One thing is for sure, there’s no shortage of opinions on how you should be running your business!
If you’re just starting out in photography, you’ll soon discover that everyone you know suddenly seems to be an expert at business and is more than happy to tell you how you should be running yours. Truth be told, most of the “advice” you’re going to get is coming from a place of love. Most of the people you know really do want you to succeed (I stress “most”). It’s just funny how much feedback you get on running a professional photography business from people that are not photographers, nor have their own business. And while their advice may appear sound at the time, be cautious, because sometimes things that seem to make the most sense just don’t make any sense at all!
Family and friends mean well, they really do…but in all likelihood, they’ve never run or owned a photography business. They’ve never sat through photographic education conferences or seminars. They haven’t watched countless hours of online photography education. Yet so many times we feel pressure to listen to the advice of family and friends. Trust me, you can still love them will all of your heart, want them in your life more than anything, AND choose not to follow their advice. Your photographic colleagues will also have plenty of advice on how you should run your business. This is a little more tricky. It becomes extremely important to get to know your fellow photographers in your community and to establish positive relationships with them. These people do have a photography business, many of which may have been in business for some time. Their advice could be a treasure trove of guidance and wisdom. But let’s pause to be very real for a second too…some (typically very few) of your fellow photographers see you only as competition. Even if you’re new, you’re just the person “trying to put them out of business.” Be wary of advice from these individuals, because more often than not their “advice” is disguised to help them more than you! (PS. These people are typically pretty easy to spot.)
There are people out there that are going to tell you what you need to shoot. They’re going to tell you that you should be shooting everything…weddings, seniors, babies, families, products, buildings, landscapes…whatever you can get someone to pay you to shoot. After all, you need to pay the bills! I mean, it sounds like good advice to make money in as many photographic avenues as possible, but ever heard the expression “jack of all trades, master of none”? This is very true for photographers as well as any other trade. If we’re going to be successful and really set ourselves apart, we absolutely need to specialize! We have to find that subject matter that drives us to create, that makes us want to learn to do it better, and that gets us excited to pick up the camera.
There are people out there that are going to tell you how you need to shoot. They’re going to critique your style and tell you your images are too dark, too light, have too much color, not enough color, too photoshopped, or not photoshopped enough. They’ll explain that if you shoot dark, dramatic, photoshopped seniors that you’ll never get business from seniors that like bright, airy, natural looking images. Then you’ll pause for a second and think, “they’re right…I’m limiting my audience. Maybe I should change what I’m doing.” But I’m here to tell you, what you should be thinking is “they’re right…I’m limiting my audience. Now I get to work with people that want to work with me!” If you’re not limiting your audience, you’re not able to charge an appropriate price. Again, try to please everyone and you’ll just be ok at everything, but never great at that one thing.
That “one thing” is what makes you unique! It’s what will drive people to you that love what you do and know that they can’t go anywhere else to get it! It’s what separates you from the other photographers in your community. It’s also what allows you to befriend your fellow photographers because if you’re each true to using photography to express who you are as an artist, you no longer step on one another’s toes. It’s what creates a driving force in you to be better and a desire to be the best version of yourself possible. We will never experience what it’s like to know what God has created us for until we find that “one thing” that He has instilled in us that makes us different from everyone else, then pursue it.
If you’re finding yourself torn between what you know is your thing and what others think your thing should be, you’re not alone. It happens to all of us. The list of people who should actually have a real effect on what we do is so small that I can literally only think of two…God and our spouse. As for everyone else, when it really comes down to it…who cares what they think!