In a market that seems flooded with photographers, you might have wondered how you can make it your career. Perhaps you have been trying for a while, but nothing seems to be working out for you. Or perhaps you still need to answer this question first: Is photography a good career for you? It is time to take a step back – analyze yourself and your business – and then take action to ensure your chances of success increase.
Below are a number of things that you can look at – and some simple solutions. Now is the time to be honest, take stock and get your business up and running!
On the other hand, you might find after reading through these points that photography as a career is not for you. There is only one way to find out…
Top 15 Warning Signs That Photography Career Is Not Good For You
1. You Don’t Love Photography
If you are in photography for the money, this is not the career for you. You have to love what you do otherwise the hard realities of running a business you are not fully emotionally invested in will mean your business will fail. Think about it carefully before you have spent money to make money.
Loving what you do means the tough times you may go through are much easier to bear. Otherwise, you will give up at the first hurdle.
2. You Still Think You Need to Do a Certified Photography Course or Degree
You love taking photographs and have been told you have a flair for it. But, you have never completed a degree or even a course on photography.
Don’t let this hold you back from starting your career. What you need is a good eye, some technical ability and of course creativity. Just with these alone, you can start engaging with clients and build up a portfolio. Of course, just like with any career, if you want to upskill yourself, taking a few courses or completing a degree (if you have the time) ensures you keep up with current ideas and trends.
Research some courses that appeal to you. Better yet, identify skills that might need improving and look for those specific courses.
3. You Are Not Giving Photography the Attention It Needs
For any job or career to take off, there is a huge chunk of your time each day that needs to be set aside to focus on what you have chosen. This is especially true if you work for yourself. If you have three jobs but are trying to get your professional photography business up and running, it won’t work.
While this means you might need to have extra funding for a few months, the only way to ensure success is to give it the attention it needs. Even the fundamental foundations of a business such as a business plan and choosing your portfolio takes time and needs your emotional and physical input.
You cannot expect your business to flourish if like a plant, you water it only because it looks like its dying. If you have decided it is important to you, you need to show it.
4. You Don’t Have a Clear Business Plan
You are just flying by the seat of your pants with no clear idea of what you are doing. Not having a clear business plan means that you have no set plan with guidelines on how you want to run your business.
Start by downloading a good business plan template online. It will help you organize your thoughts so that you can organize your business. Also, you need a good business plan if you need any finance for your business. A business plan shows that you are serious and willing to take the time to really think about what you want out of it.
Without a business plan, you are more likely to fail!
Another tip is to network with others who have their own photography business and get as much advice as you can. You might avoid some serious pitfalls if you learn from their mistakes.
5. You Don’t Have the Right Equipment
You are hesitating to actively pursue photography as a career because you think you still need to buy this or that piece of equipment. Mostly this is because it gives you an excuse for substandard work or you have not carefully thought about point 4.
Once you know what kind of photographer and what your “brand” is, you can focus on honing your skills and not on what equipment you still need to get that perfect shot!
Your equipment also does not have to be the latest or the most expensive.
It just needs to be right for you. Make a list of what you think you need, then only choose the essentials. Once you are up and running and have a client base, you can slowly add to your equipment.
6. You Don’t Have a Niche Market or a Brand
You have been taking pictures of everything and everyone. You have not identified your strengths or interests, so you do not have a specific “brand”. You are in danger of being another “cliché” photographer.
There are too many generic photographers out there and you will just be one of them. You need to ask yourself – what kind of photographer am I? What genre or genres am I going to specialize in? You need to identify one or two and focus on those.
A Jack of all Trades in photography does not make you a better or more sought-after photographer. This also forces you to look at what market to target and where to place your advertising so that it reaches this market.
7. You Don’t Come Across as Professional
You find yourself arriving late to meet clients, you don’t have a proper scheduling system that keeps track of dates and times and your website is not user-friendly. All this contributes to your image as a professional in any field, but as there are many photographers out there, this means clients will just move on to the next guy.
Make sure you have an online or paper diary. When clients phone, take the time to ensure you have the correct information (date and time) and their contact details. Hire a professional website designer to look at your existing site – make it easy to navigate and engaging.
Make sure you have planned each day and you know where you are going and what you are doing, not that morning, but the day before. If you look professional, you will be treated as one.
Related: 6 WORST Types of Photographers
8. Your Portfolio Is Not Appealing
You have 300 photographs in your portfolio for prospective clients to browse through and 150 are of the same shoot and look almost identical. By number 10, you have lost a potential client. No-one wants to see the same background 50 times over.
Go through your pictures carefully and choose one brilliant shot from each shoot, showcasing your versatility and skill. Look at your portfolio through the client’s eyes – quantity is not quality!
Imagine that you are looking for someone to photograph an event you are hosting and think about what would draw you to a particular photographer.
Would you choose yourself if you saw your portfolio? Remember, people get bored easily and want their attention grabbed right away. Make sure that that is what your portfolio does.
9. You Ignore Social Media as a Marketing Tool
You have a lackluster Facebook page, a semi-decent website and nothing else. You might as well be sending your business card out attached to a pigeon. Ignoring social media as a tool for marketing your business is luckily a mistake that can easily be rectified.
Even if you are not up to date with current trends, information is easily accessible. If you want to be seen and heard about, you need to be on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at least. Set up accounts, select your best work and interact with your followers. Build up a fan base. Let them find out about you as a person not only your work – YOU are the brand.
Revealing snippets of your personal life such as places you like to go to, will draw people to you. Make sure you come across as warm and interested and your photos will do the rest!
10. You Do Not Put Your Client’s Needs First
The client is always right. Even when they are wrong they are right. If you are not listening to your client and imposing your own ideas on them, they will feel ignored and go elsewhere. They are paying for a service.
Listen carefully to what your client wants and expects from you. Make sure you understand what their expectations are, so you are not both disappointed at the end of the process. Make sure that it is the client’s vision you are working towards and not your own. Even if you feel that a shoot should be done differently, and you make suggestions – in the end, it is the client’s choice.
Make sure that the client does not see or feel your frustration. Interacting with clients and always being in a good mood can be exhausting for some personality types. Be aware of how you are feeling and take time to recharge. Read more about this in our article on “how to deal with difficult photography clients?”
11. You Are Not Getting Any Repeat Customers
You do a job for a client. You feel like it went well, and he says he will contact you again. Then you never hear from him again. Sound familiar?
Make sure you get feedback from your clients, whether good or bad on each job done. Let them rate your service. Have a system on your website where they can do this (you get a private message) so that you can get constructive criticism. Reply to clients thanking them for their feedback and ensuring better service going forward. Make sure you take what they say into consideration.
The fact that you are not getting ANY repeat customers, means there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Don’t just read the feedback – take steps if you can to either fix or start addressing the issue raised.
12. You Don’t Take Criticism Well
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why you might have the problem spoken about no. 10. No-one likes to be criticized. Photography is an art form – think about it. Do you like ALL artworks that you see? No.
Everyone has their own opinion. Some will like your work, others not. Do not become defensive about your work. Just because someone criticizes you, does not mean your work is not up to standard.
You have to have thick skin if you run your own business where you provide a service.
Before when you worked for a boss, criticism of the company it did not bother you much. Now, it feels like an arrow to the heart. The thing is to accept any criticism gracefully, learn from it and grow.
13. You Are a Bad Communicator
Every time you get an email, you put off answering till later. Suddenly you have 20 emails you have not replied to. You are getting phone calls to find out about your services. You promise to get back to them the same day. Two days later you still have not called them. This cycle is guaranteed to lose you business.
Make it a priority to sit down at a certain time every day to answer emails and check social media. When someone calls, take down the details and then make a set time to answer all calls with a follow-up call or email. This will mean that you do not have to guess or wonder if you have or have not got back to someone. You will know! This way you will also not miss any important emails or queries on social media.
People will notice your quick response and appreciate it.
14. You Constantly Find Fault with Other Professional’s Work
Since photographers often know each other and support each other’s work – one way of being isolated is to be the person who is always negatively commenting on others’ photographs. No-one wants to deal with you if you have this attitude.
Showing your bitterness by knocking others’ work reeks of desperation! If you want to support you have to give it. Make an effort to leave positive comments (if any) even if you are not a fan. Otherwise, why comment at all? You will not feel better by bringing someone else down.
You will need a network of other professionals to further your career. Don’t blow the opportunity to forge relationships by being petty.
15. You Don’t Have a Constructive Support System
Your mother never recommends you to her friends and your sister paid someone else to take her wedding photographs. Surrounding yourself with those that do not believe in you or your work will ensure failure (unless of course you really are not talented).
Constructive support comes from those that really care about you, are willing to be there when times are tough, and the going is slow and take your decision to make this a successful business seriously.
Even having one person who is willing to support you, whether by helping with your website or social media or even helping choose photographs for your portfolio, will make the journey more enjoyable. You can’t do it alone.
After all, is said and done – Is a photography career worth it? Only you can make that decision.
Take the time to evaluate the above and don’t leave the success of your business to chance. It may be difficult, to be honest, but there is no other way around it.
It is never going to be easy to jump into the deep end … but with the camera in hand (waterproof, let’s hope) and a business plan in the other (laminated), there is only one way to find out if you can swim! Don’t worry, your network of photographers can throw you a lifeline and if not, at least you can get some good shots on your way down.