Friday, May 17, 2013

Behind the Business

I've been debating writing this post for a long time. I don't want to be taken for ungrateful or angry. I've been so blessed to have a small business and never take that for granted. This post isn't targeted at anyone I know that reads this blog or anyone in particular, you all have been great!

I wanted to share a little of the what goes on behind the scenes of my photography business. The "ugly" side. I started photography about 4 years ago and in the last 2 years have gotten really serious about it: taking on more work, developing a brand, investing. I've learned so much along the way and wanted to share a few tips for costumers of small businesses.

I get dozens of emails and questions a week about sessions: pricing and what's included. All of that is listed on my website. It's frustrating to spend so much time communicating information that is already out there because people don't want to take the time to visit my site. Read website info and only ask questions if it is really necessary.   

Don't contact someone about a product unless you are truly interested in making a purchase. I recently had a person call me 3 times and ask me dozens of questions and never book a session. Met with a bride for over an hour and she never booked. Responded to countless emails and never heard back. My time is valuable. I have a family and I'm not paid for all the hours it takes to correspond.

Let me know either way if you're interested or not. It's okay if you are not. It doesn't make me upset, I just want to know so that I don't spend time emailing to see if you have any other questions and giving additional info.

No, I can't give you unedited photos for you to edit. The reason you should select a photographer is because you like their style and that includes their editing. For the integrity of my work, I have to both take and edit photos. Recently had a "photographer" asked if I could take photos for her and she could edit them and pass them on as her own?

If you can't make a session, please let me know. Again I have a family and another full time job. I'd like to make family plans if you can't make a session.

When I was first starting out I knew NOTHING. I asked other photographers for help and tips and was surprised I got NO response. They were vague or avoided me. I quickly learned it's a competitive field and no one wants to give you an advantage. That bothered me. As I got better I was approached and asked for help from someone. They asked what gear I used, what resources, how I advertise, how to take photos, etc. I thought I was doing a good deed sharing and I was, but they took everything I showed them and started their own photography business in the same area. Lesson learned. It took me years to get where I am and I can't give that information out for free.

Remember prices include more than someone's time. I don't just "show up to take photos." I communicate in writing before hand, pay to travel there, take photos, spend HOURS editing those photos, pay for my gear (which costs $100s and sometimes $1,000s), pay vendors for the products they sell me (props, prints, etc), update my website, create private client galleries, etc. There's a lot behind the price tag and I don't pocket all the session costs.

Remember to be polite. I know photo sessions are hectic, but remember you are in public. Once had a mom call her children so many names and hit them during a session! I was shocked and uncomfortable. I've seen parents fight and a bride using drugs on her wedding day.

So, why do I do this? I'd have to say it's because I have a passion for it. What I make mostly just covers my gear and travel. Sometimes, I have a little more left over that I use to pay down loans and for family expenses. I don't support my family on what I make from photography (that's what my full time job is for), I just contribute. 

What have I learned? To greatly respect and appreciate all those in the service industry!! This goes for anyone that provides services to others, even little things. It often is a thankless job.


  1. I think you are so talented! I WISH I knew you when I got married, I woulda gladly payed the fee to have you travel to VA ( of you'd travel that far, of course). The photographer I used (we paid $2,500) and share didn't even touch up our photos! No airbrushing, no effects, no touching up whatsoever. I can't believe the craziness you've witnessed, especially a mom hitting her kids. So sad.

    1. I wish! My highest wedding package is not even as much as you listed.

  2. Unfortunate that there isn't a tight-knit photography community where you live :( There is a closed Facebook group for Northern Indiana and they post last-minute shooting gigs and even volunteer opportunities for really good causes like March of Dimes and Autism Awareness! There is one guy on there who wants to close it off to tax-paying photographers with 5 plus years experience, though, and seems pretty adamant. As much as that annoys me, I understand. He DOES support his family with his photography, which is what I want to do one day. That is a BIG barrier between photographers here; some took big risks to do it right (registered a DBA, have a tax ID number, insurance, retail merchant certificate) and they hate losing business to glorified amateurs... which is why I plan on making myself legit once we know what state we will be living in!

    1. Yes, the same divide is here with self-taught and formally educated photographers. I get it, but the same thing goes on in other industries. Also I wonder anyway, would these tax paying, big time photographers even want to take the gigs that most of the photographers like us take (low budget weddings, volunteer photography for events, etc)? Probably not, so why are they so upset that others are willing? Doesn't make sense.

  3. Gosh this is crazy! Sounds like a huge learning experience. I hope someday soon it becomes super profitable for you - you have definitely earned it!

    1. It is rewarding for me, in that I enjoy it. I really do. I hope it becomes more financially rewarding!