The photography business has changed a lot in the last thirty years. There have been many new advances in equipment and there have been several trends that have come and gone. Some of the trends have even gone out of style and come back in style again.
The biggest change on the industry, as a whole, would have to be the introduction of digital capture. At the beginning of digital photography’s life, there were many technical challenges that went with the growing pangs. Those of us who were working in the field at the time faced learning new equipment, new work flows and new lighting techniques, just to mention a few of the challenges. The photo lab industry also saw a major change in it’s way of doing business.
Just as my children have grown up without knowing a world of digital music, so have the new breed of photographers never known a world without digital images. Nothing would ever be the same, or would it?
While many things have undoubtedly changed in the business of photography, many things still remain the same. True, there are a lot more people who have entered into the field with little knowledge of what it takes to run a photography business, but this has always been true. And, just as there used to be photographers who would photograph a job and give the client their negatives to do with as they please, there are now photographers who give their customers a CD containing all of the digital images. Things change and yet they stay the same.
If you want to stand out as a photographer, here are some things that I believe have always been true in the photo industry. They still hold true today and will likely always be the best method for becoming the best photographer you can be.
Be A Real Business
If you want people to view you as a professional, be professional. Name your business, get a business license, pay your taxes, print business cards and join business organizations. If you want to just do photography as a side business or on weekends, that is fine, but do it the right way. Learn what the business and legal principles are for your business and follow them.
Sure, this can be time consuming and it is often very frustrating, but it is all part of running a business. If you want to be in business for more than a year or two, this will really be worthwhile. There is no better way for people to see you as professional, than to truly be a professional.
Buy the Best Equipment You Can Afford and Learn How to Use It Properly
Good equipment will last longer and have greater capabilities, while producing a higher quality image. If you can’t afford a lot of nice equipment now, but the best you can and upgrade as you go along. Remember, equipment is part of the cost of doing business and you will need to reflect the cost of upgrading equipment in your pricing structure.
I know that a decent camera can be bought these days for just a few hundred dollars and that this camera can be set on automatic to allow most people just to point and shoot. I also know that if you are ever going to really be a photographer, you need to think outside program mode.
These days if is very inexpensive to test equipment, learn lighting techniques, and find out what the settings on your camera actually do. With digital capture, there is no need to spend a lot of money on film while you are learning. Therefore, there is no excuse for not getting out there and trying new things and learning new techniques that you can call your own. Just a tip here, learn these principles before you show up at a paid session. Trying them on the job will not end well.
Today’s consumer is inundated with photography. They see images everywhere they go. They see it in magazines, newspapers, online and even on their phones. Considering that most people are walking around with a phone in their pocket or purse that has a camera built into it, there is no shortage of photos being taken. The problem is that most of the photos are just snapshots. How many of us have held our phone out at arms length to get a shot of ourselves with a friend? I would say a lot.
However, when someone hires you to create an image for them, they are expecting something more. They want great lighting, a perfect exposure, and creative composition, even if they don’t know that is what they want. In essence, they want you to create something they could not do on their own. This type of quality photography goes beyond pressing the shutter on the camera.
Have Quality Control
I have people ask me frequently, if I will provide them with a CD of their images when the session is over. My answer is almost always, no. I go on to explain that in that situation, I have no quality control over the image. I am very particular about the final output of my images and my reputation is on the line. If you have ever walked into a clients office and seen one of your images taped to a wall after the client has tried to edit it and then printed it on printer paper from a low resolution thumbnail, you will understand.
There are some of my clients, who get a finished CD of images when we are done. But, that is only because they are going to be using these images in print advertising etc. In those cases, I give them high resolution images that have been color and density corrected, cropped precisely, and converted to the proper format for the way they plan to use them. I know that the person who will be working with the images on the other end is a pro in his/her field and will make sure of quality control on their end, for the same reason. Their reputation is on the line.
Use high quality printers, ink and paper and/or utilize a great photo lab. Quality control your images all the way through the process. Your reputation is on the line.
Develop Your Own Style
If you want to be noticed for your photography, you will need to make sure your photography is noteworthy. A great deal of the photographers I see today are just shooting the same stuff that they see other photographers shoot. If your work looks just like the rest of the photographers in your market, you WILL get lost in the shuffle.
You need to be different to be noticed. Learn what your strengths are and focus on those. If you have a talent for lighting, use that in you photographs to differentiate yourself from the competition. Use different camera angles or try different exposure settings. Learn some new image editing techniques. There are too many photographers out there using the same set of filters or preset actions in Photoshop or Lightroom. If you want to be different, find your own style and keep on improving.
Keep on Learning
This one is simple. Never quit learning new techniques, work flow solutions or business principles. Once you have found your niche and have gotten comfortable in your style, you run the risk of becoming outdated. Always try some new ideas. Follow the trends, but more than that, be the one to set the new trends. This is a sure way to keep your business flowing and keep yourself in demand.