*WARNING* this is going to be long! But particularly if you've had a photography buisiness or similar experience, I'd really appreciate hearing other's thoughts on the issue... I've been struggling with the business aspect lately. Things have been going well and I've been working to improve, don't get me wrong. But as much as I enjoy having my own part time photography business, I've been wondering if it's really the direction my heart is in. I love seeing small bits of improvement in my pictures, and I love being able to give those pictures to people. But I am having a really hard time with the competitiveness. I keep looking at other photographers in my area and feeling like I have to compare myself to them. Or having thoughts like "my work is better than so and so's... and they charge MORE than me???" Maybe that has more to do with my own competitive nature than it does with running a business, but it's been getting to me and effecting my attitude about photography in general. It's like there's this pressure now...I feel like *every* picture I take, be it for a client, a friend, or just of my own children *has* to be gorgeous or it wasn't even worth taking. Like I *have* to make pictures better than most of the photographers in my area, or I have no business offering pictures to anybody at all. I am starting to miss the days when I had my old point and shoot and I was happy with every picture of my kids no matter how it turned out. The problem is that, the more I push myself, the worse this feeling gets because it feels like none of my pictures meet that super standard I've put on myself. Have you ever felt like this? What did you do to help? I don't want to stop taking pictures for people... I love the feeling of knowing how much they love work that I was able to give them. I know that I would really miss that feeling if I just took a break or stopped. One thing I've considered and talked to my husband about recently, is the idea of using my photography for a good cause, rather than just to make money. I could just have a flat session fee and say right off the bat that half of it goes to charity, and everyone gets a CD of all the pictures. Then adding that good will donations are welcome for the CD, although not required- and half of all proceeds to go *insert charity of our choice.* Then I'd feel like I was using my photography for something larger than me, you know? I understand equipment is expensive, and I put a LOT of time into pictures...but my husband has promised that if I need to upgrade camera gear and such, we'd work it out so I could still do that without feeling like I need to make a ton of money from my business. But I also worry, that if I set my flat session rate too low, and give out CD's with the option to give more or not to give more, that I'll just have tons of people taking advantage of my services. I could set it up so that I only take on, say, four sessions at most each month and once the slots are filled they're filled. And then make the session fee non refundable to turn away wishy washy clients who can't stick with a date, and so I don't get overwhelmed with people asking for pictures constantly just because they want somebody who's cheap... But I don't want to be that "cheap" photographer.. I want people to come to me and feel like they picked me to do their pictures because they looked at other photographers in the area and felt that my work stood out , you know? The appealing thing about this idea, is that I'd feel like I was able to give more people pictures who maybe couldn't afford them before.. But by adding the optional good will donation, people who *could* afford normal prices could still pay it all the while knowing that a portion of it was going to a good cause. Do you think it would work? Or do you think *everybody* would be more inclined to just pay the low session fee, take their photo CD and say "see ya later!" ? I kind of stumbled on a love and gift for photography when I least expected it. I have been so busy with our four young children and daily life, that I hadn't picked up my violin in over a year, my prayer life was suffering because I was so busy, I hadn't sang for the Church in a couple of years, and was feeling like I'd never have time to *give* anything to anybody until the kids were grown and out of the house! But when we picked up our first real DSLR and I started reading, practicing, studying...I fell SO much in love and felt like I had found a passion again that I could actually share and give. It helped my prayer life, it helped me reconnect with people and it helped me get more involved with our church again whenever they had an event that could use some photographs. It's been such a gift, and I really feel like I need to find a way to continue giving... Running a professional buisiness at the rates other professionals charge solely for profit and clients who can afford my services seems counter intuitive to what's really important to me. Sorry for the long ramble.. just needed a place to really put down some of my thoughts lately.