Being a famous photographer is exciting, but it’s not easy. That’s why I receive many inquiries from readers who ask me for guidance in taking the first steps in photography.
This week’s article is written thinking of everything I would have liked to have been told before deciding to become a famous photographer.
If you’re just getting started or if you’re thinking about taking the first steps, this article can clarify some basic ideas for you.
Two most fundamental elements of being a famous photographer
- Passion for photography
- Qualities to take photographs.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t dedicate yourself to photography if you don’t have these two elements, but I don’t recommend it.
1 – You need a passion for photography
Can you be a photographer without having passion? Of course, just as you can be a sweeper without having a passion for sweeping or a butcher without having a passion for meat.
But I think that an artistic and creative activity doesn’t make sense without passion, don’t you think?
For me, passion makes me feel like when you fall in love or when you stop smoking and you have abstinence. That’s how I think if I don’t take pictures.
How do you live your passion for photography?
2 – You need minimal qualities to take photos
I firmly believe that minimum attributes are required for all activities. I have a passion for many things for which I am super clumsy, like music, which drives me crazy, but I would be unable to give a good note.
For many activities, the school or university can prepare us. But for creative and artistic activities in which the mind works spontaneously and without rules, it is not always possible to create a way to learn this minimum.
The minimum qualities for being a photographer are not determined anywhere, but I think some symptoms can give you a clue.
If your photos don’t sell, if your clients don’t spontaneously bring you to others, if no one comes to you saying they saw the work you did for a friend of theirs. Your job is not up to the task anyway.
Sometimes a photographer has asked me for advice to better sell their work and I have found that I was not up to the standard expected of a professional photographer.
This could be your case but not be able to see it. We are all a bit special with our work, we like it because it is ours and we may not accept well that it is not as good as we think it is.
Having passion is not enough; you also have to have some minimal qualities to take photographs at the level you expect.
3 – Your professional photographer team does not limit you; it motivates you and distinguishes you.
I have noticed that the professional photographer’s equipment is given too much importance. As if not having a specific lens or accessory made you worse photographer or unable to sell.
We accuse our team, which we don’t have, of being responsible for our lack of sales because if I had the optics “such” 0 or the flash “X” I would be able to take the same photos as my master “X” and sell as much as he does and I would be famous and rich.
If anything distinguishes a famous photographer from a pure amateur or “photographer” is that the photographer focuses on creativity, on doing wonders with what little he has, whatever it is.
He does this precisely because he is famous, that is to say, knows the profession, knows what can be done with what things and knows how to get 300% out of the team he has.
On the other hand, the amateur or the bad professional only copies and buys his equipment by impulse, copying the work of his idols and for that he tries to have the same equipment.
That’s a big mistake. Your team should not limit you, and it should not be the cause of your “bad” photographs.
Your team must be your distinctive characteristic and you must be able to surprise doing with it what nobody expects. Precisely because you are famous and they are not.
4 – No copies, be original and triumph
Not copying means not gorging yourself on courses and workshops of other consecrated photographers with the vain hope of learning so much from them that your problems will be solved and you will have rain of contracts.
It’s much more useful to have a mentoring partner, an experienced professional nearby, who will correct you and help you see your own style and mature it.
You’ll get cheaper (some dinner from time to time or some professional favour) and you’ll get to have your style while perfecting your technique.
Going to see some great professional may be good, to detoxify yourself, to corroborate that you’re going in the right direction, to chat with colleagues and exchange experiences and opinions.
But abandon the idea that your future depends on the courses or workshops you go to because it’s not like that. How do I know? By pure and straightforward experience.
After taking stock, I noticed that most of the photographers you are going to see (if they are not all) are not “masters”, that is to say, they do not know how to explain, they do not have notions of how to make themselves understood or transmit their knowledge.
They know how to do something, but they don’t necessarily know how to make you see it.
Besides, some of those workshops or lectures are just slideshows of their photos commented by their authors… if you send me a video to my email I would have the same and I save the hotel and travel.
So the experience is rather frustrating.
At the end of everything you invest in courses, you get back a minimum part.
Also, put yourself in the best of the best. Put yourself in those courses and take advantage of 300%, that you learn everything and that you are able, in d10 days, to do precisely the same as the teacher you went to see.
Why do you need to copy what someone else does? Would Picasso have copied one of his contemporaries?
As you can see, the road takes you to a dead end. If you go and don’t take advantage of the workshops, you’ve lost money and time. But if you go and take advantage of 300% you are only a mere copy of your teacher… which can only be cheaper than the original.
On the other hand, if you abandon that path and explore your own style, they will never be able to measure you by comparison because you have a different style.
I mean you shouldn’t go to any course or workshop? No, not at all. What I’m saying is be careful who you go to and know what you’re going to and what you’re going for. So that you can make the most of your time and money.
5 – You need to be a better manager than a photographer
This is whether we like it or not. The one who knows more about marketing sells more photos than the one who is the best photographer.
A 10% more quality in your photos your clients will not appreciate it and will not pay for it.
10% more quality in your marketing and your sales will increase or increase your personal brand that will make you raise prices and bill more.
What 10% improvement are you going to dedicate your time to?
6 – The path is specialization
In the world in which we live more and more people want confidence and security in what they buy or hire.
In the world of photography, this means that the famous photographer who specialises in a specific subject is generally preferred to the generalist photographer who does a bit of everything.
This will make your target audience smaller in your locality of residence which will force you to be a regional photographer rather than a local, or a national photographer rather than a regional, depending on your market niche.
7 – Focus on a specific type of audience
It’s a logical consequence of specialization. Only one type of product or service concentrates your audience. Within this audience, it is possible to specify even more and focus on a single subtype.
The more you specify and define your audience, the easier it will be to sell them specific products or services designed for them.
Trying to sell to everyone is a mistake because everyone is different and we want different things.
8 – Create a unique and original proposal
Surely the clients you are addressing or wish to discuss already have proposals for what they need.
So why should they hire you? Because you are different and offer an original proposal that is not comparable to the others.
Only in that difference will you be able to escape from price struggles and from being one of the pile.
As you can see, this point has a lot to do with point four.
If you specialize, you focus on a specific and determined audience, but then you offer them what others are already offering you will have travelled a path that has already been walked to reach a place that is already occupied.
Instead, if you pay attention to point 4, you will have in your hand the possibility of accessing a virgin market, your own blue ocean
9 – Need visibility
This visibility has to come from your presence on the Internet, especially on your photographer’s website.
It’s not worth saying that you don’t have any money now that it’s worth having a Facebook profile.
It’s not worth saying that you don’t have money and that you’re going to make a free website on a well-known platform (I won’t mention names).
It’s not worth saying that…I don’t care.
Would you buy meat from a butcher who takes care of you at home, in his living room and who doesn’t have professional knives to cut meat? Surely not.
I mean that you are as good and reliable as you seem to be. And you don’t seem to be if you lack the essential elements of any serious business or company. And you miss not having contracts?
There’s no excuse. If you want to be a famous photographer as crucial as your camera is your website (yes, website, not Facebook) and your portfolio,
From your website and with the help of your blog and social networks, you will create your visibility and your personal brand. Without a website, you won’t be able to build any of that.
10 – You need to cultivate your own brand
This is more important than it looks. Think of the personal brand as what they say about you when you’re not around.
The personal brand can also grow with the partners and associates with whom you come together to make synergies. Remember the proverb that says
“Tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are.”
In short, having a strong personal brand will make word of mouth easy and will allow you to access more select markets and charge higher prices. Don’t you think it’s worth the effort?
11 – Correctly calculate your prices/costs
The biggest mistakes of photographers when starting are made at the time of setting prices and calculating labor costs.
Some of those mistakes you shouldn’t make are:
- Put low prices to start with. Your work has a specific price from minute one and you should not lower it. Set your prices high from day one.
- Set prices only a little lower than your competition. You and your competition won’t have the same costs or deliver the same type of work. It doesn’t make sense to take them as a reference.
- Don’t include amortization and wear of your equipment in your costs. How will you replace your equipment when it breaks down or when it is very old?
- Do not include in the cost the time needed to make necessary arrangements such as backups, management, billing, etc.. That time is consumed and if you don’t count it you will be losing money.
- Not counting holidays as part of your salary
- Not counting on your forecasts always being over-optimistic in contracts and always having distractions or unforeseen events that make you perform less than desired. Reduce your revenue forecasts by half and increase your cost forecasts by two to avoid unpleasant surprises.
12 – Don’t think before why your services are the way they are
Many times I come across proposals from professional photographers that are nothing more than the reflective response of another project from another professional photographer.
And I ask myself, and I ask you, why copy another photographer’s proposal?
You don’t know the reasons that led him to make that decision.
You don’t know if it will adapt better or worse to your clients.
You don’t know if your clients, even their own are delighted with his proposal.
If you don’t know anything about it and nothing about it, why do you offer your clients a product based on what your competition provides your clients?
The first thing you have to do is to articulate a different proposal, innovative, thought for and by your customers, in their needs and way of living photography and the fact that leads him to hire you.
Making a proposal copied from your competition will end up leading you to compete for price and that’s not what you want, is it?
THE LIMIT OF WHAT IS TOLERABLE AND THE VALUE OF YOUR WORK
Let’s see… I don’t know how to explain this…
I’ll explain it to you with an example. Let’s say you pay a photographer specialized in architecture 3000 $ to take some pictures of your new house. You pay that amount because you think it’s what the job is worth, of course.
The photographer can do two things:
1 – To deliver the right and necessary photos to cover the house, let’s say 10 photos.
2 – Go crazy and photograph each room from 50 different angles, with different optics and different photographic treatments. In the end, I would give you 3000 pictures of your house.
Now think about that scene and meditate on your inner feelings and tell me:
Do you think you would value your work the same if you received 10 photos as if you received 3000 photos?
Would each photograph have the same specific value for you no matter if it belongs to a report of only 10 photos or 3000?
I don’t know your answer, I hope to read it in the comments, but I’ll tell you mine: for me the 3000 photos would be all unimportant photos, after all each one has cost only a measly dollar.
On the other hand, each one of those 10 photos would be admired and valued until its last square millimetre because each photo has cost $300.
I’m telling you all this because there is a kind of perverse and wrong fashion of giving the bride and groom more photographs than they can assimilate.
Do you think that some bride and groom need 500 photographs of their wedding?
I have read proposals from photographers who deliver 500, even 1500, photos from the wedding report. That’s for a price of less than $1200.
This makes each photograph cost approximately 3$ when a wedding photograph should not cost less than 12$.
Giving so many photographs for so little money makes the photographs themselves worthless and therefore you and your work have no value.
This lack of value of your work, and of yourself, is the prelude to the loss of respect for your clients. If you are not worth anything, you do not deserve respect.
How many photos do you deliver in the reports?
How did you make that decision?
Do you think you could revise that figure and adjust it to give more value to your work?
Answer these questions in the comments.
Being a famous photographer has its charm and its difficulties, but if you follow these tips, you will be closer to achieving it.
How do you see them concerning yourself, do you feel identified?
Tell us about your experience and your beginnings.
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