We all love photography and the results of the images that we shoot often leave us inspired and driven to create more. Sometimes the human mind plays a huge role in the outcome of the pictures we create regardless if they are good or not.
The craft of photography alone is not enough for some; the rewards of validation still rule as the number one motivation for many.
What follows are some of the most common mistakes I see photographers make when trying to build their brand or
sell their work.
Create what you think people want even if it is not
Stubbornness and the self-serving syndrome that accompanies it is very common among many photographers who shoot and produce images for themselves believing that the style that appeals to them is the one that the market also desires. Unless you are focusing on becoming a fine-art artist, I advise doing some research on what people and clients want to see and why.
Don’t listen to clients
There is no better way to lose a good gig than ignoring your customers’ wishes when it comes to the photography, direction, and execution. Sure, we should advise our clients with our creative perspective when the time is right. That’s why they hire you in the first place. Never forget that a happy client may hire you over and over again.
Fight with your partners, clients, editors and your crew
You know better that any else and who cares what your associates or editor’s think? They have no taste anyway, right? Wrong! I have watched several incredibly talented photographers lose their careers because of their insecurities and big mouths.
The worse thing you could do is get defensive and argue with the editors about their decision to not publish your images. Behavior like this makes you very unpopular, and believe me; the industry pros do talk! I highly recommend respecting editors and their wishes even when you disagree with their decisions.
Try to do everything yourself
There are very few photographers who can claim complete responsibility for their final work. These rare photographers do everything themselves by wearing all the various hats necessary for a production instead of delegating tasks and splitting up responsibilities among specialists and people who focus on selected areas.
Most pros don’t try to take on every role. The reason why professional photography crews have at least one person per task is so you can give your 100% on what you do very best, which is photography.
Run out of money before becoming profitable
A common mistake I see all the time is that photographers build lavish studios before their photography is ready for such an operation. Clearly, some of us have the luxury to do things due to deep pockets.
A good thumb of rule is to find a spending balance based on your skill level and not get ahead of your own game.
Overhead kills and gets you deeper into debt faster than your business can carry itself. Equipment makes us happy, but it’s only a temporary high! Photographic results last a lifetime and may bring income to support your cause.
Burnout from overworking
Quite often we hear photographers say, “I work so hard and such long hours.” Instead, they should be saying, “I work smart so I can enjoy my hard work.” When you work too hard, you may lessen your creative flow and make mistakes.
We are only human and can only tolerate so much. I work long hours too, but I mix it wisely with chosen activities avoiding burnout.
All creative job fields which are in art-based suffer if you cannot maintain the artistic-workflow. It should never feel like a job. In a perfect world, it’s an enjoyable experience. It’s a hard concept for many to understand because not all of us can separate the artistic from the business aspects of the craft.
Scale before you figure out what you’re doing
Many photographers think that running a big scale operation is the answer to success. It’s precisely the opposite. Just like fundraising, the more responsibilities you have on your plate, the less you can deliver since you are busy babysitting everything else but the end product.
We again come to the previous conclusion, overhead kills.
Hyping your photography without improving quality
Marketing is one of the most important aspects to success in the photography business. Social media have given us affordable tools to potentially reach millions of people at less than a tenth of the cost compared to the days of print advertising.
Consider your growth as a photographer as you market yourself. Has your photography gotten better or just your marketing skills? You can only sell the same dog so many times before it starts barking back at you. Find a balance and let your target audience see how you have advanced in photography.
There’s an easy fix for those who can accept they may have stumbled along the way. Learn new styles and, most importantly, learn to light and deliver the latest trends with your photography. People who cannot see the future have reached their ceiling of growth.
Don’t follow and feed your existing success
The photography business is just as important as any other business. When success occurs, it seems almost impossible for most photographers to take advantage of their current momentum to build upon it. I have decided this happens because of:
- Lack of experience
- Lack of business and marketing savvy
- Lack of interest
Getting too friendly with models
Beautiful models are, by definition, attractive and many photographers allow their personal desire to interfere with their professional demeanor, and this can result in a very high cost. The models are there to work, not to mingle. I have seen photographers fall from grace quite a few times due to their inappropriate behavior toward models. Act professionally at all times and as they say in the business world, “Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.”
Anything else I consider an excuse when it comes to success in photography.
~ Jarmo Pohjaniemi
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