Everyone with a smart phone is a photographer these days. And with all the great lenses, filters and other tools, we can get great pics of our meals, our kids, a sunset, and that cute cat pose – sharing them on Facebook and even entering contests (at least those for cute cats).
There are those who also ask if professional photography is a dying profession, being totally disrupted by technology, and that, because there are so many amateurs with cameras these days, clients are no longer willing to pay enough to keep a photographer in business.
Professional photographers have to compete with these disruptions and find ways to stay in business and make a good living. It’s not easy. And most do not realize all that goes into maintaining a professional enterprise.
Professionalism in the Craft Itself
- A professional photographer has clients who are paying for his/her services. He has to approach them with a great deal of respect and diplomacy. When people have “Uncle Joe” take photographs and videos of their events and their families, he may not respect their wishes, but rather, do what he believes is best.
- The professional photographer becomes a financial advisor of sorts, spending time with a client discussing the budget and the options that are available within that budget range. He or she may need to establish a time-payment plan for those whose budgets will not reach far enough.
- The professional has to agree upon deadlines and meet those deadlines, if she or he is to maintain a reputation and get referrals for further business. And the end result must be exactly what was agreed upon with the client, if not more.
- Depending upon the project, it is the photographer’s job to relieve as much stress from the client as possible. Photo shoots, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and such are stressful for the person running the show. The photographer must direct and shoot seamlessly and on a schedule, while not disrupting the flow of the event.
- Every professional must be prepared for the unexpected, for the crazy incidents, and must be able to come up with creative solutions and “roll with the punches.” Planning a photoshootshouldn’t be difficult either.
- Photographers have to take criticism and be willing to adjust and even to do a re-shoot when clients are unhappy.
- Sometimes there are no second chances to get it right – an amateur will miss the perfect shot; an amateur will miss the right lighting; an amateur will goof on the composition. A professional, with training and experience, does not miss these things.
The Business Side of Professional Photography
Photographers are artists, through and through. But they also have to be entrepreneurs. This means they have to market themselves. And today that means marketing locally in traditional ways but, as well, establishing an online presence. And because most photographers are solopreneurs, the business side of their professions are all on them.
- They must have a powerful and engaging website – either self-created or contracted out – and a portfolio, both physical and digital.
- They must establish a presence on social media.
- They must market their services in a hugely competitive environment.
- They must manage their finances – fortunately there are great software programs they can use to ease this pain., such as QuickBooks, Less Accounting, Wave, or Quicken.
- They must stay on top of their profession, not just with new equipment and technology, but with new techniques as well. Continuing education is a given for photographers.
- They will have to produce content, not just for their websites, but for blogs and social media postings as well.
Some photographers may be challenged with writing, but again, there are some really effective tools:
- Grammarly: This tool will check content for grammar and mechanical errors and fixes them.
- Hemingway: This tool will scan your content and suggest edits to simplify it for a general audience.
- Read-able.com: A great tool that will assess the reading level of what is written in order to keep it clear, simple, and direct.
- Bestessay.Education: Many photographers use professional copywriting services to establish their profiles and regularly post content.
Running and marketing a business can be difficult for career professionals, especially if they are focused on artistic endeavors. Amateurs and others who are not in the professional photography business do not realize all of the behind-the-scenes responsibilities and tasks. They see photography as a sideline – something they do for some “mailbox” money.
This is a competitive business; it is one that is facing huge disruptions and less respect in the marketplace; it is a business cheapened by a client base that believes it is easy to find the perfect light, the perfect angle, and the perfect background, with technology and editing software.