Never seen it so good

Started Apr 25, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Never seen it so good

The 'Never seen it so bad' has reached its maximum limit:

Maybe that's a good thing. But there was some good discussion there that maybe we can build on to look forward to better days.

First, a disclaimer: I don't claim to know everything, and I am just starting to build my photography business. I have been doing a lot of research into what it takes to 'make it', including a quick read through Dane Sanders' Fast Track Photographer . I recommend this book more as a reference and thought-starter than gospel: it just makes some points we should consider, and which after some consideration just make plain sense.

This is the main point we need to keep in mind when establishing a successful business: if there ever was a day when making excellent photographs was the key to business success, that day is long gone . It's no longer about product, which actually anyone with a fairly good quality camera can more or less turn out or mimic, and since most customers won't be able to tell the difference between that and "art," competing on product alone will, except for exceptional cases (e.g., when working for educated magazine editors), not lead to outright success.

The related question here is how much will you be able to ask for your photography, and if product alone (or primarily) can't get you pricing that can sustain you and pay the bills, what will?

The answer is that you need your clients to associate value with you . Yes YOU ! The person. Who you are. How you view the world. How you approach and interact with them. How you approach your work. How all that feeds your photography. YOU . And as it turns out, you are unique , one of a kind, un-copiable. If you get prospective clients to want you , you have cornered the market, and that will support higher pricing.

Recognizing this is and identifying what makes you and therefore your work special is the first step to "branding," a word many may find superficial. It will be superficial if you copy/paste/modify someone else's successful brand. It will be superficial if you rely on gimicks, technology, or something else other than the irreplaceable you to build your brand. Your brand is basically who you are, inseparable from your identity and your artistry. Asking yourself who you are and how that impacts your photography may be a long perhaps even painful process. It may be disheartening at first because you look yourself in the mirror and say, "Hmm, I'm not that special. Who would want me ?" Getting over that to realize that if you're truly passionate about being a professional photographer there must be something there to feed that passion, then identifying it and building on it, will be very rewarding, though.

Then comes more hard work: building the infrastructure that will support your brand. That's everything from the photography gear you use, to the skill set you grow and use to use that equipment, the additional post-processing equipment and software you must have, and the skill set associated with it... And here's where most of us stop, because all this is so cool and we get it, and we can do it in our home office without having to reach out and touch someone.

But there's more. Now you have to work even harder to meet people, to network with other photographers, to establish and grow a client base through referrals, marketing, etc. You need to build and maintain a system to contact and interact with clients, respond to inquiries, etc., in a timely and client-friendly manner. Then you need to create a website that supports client interactions and that promotes your brand. Maybe you need to partner with photo delivery services that support your brand and provide a good client experience. And on and on it goes.

When the dust clears, you realize you have a brand that must be supported with quality photography (that comes from who you are), service to your clients (that builds on who you are), and customer relationships (that connect you personally to your clients). Slowly you start realizing that as much as you love and aim to produce amazing, artistic, technically excellent photographs, that service/relational component is just as if not more important than quality photography.

Again, none of this is easy. I'm not claiming to have "made it" yet. But I do see highly successful photographers out there, and when I look at how they're succeeding, guess what I see? A photographer who by en-large produces good (though not necessarily top-notch) quality photography, who offers excellent service to his clients, who takes steps to maintain and grow his "fan base" through personal relationships (and that doesn't mean in-depth, just, I reach out and touch you online, etc.), and who uses all this to promote and enhance his/her brand.

Instead of saying things are tougher now because just about anyone can (or think they can) take a decent photograph with fairly capable gear, maybe we should turn that on its head to see that we are entering an age of great possibilities. We can harness those nice new equipment capabilities with our unique vision and skill, then offer superb service to our clients and tie all that up with a personal connection they appreciate. Sound like a plan?

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