Doing some thinking...


TPF Noob!
Mar 12, 2010
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*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.
It took me 2 years after I went into business to realize I wanted to be the most expensive company to do work with. It took me almost a year to reach that goal, and I hoovered in that position until the present.

If you charge more, you can offer more, it is that simple. It also took me out of the price range of 'shoppers' & you can offer back to the community and your staff. $$ opens a lot of doors.

Don't worry about others, there will always be someone better. Do your best and be honest with your customer. They LOOOOOOOOVE that. Also, answer your shocks me how bad some are at communicating.
I think you have a good Idea already. And like he said don't worry about others, too much. In business you always have to be aware of others that can effect you as a business. Start small and grow. It might take years but if you are honest and up front with everyone you get people selling you through word of mouth and will be succesful.
It's good to find passion in things too, you will find more in life as you did photography.
1) Stop looking at others' work, at least people in your community. If you want to, maybe look at work unrelated to your field. Try looking at women's magazines such as Vogue and Cosmo, to see what kind of photography is being used and how it is being used.

2) The competitiveness is part of many photographers' psyche. Don't fall into that trap. I refuse to allow critique of my work, or if anyone offers it I just ignore it. Get beyond that stage. It's not that every photo I take is perfect; far from it. I just don't care what anyone else thinks.

3) Don't compare your work to others.

4) Stop thinking of photographs as "good" or "not so good". Just let it flow.

5) Don't talk to other photographers or pay them any attention.
I've never had the courage to risk setting up my own business and the desire to work the long hours necessary to make it a success. I admire people who do.

I do, however, know the need to be competitive. Don't necessarily consider it a bad thing. It can be if you let it, but it can be an advantage too as it gives a drive to succeed.

I would still look at other peoples work, but do so for inspiration and resist the urge to do a direct comparison with your own. As pbelarge said; there will always be someone better. As long as your customers are happy, and it sounds like they are, then you're doing a good job. I've seen some of your newborn shots on here and they really are very nicely done.

As far as giving back is concerned, I would stop short of offering reduced prices as I think that in general, someone who would be attracted by cut-price offers would do just as you fear - take the deal and run. It would be far better (in my opinion) to charge as normal and make it clear that a percentage of the fee would go to a named charity. You mention that you do some photography for your local church - perhaps you could offer reduced rates to all local voluntary organisations directly for their marketing and promotional material (subject to your monthly limit)?
I know exactly how you feel.

I am friends on facebook with several local photogs. Before I dabbled in this art, I looked at their photos with awe! I yearned to take pictures like them...

However, now that I am actually studying and taking my own pictures, I look at their pictures and see so many flaws, just as I'm sure they look at mine and see the flaws.

I try to look at it like this, if someone is asking you to take their picture, they want you to do it because they do not know anything about photography, or they would do it themselves.... haha

I pass pictures along all the time and I think they are horrible pictures but I get praise and rejoice on "how good of a camera I have" blah blah blah.... it is because we are too critical of ourselves, but that is how I want to be, because if I get to the point where I look at my work and thing, yea I'm the ****. I'm the best, it is over. I want to continue to learn and continue to be my own worst critic.

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