For photographers and those looking to hire one: I started my full time business in 2009 and did it all wrong.
Prior to going “full time” and needing to actually make a living, I did the jobs that “fell in my lap” and charged what I thought would be fair and reasonable, because I had the luxury of being an “at home” mom and married to a man with a salary. I had NO idea what it cost to DO BUSINESS as a photographer because I had no idea what my costs were. Basically, I gave away my time, expertise, artistry, and even the hard costs of owning equipment, insurance, licenses and the cost of goods. I started my full time photography business in a crisis. I didn’t have time to do the appropriate research, so I just threw myself into it, learning things the hard way.
In 7 years of doing business, I’ve taken every business class for photographers that I can, been coached by business coaches, been mentored by other entrepreneurs, read the recommended entrepreneur books, learned by trial and error, etc. I am still learning and that will never end. The thing I know, though, is that photographers are artists and artists have a tendency to give away their work especially to those who compliment us. We can’t pay our bills that way and we need to know that our profession is a PROFESSION and it is just as valuable as any other professional that we esteem and pay appropriately.
The general public has no idea of the hours and the hard costs that go into producing that heirloom print that is going into their homes as well as the digital images that everyone seems to think they want (this is another subject). That family portrait created by a professional photographer with expensive equipment, years of learning how to use it, our creative minds and hearts, long hours and often blood (yes blood), sweat and tears is THE thing that a family will want to save when their house is burning down. We need to learn what it REALLY costs to produce the images and stop giving them away for free just because someone tells us it isn’t worth any more than free. A digital image may not be something you can hold in your hand, but it is NOT free.
We hurt the photography industry as a whole by giving away or charging too little for our work. I know it seems like the competition is tough out there as there are so many of us competing for the work. But undercutting each other is not the way to make the photography industry strong. Everyone in families and in business needs our images, especially in this time where social media marketing is exploding. There is more than enough work out there for all of us. We also all have different personalities and styles, making us the perfect artist for certain clients. We could help each other out by educating each other, educating our clients and consumers, and by doing business well to make our profession strong. There is more free education and resources for photographers out there than ever, so we can learn what it costs to create images. Let’s help people understand what that value is and let’s respect ourselves and our time enough to do really do business, so that we can ultimately serve our clients and communities well. Family portraits are INVALUABLE as are good commercial images and if people really know and understand that, they will find a way to pay us what we deserve.