Re-affirming my stances

I find myself often almost caught by the tide of the popular ideas.

I used to say certain things… that I want to be able to say again with 100% certainty.

With the new wave of business centric thought in photography…
I don’t want to get caught up and forget the things that helped me get to where I am.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate philosophizing about the business of photography

I watched a presentation by a very successful photographer David Jay but he also stressed.

“If you truly make your business about helping other people you’ll always have alot of work”

I would like to be another witness to that statement.

Things I used to say and stances I used to keep…
Which I re-affirm to keep

I used to say with 100% assurance the following:

“I make my wedding photography and wedding packages the way I would want it, if I were getting married”

I’m gonna make sure this is still the case…

I will fight the fad to make packages it in such a way to make the most money possible and be tricky and suck the unknowledgeable in.

Yes i suppose this could be a blatant affront to those charging low amounts for their photography but walking away with a grip of cash in the end because they charge for everything.

I don’t want to be salesman and I’m lucky enough my business is going well enough I don’t have to be. I don’t want to have to sell and up-sell and squeeze every last drop out of their wallets.

Don’t charge by hour -

I could go off about the trickery in marketing the whole by hour costs seems to be. But I do understand it’s benefits in some cases.
I’ve seen the scenario cause problems in too many cases… well I should say I’ve heard to many horror stories.
I wouldn’t want an hourly person at my wedding… so therefore I’m not gonna be that person.
Another good reason is since everyone else charges hourly in Utah (and many other states) it sets me apart

Don’t push people into buying more -

I don’t like being sold something I wasn’t really after. I’m susceptible to doing it… I’m a spend thrift and am often a sucker…
but it feels so dirty afterwards I feel like they took advantage of me. I don’t want to be that person someone looks back at and says I love the product but in a way I kinda feel like I got tooken advantage of.

Don’t make it all about money.


Give lots of pictures - I would want lots of pictures of my wedding… so that’s how I’m going to keep doing it. I understand and support the other styles… but I’ll stick with my own.

Give the digital copies – Most people want to use their pictures on facebook, their blogs and other electronic methods. I would be one of those people if I were getting married.

If money is the only reason for not responding to the clients wants then shame on you!
Does this mean clients should get digital copies for FREE simply because it costs no money to deliver … NO

But it’s one of the reasons my starting prices are higher… because I provide those desired services and don’t sell them separately.

Besides: There’s much else to be said about letting clients use your pictures without a fuss on Facebook or their blogs.

But once again I’m with you on fighting you on the sense of entitlement from clients thinking that products like that should be free.

But I’m not with you if your stance is to not even offer them. Partly because it’s not what I would want if I were getting married.

I want to always give more than I promised.

Yes we state what we’re going to do for our clients but it’s good business and good friendship building (more important) to go above and beyond.

I make mistakes and each time I do I try to think of a way to more than make up for it. (Also to avoid doing those mistakes)

Stay away from time Limits

They cause problems, they limit creativity, they uphold unneeded expectations, they cause the shoot to go along in an artificial direction. They cause yet another fail point.
And doing it the opposite way certainly has been a big boon for me. Stay the extra 20-30 minutes at a wedding even when they’ve said you are free to go… and you’ll see the magic.

You’ll find that when a photo shoot is time to end it will just end. No need to set a stopwatch or an alarm clock. There are many benefits I could go off about.

Plus… I’m just not into being an Hourly Worker … that’s not how I want to “roll”

Teach – Help

Some people look at their photographic road and consider all the hundreds if not thousands of hours they put into it. The blood, sweat and tears.
And say…
After all I have went through I’m not going to help some person who just wants the easy road out.

I Say… after the thousands of hours I put in with no one to help me…
I will offer my hand of support to the next person wanting to travel the road and hope their journey is a little faster/nicer because of me.
(But I will also let them know they better be willing to fight for it and not expect greatness when they haven’t worked hard for it)
Helping someone to make it there faster doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t work hard at it.

Teaching Interns
I must say though it’s been hard work and a lot of time investment up front training 3 new interns has been an enriching experience.

My hope is that it will save time and help me to have a life one day.
But as a side benefit it has also increased my ability to improve quality for clients.
AND has helped me to learn a ton as I’ve had to learn the answers and teach.

It also helps to solve the problem that there is no one qualified to be a photographers employee because everyone that learns the skills goes off and starts their own profession as an actual photographer.
I could put up a job posting for someone but I can guess unless I start putting up salaries higher than what I actually make only people with not much experience will be answering the call.

Friendship & Business

I’m not a fan of when people say “you better treat this like a business you’re not out to make friends.”

Well guess what retards I am in it to make friends.

You can take your 100$ extra dollars and keep it “professional”, keep your distance and stick to the business of what you do… I’ll have fun and continue to have people looking out for me.

My intern just gave me a quote “Remember people on your way up, because they’ll remember you on your way down” haha

all in all: Not being so business centric in this field is just good business.

Service

I see both sides of the argument but let me debate one side for a moment.

You don’t always have to charge for what you do!!

In fact if you do… and charge just a little it’s probably worse for you than if you did the shoot for FREE

I believe we are supposed to share our talents and sometimes it’s quite alright to give them away… yes… even for FREE

So many people run scared thinking its hurting their business and the profession of photography.

Well I’m sorry but if giving back or being otherwise charitable is a problem then lets run those doctors without borders blokes out of town for ruining the wages of doctors.
Or lawyers donating their time for good causes crashing the economy of lawyers.

I do my charity shoot and focus on photo-shoots I wouldn’t normally do. Or photo shoots people wouldn’t normally pay for.
I do a lot of roommate pictures for college kids who wouldn’t normally hire a professional…
I go to mexico and donate a weeks time to a good cause. It’s just part of being a good person. And yes it can have positive impact on your business, even your pocket book.

My friend Rich Legg wrote a post about giving back on Photofocus

“I’m willing to work with you based on need”

I had this whole spiel about:

  • IF they really really wanted me to do their pictures… we could work something out.
  • IF they were just looking for the best deal… then I wasn’t open to playing.
  • IF they honestly had a tight budget … I was willing to help.
  • IF they were price matching… my offer didn’t apply.
  • IF  they went as far as they could go… I would make an effort as well.
  • IF  they were just looking for a “good deal” … I would be more than willing to point them in other directions.

Barter/Trade Method

I love this concept… it has so many benefits.
It’s often a WIN/WIN for both sides.

I wholeheartedly support trading services and wish more people were open to it.
But I understand how often the other side doesn’t need photography or I don’t need the services/product they offer

However, it doesn’t hurt to try

Hook Up my Friends

I have been really good at never just telling a customer… sorry I’m busy and hanging up the phone.
I tell them and shock them when I say even though I don’t get a dollar and can’t do the wedding I’ll pass it along to my friends.

“Keep it in the family” … so to speak

One day it might even become a trend for others to start doing this…
So keep watching out for more referrals for weddings I can’t do via twitter

Enjoy It

Make sure I am enjoying what I’m doing.
I chose photography because I was good at it AND enjoyed it. I didn’t like bosses and jobs.

The part I used to love so much about it was seeing the happy faces when people saw the pictures… and being appreciated.

Get Better

I guess I’m just tired of all these photographers talking about how to make more money and in my mind (perhaps mistakenly) they don’t worry about getting better and providing better service.

I want to keep getting better in the actual art of it and I understand the business part of it… but if that’s going well then keep getting better. And if it’s not going well… then keep improving the art… and maybe it’s because you’re focusing too much.

One last word… maybe two

Think about the famous painters of ages past. Strive for great art and you will be remembered as a great artist.
But if you want to be remembered as a business person… well then I guess you got your own thing.

On the other hand it’s not just how good your pictures are but what you do with your talents. The people you affect and the projects you do.

7 Comments

  1. Brody says

    Nice post man! I have actually been thinking a lot on these lines in the past couple of weeks. A lot of what you have said, I actually have written down. There are a lot of things in this industry that bother me and pricing is one of them. Because everyone is trying to get ahead of each other they either copy or duplicate packages and they just don’t understand the basis of how to price. I think its very important to be a photographer because you love it, not because the money is good. Lets be honest, its not that great. I do it because I love it. I love meeting amazing couples, helping out a charity that needs photos for their site, or even just shooting a special family.
    Thanks for helping me bring it all back into perspective man!
    Brody

  2. scott says

    Thanks Brody that means a lot.
    It’s not that I’m anti-money
    In fact i keep on raising prices. haha
    But that’s the whole supply and demand thing … and I’m hoping I’m also staying fair by upping the quality to make those prices more than a bargain.

    This is just a brainstorming effort… I would like to discuss it more and think about it more.
    So feel free anyone to chime in or write your thoughts on your own blog and leave a link in the comments here.

    And I do hope that I made it apparent that a lot of these stances were my own personal decisions… things that worked best for me.
    In many cases lifestyle decisions and I have no qualms with others deciding differently

  3. Tara says

    Thank you for this Scott. As someone who is trying to build a small business out of it, this is good to hear, and keep in mind. Why did I get into photography? Obviously it wasn’t because I wanted to make millions. But because I love how I feel when I am behind a camera, and like you said, seeing their faces and feeling appreciated. THAT’s why I am doing it. I need to keep that in the for-front of my mind.

    Thank you again for everything. Great post.

    Tara

  4. Dustin Stone says

    I have followed you through twitter and your blog since I got seriously into photography two years ago. You and some other photogs are like my long distance mentor group. It’s amazing what you can do online these days. Anyway your post hits me at a interesting time. I did a few weddings over the last year and realized that they were some of the most fun I’ve had in years! Nothing more fun than working with a fun family, being a part of the best day of their life and then giving them beautiful photos they will treasure for the rest of their lives (but you know all this).

    It’s made me really start to ask hard questions. The balance is very difficult. It’s very tough to be pulled in so many different directions and not be able to dedicate enought personal resources to any one thing. Hence the hard questions. Anyway, thanks for your dedication to your art and your business and for your generosity. I have learned alot from you and really appreciate everything.

    Also, if you ever need a second shooter/assistant in Colorado, drop me a line!

  5. Tracy Anderson says

    I just found this blog from your signature in an email response about your camera. I am excited to find this site! I loved this post. It is how I feel about life in general. It was a great read!

    Do you do mentoring? I love your work!

  6. Kyle Lauritzen says

    Thanks for this. I’m also trying to get a small business going, and these are great points to think about. I love photography and want this business so that I can always do what I love and share my talents with others. It is how I want to get by and pay the bills, but it also shouldn’t be about the money. It should be about love of the art and those around you.

    I haven’t followed your work/blog for long, but in reading this post alone I have a great respect for you. I’m sure I can learn a lot from you. Thanks, again!

    -Kyle

  7. Robb Duncan says

    OMG, Thanks so much for sharing this, you have no idea how perfect the timing is for me. Reading this was just like thinking aloud… are you in my head?

    Just last night I met with 3 other photographers who are in various degrees of starting out… I said pretty much the same thing to them as you have said here… and I am blown away, I am not the only one in the world thinking the way I think.

    Thanks again.

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