I was recently inspired when I read Seth Godin’s blog post “Clawing your way to the bottom.” In part, Seth says the following:
“…brands that rushed to deliver low price at all costs had to figure out which corners to cut, and fooled themselves into thinking they could get away with it forever.”
The big problem in photography today is that there are gobs of fauxtographers clawing their way to the bottom. They fight for scraps & for any business that they can get. It’s like seagulls fighting over a fish head. They’ll take any wedding or any portrait session. Some fauxtographers will take impossible Groupon deals just to get some money coming in, even if it would be impossible to fulfill.
Mathematically Impossible ~
What most photographers miss is the mathematical impossibility that exists to run a profitable business while fighting to be the least expensive in the market. What I mean is that if you’re doing $75 portrait sessions and giving away all of the digital images then there is simply no chance of up-selling. Even if a photographer does one portrait session per day, five days per week, they’re still only making about $24,000 per year….and that’s with 220 portrait sessions (impossible)
Worse yet are the wedding fauxtographers who think that they can make money on a $1,000 wedding. Even if that photographer shot every single Saturday (which they won’t) they would only have income of $52,000. In reality, they may be lucky enough to book 30 weddings in a year which would give them income of $30k. No money for upgrades of equipment and definitely not enough to make ends meet.
Worse yet, the market is encouraging tons of fauxtographers to get into the game. These are people who buy a camera, put it on auto and try to take photos for money. They spend zero on education and they really have NO CLUE what goes into a creatively correct exposure. They think that they can push a button and make money. Unfortunately the marketplace is allowing them to get away with it for a time. Most do give up because they don’t make any money, but while they are in the game, they take business from legitimate photographers who sincerely want to improve their craft to give the best possible product to their clients.
The big problem is that while there are fauxtographers falling out of the business faster than we can count, just as many are entering the business and beginning their journey as the low price leader in your town.
Education & Learning ~
Let’s say that you’re one of the aforementioned photographers who really is not satisfied with being on the bottom of the photography pile. If you are, then you need to commit to actually learning photography. If I mention f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO and you don’t have any clue what those are, then you NEED to educate yourself PRIOR to charging a dime to a client.
You’re simply doing a disservice to anyone you work for if you charge them while you don’t know what you’re doing. It would be like opening a dental office and charging to fill cavities without one day of professional education. It’s not fair to your clients and it will never get you ahead.
If you commit, however, you’ll be able to educate yourself above the crowd. I would be willing to wager that a full 90% of the fauxtographes out there will never, ever attempt to learn about how to craft a decent exposure. This gives you the benefit of being better than 90% of the competition just by educating yourself. Below I will make a couple of suggestions for ways to learn. It will cost you barely any money and just a bit of time.
Figure out how to market ~
I have seen just about everything in photography marketing. I have seen crazy Craigslist ads to constantly bugging people on Facebook. I have seen cards stuck to a cork board at every local coffee shop and I have even seen business owners giving away their time for “exposure.” I have heard fauxtographers singing the blues as crickets fill up their inbox.
First, identify the difference between marketing and sales. Marketing is attracting new POTENTIAL clients through broad-net advertising. This means that you’re putting your name out there in hopes that someone will contact you.
Sales is different. It is the process of taking a lead from just looking to signing your contract. The difference in these is critical. Unfortunately for most fauxtographers there’s not nearly enough emphasis spent on proper marketing.
Just because you build a website on Wix, doesn’t mean you’ll be number one on Google. It take a huge, concerted effort to get to the top of Google. Hmmmmm, time and effort? Who knew?
So Much More ~
I am not suggesting that the above information even scratches the surface of what a successful photography business looks like. There is so much more that you need to do to really be successful in this business. My advice, if you care, is LEARN what you’re doing, save up lots of money, build your business.
Want the easy way? You can get Fauxtographor. A pill you can take to make you into a photographer.
A great start
Start with these books. You’ll learn a ton and you won’t spend a lot of money.