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There is no news in the fact that it’s harder to make a living as a photographer today than it has ever been. You often have to deliver a lot more than what you are paid, and that’s if you are lucky enough to have a regular client base. Besides all that, the world of professional photography is being assaulted by enthusiasts and amateurs every day. The challenges are out there and they are putting pressure on most pros, but I believe these aren’t the major concerns. I believe that most of the trouble in our professional lives comes from us. Out attitude and actions dictate our failures and success. Here are 6 ways a lot of photographers are destroying themselves.
Photography is an expensive profession. It demands costly investments in gear. But let’s be honest with ourselves. We love our gear. We love it so much that many of us get into debt only to stay up to date with current technology. And most of the times it’s a mistake. If you know anything about photography, chances are you are able to get the job done with what you already have. The latest and fanciest gear might make your heart grow but it will make your wallet shrink and put a lot of tension on your business. Invest wisely and don’t buy something unless you absolutely need it.
Poor appreciation of own value
One of the hardest things for a photographer is putting a price on his own work. Many young pros who are insecure about their worth are afraid of asking too much because they will lose he client. The result of that is settling for far less than what their work is actually worth, and from a business point of view, this is very bad in the long run. To value your own work correctly and accurately, you must realize that you are not just selling one or five photographs. You are putting your talent and experience on the table. Furthermore, you too have to make a living just like everybody else. If your client goes to a restaurant, it’s unlikely that he will ask for a discount. Why should you give him one?
Being the “Universal” photographer
The most valuable pros, in most fields of work, are those who are good at one thing. If heaven forbid you had a stomach problem, you would probably want to be seen by a doctor who specializes in treating stomach illness, not by a neurosurgeon. It’s the same with clients. They want to pay someone who is suited for their needs. Desperately posing into a photographer who knows all kinds of photography will make people take you less seriously than they should. It’s the inevitable effect of trying to be good at everything. Focus your skills on something you are truly good at, even if the market for it isn’t so big. The things that are rare are the most expensive.
Being a nerd
Much is being demanded from photographers today, from a technical point of view. You have to know photography, light, Photoshop and Lightroom, business and the list could go on. Trying to deal with all of this is not easy. It takes years and it often requires sacrifice. But one common mistake I see is people trying to cover all these requirements by reading a lot of books and going to a lot of workshops. No, I am not saying that doing any of these is wrong. In fact I truly believe they are necessary, but like every other kind of excess, and education overdose can backfire and turn you into a very bad photographer. You have to balance education and hard, practical work, and especially emphasize the later. It’s all about practice at the end of the day.
No legal coverage
I don’t think there is a freelancer out there without at least one story about a horrible client or a deal gone bad. Not all the clients you are going to work with are good people and some will try to rip you off with any chance they get. Don’t make the mistake of not having a contract for every job. It will protect you and clearly state the services you are committed to provide, while also giving your client an extra sense of trust.
Talent and good photography are crucial. But you are doing a lot of damage to yourself if your presentation isn’t right. Think about how your invoices look, how your emails sound if your read them out loud and not to mention how your online portfolio looks. All these little details help build an initial image that clients will have of you before getting to work with you. It’s important to be sure that all the right signals are being sent and that something in the way you present yourself doesn’t get in the way of a new job and the opportunity to show your talent.