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How do I not come across THAT way?

SirenCherie

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Okay, so after reading a few posts on here, I think that this is the right avenue to ask this question.

*Notice* I tend to write novels every time I try to communicate, so bear with me.

I have been photographing for nearly 6 years, managing a retail portrait studio for 5, and have wanted to be a professional photographer for almost 7 or 8 years. I get a steady paycheck and make a decent living from my retail studio, but I am getting SO restless. Not to say that what my "day job" is isn't REAL photography, because I've learned some incredibly valuable things in my position that I believe I wouldn't have learned otherwise. But as far as the actual photography piece goes... well, I feel like it's killing me. About a year and a half ago my company put out a revised conflict of interest policy that was much stricter than the previous one, so I am pretty much limited to weddings. I plan on going that route eventually, but I am wanting to be very cautious about how and when I start.

I want my work to be phenomenal, I want my work to blow away the work of any talented fauxtographer or MWAC (mom with a camera, for those of you who are terrible with acronyms like me). I currently have no friends or acquaintances in the industry, and therefore, I feel like I have no guidance. I've thought about going into studios or contacting photographers in my area to find out about employment, but there are a couple problems with that:

1. I need a very specific income in order to survive. Again, I make pretty good money managing a retail studio. I doubt anyone other than a corporation could afford to pay me what I need, especially for what I want to do.

2. The industry is so competitive. I know that the people I'd like to work with get asked ALL THE TIME about "are you hiring?" "I took photography in high school, I could totally do what you do" "are you looking for help?" "I could intern for you" "I want to be a professional, too!" bull****. I get it a lot at my studio. And to be honest, they all strike me as wannabes who have zero clue what it actually means to be a professional photographer.

So, finally, my question is: any ideas of how should I go about probing for opportunities without coming across as the desperate wannabe? How do I go about proving that I am for real?
 
Consider yourself grateful for not knowing many people in the photo industry. That's my problem, I only know people in the industry, so finding new clients can be tricky. If you want to set yourself apart in the industry (especially if you live outside a metro area) as a real photographer, shoot film on a medium format camera.

Dead serious.


Nobody will question your ability unless you're really that bad with people. Not to mention, when you show up to a wedding with a Contax 645 or Mamiya 645AF, you won't have to worry about Uncle Joe one bit because Uncle Joe's D3 isn't medium format film. Also, once you find a film that you really like *BOOM* instant style, no photoshop required.
 
Well, you need to eat, so money is important. How's business now? Do you think you can get a steady flow of work on your own? If it's the content of the work that bothers you and not money, what I can suggest is, take on outside job for no money.

A few years ago, I was approached by an old client to do some work. I was already employed as a corporate employee, good pay, so I don't really need to pick it up. There's no conflict of interest and sounded interesting. So I told him that I'd do it, will cost him at a certain hourly rate, but instead of paying me, he will direct the check to a charitable organization of my choice. So it's a win-win situation. You get the job out of interest and portfolio building. The client gets his project done AND possible tax write off and someone gets some help in unexpected ways. Everyone's happy.
 
Week-end warrior. Shoot weddings on the week-ends. Get a start.
 
Okay, so after reading a few posts on here, I think that this is the right avenue to ask this question.

*Notice* I tend to write novels every time I try to communicate, so bear with me.

I have been photographing for nearly 6 years, managing a retail portrait studio for 5, and have wanted to be a professional photographer for almost 7 or 8 years. I get a steady paycheck and make a decent living from my retail studio, but I am getting SO restless. Not to say that what my "day job" is isn't REAL photography, because I've learned some incredibly valuable things in my position that I believe I wouldn't have learned otherwise. But as far as the actual photography piece goes... well, I feel like it's killing me. About a year and a half ago my company put out a revised conflict of interest policy that was much stricter than the previous one, so I am pretty much limited to weddings. I plan on going that route eventually, but I am wanting to be very cautious about how and when I start.

I want my work to be phenomenal, I want my work to blow away the work of any talented fauxtographer or MWAC (mom with a camera, for those of you who are terrible with acronyms like me). I currently have no friends or acquaintances in the industry, and therefore, I feel like I have no guidance. I've thought about going into studios or contacting photographers in my area to find out about employment, but there are a couple problems with that:

1. I need a very specific income in order to survive. Again, I make pretty good money managing a retail studio. I doubt anyone other than a corporation could afford to pay me what I need, especially for what I want to do.

2. The industry is so competitive. I know that the people I'd like to work with get asked ALL THE TIME about "are you hiring?" "I took photography in high school, I could totally do what you do" "are you looking for help?" "I could intern for you" "I want to be a professional, too!" bull****. I get it a lot at my studio. And to be honest, they all strike me as wannabes who have zero clue what it actually means to be a professional photographer.

So, finally, my question is: any ideas of how should I go about probing for opportunities without coming across as the desperate wannabe? How do I go about proving that I am for real?

Only your Photos will prove that you are real! Post some (that YOU took.. not from some prefab'd studio that you can't even modify the settings much!). If you want to be interesting to someone that you want to work under / with.. then your work has to be at a level that is going to make you useful to them, unless you want to just start at the bottom and be a lightstand / reflector monkey.

What gear do you have? Do you KNOW how to use flash? Do you actually have the basics down (exposure, focus, DOF, basic understanding of light and how it works?)

Most of having a successful photography business is the business side of things.. not the actual photography! But if you photography is GOOD.. you stand a better chance of repeat business, so you can actually BUILD a clientele. Shooting weekends is a good idea, if you turn out decent work! Build a portfolio, and a rep.. and you will be good to go.
 
Find somebody whose work you like and ask them to tag along to schlep bags and learn the ropes. The worst that can happen is they say no...
 
Join your local PPA and offer to assist on weddings on the week-ends. You may just be carrying lights around for the first few weddings but keep your eyes and ears open and soak up the experience. If you can't afford the PPA, look for a local photography club (meetup.com is a pretty good source) and meet wedding photographers that way.
 
just wanted to respond on this point "2. The industry is so competitive. I know that the people I'd like to work with get asked ALL THE TIME about "are you hiring?" "I took photography in high school, I could totally do what you do" "are you looking for help?" "I could intern for you" "I want to be a professional, too!" bull****. I get it a lot at my studio. And to be honest, they all strike me as wannabes who have zero clue what it actually means to be a professional photographer."







Since I have started on the path to do this as a profession I started worrying about getting classed as "that" type photographer and I Didn't want to come off a certain way but you just have to get to a point and realise that this is what you want to do. start putting in the time and effort to accomplish your goal and stop carrying what someone else thinks of you. you said yourself wannabe's. but those wannabe's our out there trying to get interneships and get there foot in the door to improve there skills and make it and you have to do the same thing. i think the people who are trying for internships and trying to get into shops are way less wannabe's. the wannabe's aren't willling to learn, they just open up shop without having a clue and taking peoples money, good or bad.

youve been in the field for a while but your working in a place that doesn't allow you to start your own business basically. If your managing a store you could likely land a job managing at a non-photography type store. and then you would be able to have your cashflow still coming in. but have the freedom to start yoru business on the side and do whatever type of photography you want instead of being limited to just weddings. just an option.
 
1. I don't know what you are making managing your retail studio, but I am really confident that I am probably making more. Working part time. Doing what I love. The money is there, but you have to plan to take the leap:
a. Save. Your first years in business are going to cost you money. Start putting away enough money to cover you for your startup year(s)
b. You CAN be out of the red and into the black in the first year if you PLAN meticulously.
c. Get an education. Not only on the real world photography (because shooting a wedding is NOTHING like portrait work in a controlled studio) but an education in the business end of this. An extensive education in the business end. I sound like a broken record on here with a few things that I say-a mediocre photographer will succeed wildly if they are good at business. An amazing photographer will fail miserably if they are no good at the business side of things. Yes, you are managing a studio now, but there is someone else who has done the research and the business plan part of it. There is someone else that does the marketing plan; there is someone who does the FULL accounting; there is someone who sets prices according to CODB, COG and what your profit needs to be. At this point you have learned enough to be a danger to yourself. You simply don't know what you don't know yet and you need an education.

2. This industry is NOT competitive. No one else can be me. NO ONE does what I do. If you want and need portraits or wedding photography by ME you have no choice but to pay my price. Simply put, my clients NEED (or think they do) me and MY work. Your cheaper studio or the new photographer that just sprung up on craigslist.org cannot fill my shoes.
And you are now scratching your head saying... "no, there are 4 other photographers who do portraits and weddings in your little tiny town of 1600 residents... you are in competition." Yep, I live in a town of 1600 residents. I am supporting a family of 4 fairly well on what I make from photography. And I help out every one of those 4 other photographers when ever I can and they help me out. We really are NOT in competition. We aren't producing the SAME image. We could all shoot the same session at the exact same time and you would have 4 EXTREMELY different images. I cannot produce what Laurie produces-Laurie cannot produce what I produce. Those who want what I produce have to come to ME to get it. They NEED me. I have made them NEED me-because I got smart and learned how to market myself and create a very distinct style of my own that is not the same as every new photographer can produce. I have NO competition because those who want Laurie's product NEED Laurie to get it and I cannot produce it. It isn't what I do. We do not do the same thing.

So in answer to your last question of "how" you have to get that education first and define yourself. Figure out who you are and what your style is while you are mastering your skills. When you get that education in business, marketing, accounting, legal.......... you will know how to launch yourself upon the market at the top. If you want to play at this until then, play away. I am normally one to NEVER say free, but if you are doing some work for FREE you aren't competing with your studio because you are not in business. Read your non-compete contract carefully to be sure it doesn't cover that free work.
Photograph every family and friend's family event like it is a wedding and you are under the pressure to produce the amazing, perfect images from it. It won't give you the pressure of a wedding-nothing can compare to that, but it will give you experience in handling the camera.
Stage a wedding portrait shoot. EVERY fairly new bride would LOVE to put on her gorgeous wedding dress that she wore for ONE day and pretend to be a "model." Go right ahead!! you'll then learn posing and lighting the wedding portrait. Study techniques and stage these sessions as often as you want! If they happen to buy some images from it? Well, it's damn good advertising down the road.
Get the education in what it is to be in this business. Get the education in what you are doing behind the camera. You CAN do it all on your own.
 
OH! I forgot... Here's another one of my broken record things. I greatly admire Todd Reichmann's blog when it comes to the business side of things. He'll definitely make you think hard about the way you are seeing things
…a Man to Fish…
 
I doubt anyone other than a corporation could afford to pay me what I need, especially for what I want to do.
I'd say you're about 20 years to late. Corporate jobs like that just don't exist anymore.

You'll likely need to be self-employed.
 

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