Do you have a passion for photography you’re thinking of turning into a career? While that sounds exciting, the reality is that running a business is far different from taking photographs as a hobby. Many photographers run into obstacles and often fail when it comes to the business end of photography. In this video, I’ll be walking through 5 mistakes photographers make when turning their passion for photography into a profession.
Video: 5 Mistakes Photographers Make When Going Into Business
Let’s be honest. I’m able to give you this information because I’ve made all of these mistakes myself. Throughout my career, I’ve also seen countless other photographers fall into the same critical traps. Now, this information may be difficult to digest, but it’s important to be real and honest. Avoiding these mistakes can save you tons of time and can even save your business. Let’s jump into the first of 5 mistakes photographers make when going into business.
Mistake #1: Setting the Wrong Expectations
Undoubtedly, photography may be your passion and your work might be incredible. Your own family and friends might be asking why you aren’t a pro yet. The freedom to create to your heart’s content is the best part of any creative endeavor… as a hobby.
When photography becomes your career, it’s important to understand that you’re providing a service, not just art. Your clients will have expectations and needs that you will have to fulfill, especially when they are paying you. What this means is that you will lose much of the freedom to create as you please. Clients hire based on what they’ve seen, and they expect the style and look you’ve developed. Only rarely and for the highly established photographers, do clients give complete creative freedom.
If what you enjoy most about photography is the freedom of creating, you may consider keeping it as a hobby. Photography can be your passion, but passions don’t always have to be your profession. You can simply create photographs for your own enjoyment, and that’s perfectly okay.
Mistake #2: Lacking a Focus
You’re in it to win it but you love so many genres of photography. Let’s say you’re the jack of all trades, photographing everything from weddings and engagements to street and commercial. However, to succeed, I recommend you pick one genre to focus on.
Think about it. You’re competing with the best of the best photographers who spend all their time in very specific niches. When you try to tackle multiple genres, you’re likely not investing enough time specializing in any one genre. Clients want to hire the best, and to be the best, you need to focus in. Whether it be wedding, food, or fashion, become exceptional and outcompete your competition.
Mistake #3: Not Understanding Their Audience
This is one of the biggest mistakes photographers make when entering the business of photography. It’s crucial to know what your audience and target market wants if you’re going to be selling them your service. For example, a Jewish-Orthodox couple will have very different expectations than an adventure couple who want a wild destination wedding. The way you market your services to each couple will be completely different.
More broadly speaking, an engaged couple likely won’t be interested in editorial fashion portraits. In the same way, a family won’t care that you take commercial car photographs. Take the time to understand to a tee exactly what your target client wants and craft your message to be their solution.
Mistake #4: Getting Lost in the Technical
When we become fixated on the technical, we tend to use it as a crutch when things go wrong. In addition, we end up relying on it to sell our services. This is called “feature selling.” This could include boasting expensive gear or showing off our signature bokeh style. Don’t worry, we’ve all done it.
When we do this, we lose our ability to relate to our clients emotionally. They don’t see photography the same way we do as photographers. Our terminology will likely be foreign to them. Your clients are there for the experience you provide, and that leads to the next of the mistakes photographers make.
Mistake #5: Not Knowing Their Product
You’re not selling just a photograph or technical expertise. At least not nowadays when anybody can take a photo. You’re selling your ability to translate your client’s values into a photograph that they could then use.
For example, an advertiser is looking for a way to visually express their brand’s message and story. Likewise, your wedding clients want the memories of their cherished moments to hang on the wall. Your service as a photographer is to relate to your client. The photograph and your technical capabilities are simply the means.
I hope you enjoyed this article/video on the 5 mistakes photographers make when transitioning photography from a hobby to a career. Keeping these mistakes in mind and avoiding them can save you tons of time and energy when building your own business. I’ve made all of these mistakes myself so rest assured, these are coming purely from experience. Photography as a profession is highly fulfilling but understanding the unique challenges that come with it is crucial for success.
For a complete course on the business of photography, check out the Photography Business Training System on SLR Lounge Premium. Here, we dive into every aspect of building a successful business around photography. We’ve followed this model when building Lin & Jirsa into a 7 figure business, and in the course, we spill all the secrets to how you can do the same yourself.