I am going to *attempt* a new weekly post called ten on tuesday. Ten random Steph-isms… some photography related, some not so much, and some feeble attempts to just fill the list…hahaha 🙂
Today’s ten on Tuesday has been brewing for a few days. A new business owner asked me what I thought was the single most important thing I had learned since opening my doors and I laughed and said “There are at least ten!” and she said “Great… write them down for me” So, though I am no business expert, there are some things that I have learned, mostly the hard way, about starting a small, boutique photography business and here they are:
1. It will be hard.
I don’t know why so many are flocking to this industry, but I can assume it is because it seems easy. I mean, it’s just taking pictures, right?
Owning a business is hard. It is also rewarding. Many days it is one or the other and for every day that you spend high on life, feeling blessed and amazed at your success, one will follow where you will consider throwing in the towel and selling your gear. If you are looking for a quick and easy buck, this is not it. But that is okay! Everything awesome is worth working hard for.
2. Equipment is important…
Sorry, folks. Chances are that if you can buy it at costco or wal mart, it is not pro equipment. And I do 100% believe that you should own professional gear if you are a professional. Does that mean that an amazing portrait cannot be taken with a d3000 or a rebel? NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. And there are people that own 5d mark iiis that are not professionals, either, that just bought a pro body because they wanted a great mom camera. There are exceptions to every rule. But I believe in a level playing field both for ourselves and our clients. I think that when a client pays for a portrait, they should be able to expect that they are receiving a professional finished product and the color, clarity and sharpness of pro bodies and lenses cannot be matched.
3. ….but so is being fiscally responsible.
I also don’t advocate putting yourself into debt. I own a cash business. I have NEVER charged a single item or financed gear. I think that to really focus on your clients, it helps to not have payments hanging over your head. I bought an old pro body, then upgraded, then upgraded again. I added lenses one at a time, in order of most useful. When starting your business, if money is tight, look around your house. I found tons of stuff sitting around that I never used. I sold it all and purchased a $2200 lens without spending a dime from my checking account.
4. Other photographers are not really your competition.
So being nasty to them, copying them, bad mouthing them and undercutting their pricing is not helping YOU. And honestly, it is not hurting THEM. It only is growing bitterness in your heart and that is bad for you and it is transparent. Your clients will pick up on it. Compete with yourself only and you will grow and succeed!
5. Price yourself to profit, not to compete on price.
If you start a business competing on price, you will soon lose on price. Compete on ability, artistry and exceptional client experience. That is priceless!
6. Be the expert/the customer is not always right.
Client wants an 8×10? Cool. Are the putting on their desk? No. Guess what? 8x10s will look silly hanging on their 12×12′ wall, unless you assist them in designing a gallery. But if you just behave as an order taker instead of a consultant you will be doing them a disservice. Same for wardrobe and location and posing… be the expert and deliver a phenomenal product for the client based on your expertise!
7. Less is more.
Props, signs, banners, buckets, headbows, chalkboard signs, goofy poses and post processing: less is more. It will be outdated in a few year’s time. Create a timeless work of art for your clients.
8. Get it right in the camera.
Get it right. In camera. Editing should not be a full time affair. All I ever do is a little curves, a little levels and a little sharpen. It saves you time, which saves you and your clients money. Win-win-win!
9. Learn traditional lighting and posing techniques.
It is not outdated. It is classic and timeless. Sure, you should create your own art but if you create that art without even knowing and understanding the rules, it is not creative license, it is a shortcut.
10. You’ve got to be legit… you need to know what you are doing, you need to be registered, you need to pay taxes, you need to invest in education.
Keep learning… I sure am! every day!
I have made every single one of these mistakes. Some I still make, even though I know better. But these are definitely the top ten things that I learned the hard way that changed my business. What should we talk about next tuesday?