My Olympus OM-D E-M5 came in today and while I wait for the initial battery charge I thought I'd blog a little about some business that has been ping ponging around my head since yesterday.
My hairdresser asked me a while ago if I'd like to come to the local university where he teaches and be a hair model for a demonstration. That sounded fun so I agreed and yesterday morning I sat in front of a dozen or so students while he cut my hair and talked about technique and the business of hair dressing.
I found it incredibly interesting as it related so closely to the photography business (as a lot of businesses do) and it re-affirmed for me some of the closely held beliefs I have had the last few months.
Later in the day I went to a friends home who is a local photographer and did a couple of images for her as she was being featured on a website. She's an incredibly talented and well established pro in our community and we talked business later and about the state of the industry. It's challenging out there right now to make a dollar in this profession and the thoughts I had while getting my hair cut kept coming back to me.
By the way, as a photographer do you have images of yourself for use? I mean good ones, not snapshots? I've been fortunate enough to have a couple of friend photographers make some for me for blogs, websites, etc. It's been really great and I recommend it for you as well. How can you sell yourself as a photographer if you don't have polished images that promote you?
|Photo by Kelli Etheridge taken with a Nikon D300|
We all deal with people as service professionals that don't fit well with us as far as personality goes or how we like to work. In the example the hairdresser used it was a highly critical customer that was belligerent or rude. I've certainly seen that from customers that are grumpy and may not value photography or enjoy my brand of photography (maybe a more traditional client).
I've also had people that come in and ask for photography cheaply (way below a price where I can make any money) or balk at my quote for services. I could lower my price in order to get money in the door, but I choose not too.
I think at some point when you are in business you have to value yourself and realize that the customer isn't always right. If they don't fit into your aesthetic or values then it's really best if you nip it in the bud early on and show them the door. Try and be polite while doing it, but save yourself the pain of an unsatisfied customer later. Let someone else work with them that may, for budget or style reasons, be a better fit.
|When fellow photographer Jesse Bone found out I'd lost a large amount of weight, he offered to do this photo for me. Canon 5D Mark ii|
Something I've really come to learn over the past year was how important it is to specialize in your craft. If you are known as a food photographer (for example) it is so much more valuable than being known as a generalist. A lot of new photographers I meet have websites that show everything from food to babies, weddings, portraits, sports, puppies, flowers, real estate, products, corporate events, concert photography....everything. It's a crapshoot.
If this is you, it's time for a reality check. Frankly a generalist commands no respect, and generic pricing. You are not good at everything. The instructor made a really good point in his example. If you go see your doctor and have a mole on your face and they say to you that they could remove it, but would rather refer you on to a specialist that will remove it expertly with no scar and be more qualified to watch for certain skin based disorders, you would respect that. In fact you would build loyalty with your doctor and trust for making that referral. You would return to him/her for the type of work they practice.
There is no shame is saying to a potential or existing client "I don't specialize in architectural photography and I want you to get the best product. Please contact XYZ photography and I know they will take great care of you." In fact, the next time that customer needs food photography (assuming that's your specialty) then they will absolutely come back to you.
Photography, and the different areas of it, is a specialized craft. I am not aware of one photographer, no matter how famous that is great at everything. I know some that are OK at a lot of things. If you are OK, you can charge OK prices. If you are a specialist, you can command specialist pricing. And as a bonus you get to enjoy what you're doing assuming you've chosen your specialty wisely.
|Photo of the Vivid Boys by Greg Howard taken with a Nikon D4|
When I first went there looking for a new look on my (challenging) hair that is super fine and straight he brought in another stylist and they talked about how to cut it, and what products to use. It was a really interesting experience. They actually cared about the end product. For me, if my hair is too short it stands straight up like baby fine wisps in the wind. Fixed now thanks to good people.
The point is that he pushes himself constantly to get better and to learn, and he has fun doing it. He gets out of bed excited about his craft. I think a lot of photographers feel the same way. I know myself before I shoot a job or personal project I'm often jittery and excited. Sometimes I can't sleep. That's how I know I'm on the right track.
I also know some photographers that shoot weddings for example, but hate them. They never go to training and just keep pumping out the same work they've been doing their whole career. Then one day they wake up and realize that they are no longer relevant, no longer excited and are on their way out of the profession.
If I can offer any advice that I live by, it's to find one or two areas of photography that get you excited and stick to them. Then keep pushing yourself to get better. What you shot today isn't good enough. Do better tomorrow. That might sound hard, but I guarantee it will keep you happy.
|First photo with the OMD, this makes me a dedicated blogger......I need to use this thing!|