I had lunch recently with a photographer friend that has been on fire with his business over the past year. I will not mention his name in the post or link to his site for confidentiality reasons because I am going to share something at the very end that is highly confidential. However, I will share some things that I have noticed that seem to separate him from some of the other new photographers that I have met that are still in their first year or two of photography like my friend is.
1) He invested in equipment. Photography is not cheap as a hobby and certainly not cheap when you start buying professional gear. He did invest in a professional full frame camera and a pro level lens while being able to save some money on the lighting side. You MAY NOT be in a position to purchase pro level gear, but you should buy the best equipment that you can afford. A quality LENS will likely be a better investment than the camera body if you have to choose one over the other. Personally, if I had to make the choice, I had rather shoot with a pro level lens on a crop sensor body than a full frame pro body with a cheap lens.
2) He chose a market segment that he had connections in that was NOT families and weddings. Although I am not giving away his name or market segment, this was a smart move on his part because ALL of his business has been word of mouth or referrals NOT advertising. He also chose NOT to do families and weddings mainly because that's not his passion nor where he had the most connections. If you choose to go the family and wedding route like SO MANY do when getting into photography, you should NOT let being the lowest price in town be how you get business. You should find a way to separate yourself from most everyone else and DON'T let that be because you are the cheapest. Your family and friends are NOT your money market. They will want something for FREE or CHEAP. Check this article out... 10 Stupid Things People Believe About Photographers
3) He learned how to deliver a better quality product faster plus he delivers EDITED images NOT unedited JPG's. When he started out working in his current market segment, he had a simple, yet fairly high end, crop sensor camera with a simple tripod that got the job done but DID NOT provide the level of quality he produces now and it took twice as long to shoot the same kind of projects. He has figured out how to do a 3 hour shoot in half the time and do the editing in about 1 hour and produce far better quality than he did when he started. He has to have a system in place to remain competitive with pricing in his chosen market segment. Note, I am not going back on what I previously said about price because being competitively priced is far different than being the lowest price in town. By increasing his efficiency and delivering a higher quality product, he can move on to the next shoot faster. Having better equipment than he previously shot with along with shooting enough to know how to get better quality faster has made a huge difference in his business. He has now gotten to the point that he is considering hiring someone to do the post production editing to free up even more time to shoot. Yes, DO POST PRODUCTION EDITING even if you have to do it yourself. DO NOT burn JPG's to a CD and hand that to your client.
In closing, and this is when confidentiality really comes into play, this photographer working part-time is on track to exceed the national average salary for photographers (which is 37K per year) . So for those of you working a full time job doing photography part-time, please keep your head held high and realize that it can be done. Oh, it's not easy, but it is possible. Stay Motivated!!!
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