctly as a professional your income will increase per hour. If it's a "normal" portrait session you do not need to shoot hundreds of images. Don't Spray and Pray - Do Stop and Focus.
Over giving: I have a huge heart. I want everyone to have everything I shoot BUT food on table is a must. I CANNOT give away everything and make a profit to provide for my family. Even if you are a weekend warrior photographer you need to put your business smarty pants on and think about your costs. Even if you are sell digital files they cost your money - your equipment, your education, your time, your gas, your computer EVERYTHING needs to be accounted for. If you give everything away out of the goodness of your heart you will not be in business long. It's ok to offer upgrade, heck stores do it to us DAILY. You can have a little of something but can always upgrade to something better. PROFIT is not a bad word! It puts food on your table, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head.
Over editing: Time at your computer costs you money, a photographer's income is made behind the camera. When you're not shooting your loosing income. When you Stop and Focus, stop thinking you have to give everything away, and not rely on trendy actions to make you stand out (because they don't) and develop a quality style your editing time will reduce tremendously. Is editing a bad thing? Absolutely not - we all want to present our best work to our clients. BUT don't edit all 400 from your spray and pray session; cull it down to the best of the best and work on those.
Over charging for the skill sets applied: If you just bought your first camera, are an amateur building a portfolio, as a hobbyist "just having fun" you should not be charging for snapshots - if you can't set prices to bring in minimum of $100/hour you don't have the skills to be charging at all (after taxes and everything else that's not bring home $100/hour) in my opinion. A photographer who has made the necessary steps in their education and experience to feel confident saying they are a professional will be able to book clients at this rate, no problem. If you think you're a pro and can run a business with the whole "$50 and a bunch of pics on CD" you do not have the education or experience to teach you better - you're not a professional, shouldn't be charging yet but should keep working and learning. It's a tough pill to swallow and it sucks to hear it but it's the truth. The $50 for everything and the kitchen sink route is a disservice to you, your clients, and the industry. Seasoned professional photographers work with clients all the time who have given their hard earned income to someone only to received bad service and waste money on bad snapshots - bad lighting, poor posing, bad exposure, bad color, just BAD. It's fine if you're at the beginning - learn and be consistent before you start charging. There's a flip side to this covered blow with undercharging....
Apply answers to questions and keeps asking the same question hoping for different answers
Tips to Fix:
Doesn't price correctly for their skill sets: There have been many times during my mentoring sessions where I coach people who are phenomenal photographers but are struggling to stay or are overwhelmed in business because they are priced to low for their skill sets. They are loosing clients to people under cutting them (not reaching the right target market) or they are burnt out and behind on orders because they are over booked (they also tend to over shoot, over edit, and over give...). They feel like if they raise their prices they will loose "all that business" but in reality what happens is they move to a new type of client who will invest more, make them work less, and be ecstatic for what their photographer has created for them. This "mistake" doesn't just happen to new photographers; it's one that is a continuing fear and recovery as we move up in skill sets.
Doesn't attend educational and networking events: Getting in person photographic education is worth every single penny you invest into it. The more you learn, the more you grow, the more you can charge and reach new markets. It can be intimidating to go to your first event, but I promise you'll become immediate family! When professional photographers see new people making an effort to expand their knowledge we support it 100% and celebrate it! We are an encouraging industry and are very open to sharing what we know! If you meet someone who isn't open, you've not met someone truly in the industry. A great place to start is finding your state PPA Affiliate; there are hundreds of them - if you're in Georgia and needing a launching off point, we have a great affiliate: GPPA
Doesn't accept constructive criticism well: The only way to get better to seek "CC" from a seasoned professional. BUT you will not learn if you do not listen to what can make you better. We know what to look for and can help you see the difference you can make in your own work. A PPA professional won't say "this is wrong." then not explain how to make it better. On the flip side, we will not fluff feathers and tell you everything is rainbows and butterflies when it's not. It's scary asking for feed back, but we all still do it, no matter what level we are! Getting constructive feed back is a positive thing, I am happy to help you if you're reading this no matter where you are!
Doesn't apply answers to questions, yet keeps asking the same questions hoping for different answers: This fix is easy. When you ask a question and get an answer at least try to apply the solution. I have mentored many photographers who keep having the same problem, yet when they receive answers they don't want to follow up. It's one thing not to understand the answer; ask for clarification. It's another to completely ignore the proposed solution.
The Mistake: Their...
"Website" is social media
About Me" doesn't mention their photographic skills. I've seen this, it's real, people, completely scouts honor.
"Marketing" is social media
Tips to Fix
Their website is only social media: If you're wanting to be a professional invest in a real website - one with real pages, and real galleries, and real information, with LINK to your social media. Don't rely on SM as a place to send your potential clients to.
Their marketing is only on social media: Get involved with your community, do fairs, pair up with other businesses, put together events, send people letters, make an impression that no one else in your area is doing. There is more to marketing than posting on your social media.
Their "Bio"... oh. boy. Their "Bio": For the love of Jesus, and pepperoni pizza, and Mr. FluffyMuffinsSquishyFace - PLEASE focus on your photographic skills into your "About Me". PLEASE don't open with "Lover of pizza, cats, and Jesus" I have honestly read this opening line more time by more than one person. While all three of those points are fantastic they are not reasons to hire you for my photography needs. Now, if I need someone to cat sit while eating pizza and sending prayers YOU are my guy! You're bio should showcase why people should spend their money with you. "Capturing little moments is a passion" … is also not a reason though it's is great it's also the "passion" of that camera owner (who shouldn't be charging yet) selling a bazillion pics on a CD for $50. UP YOUR GAME. Make me want to do business with you because you have a rocking bio!
The Mistake: Hasn't
Created the opportunity to get the experience needed to increase skill sets.
Joined at least one professional association
Tips to Fix:
Hasn't Created the opportunity to get the experience needed to increase skill sets: There are always opportunities to grow in the photography industry - you just have to take the time to do it yourself. We are all busy and may not reach out directly to you, but if you reach out to any of us we'll happily fit you into our schedules to teach you something! Remember me talking about showing you want to learn and we'll celebrate and encourage you. This is part of it - take the imitative to create your own opportunities.
Hasn't joined an association: The two big leaders in our industry are the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI). Of course there are guilds, PPA Affiliate, local photography clubs, and local groups. Do a little google search and find a launching point for you. I full suggest the PPA and a PPA Affiliate. Personally I've not been a member of WPPI because of their focus on weddings, but now that they are diving more in to portrait photographers I'm considering joining them as well.