4 Artist's Instincts that You Need to Overcome Before Transforming Your Photography from Hobby to Career

4 Artist's Instincts that You Need to Overcome Before Transforming Your Photography from Hobby to Career

Photographers almost always begin as artists. The camera doesn't draw the interest of the business minded, rather, it draws the passion of the creative. We all entered this pursuit chasing expression of some sort or another. For some, that passion eventually transforms into the longing for a career. The business of photography, however, throws a nasty wrench into the artistic pursuit of photography forcing photographers to overcome several of our most core creative instincts in order to create value that a client is willing to pay for.

 


1. Variation And Diversity Of Creation Is Not Paramount

As artists, we are often chasing new creative mountains to ascend. We have a harsh tendency to think of work as failure if it is not transformative relative to our previous work. We want to climb to new heights, try new things, and create variance in our breadth of work. This mindset, however, runs counter to the desires of a customer. A customer wants to see dogged consistency in the service that a photographer offers. A customer does not want to guess which photographer will show up; the one who created this photo in your portfolio, or the one who created that one? A customer wants to be able to know exactly what they are paying for before they pull out their wallet. If you wish to make your business succeed you need to find one narrow style and quality to your work that not only will set you apart but is also something you can repeat throughout your portfolio and for every customer you meet.

2. That Which You Value Is Not Critical

In order to make a sale you must be able to offer something that the customer assigns more value to than the money you request for that product. Often, what we value most, as photographers, does not translate to value to a customer. In pursuit of the sale it becomes critical to evaluate what your customer seeks and what it is worth to them, even if it comes at the expense of an aspect of photography that you cherish deeply.

3. Quality Is Not Absolute

For most photographers, we are looking to push the bounds of our best work with every shoot. While admirable and certainly a driving force to improvement it is not crucial in every job. Pushing to the utter limits of potential qualities can lead to spectacular work, it also leads to increased expense. To many customers that formidable quality does not translate equally to value. In many cases a customer is looking for work that will meet a specific need. While they certainly will be happy with the highest quality they can afford many won't be as interested if that increase quality slows the deliverable or increases the price. As artists we need to let go of the notion of chasing raw perfection in favor of delivering the highest possible quality within the bounds of the client's needs and budget.

4. The Photographer's Creative Vision Does Not Have the Final Say

As artists we are quite used to being the sole art direction in our work. When introducing a client to the process, our grip on that direction must be loosened. Many clients not only wish, but also demand, to creatively influence the work they are paying for. We need to shed that instinct to disregard their voice in favor of becoming proficient at transforming the client's creative direction into images that both meets a professional standard of quality and the expectations of the client.

Conclusion

Don't fret if these instincts seem almost impossible to overcome. I certainly can attest that I am guilty of holding on to some far too dearly. It is no easy battle to win. Defeating this mindset likely will be one of the most important difficulties that you face. However, by overcoming them in a graceful, delicate, way you significantly increase your chances at transforming your passion for photography into a viable career.

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8 Comments

Greetings
The 40 years I've been in photography I've always had a day time job. First in the educational field then in the Medical field. I found out early on that having to making a living from my photography was difficult at best and it took all the fun out of my photography. So I chose careers in fields that aloud me to make my own hours. By doing this it took the pressure off my photography allowing me enjoy doing what I loved, photography. To be honest I made more money doing photography than in either the Medical or Educational fields combined, but never had to "whore" myself trying to make a living from photography. Even in retirement I have the same belief.
Good Luck
Roger

david squire's picture

Interesting thoughts and well written.

I cannot completely and whole heartedly agree with #4 (Many clients not only wish, but also demand, to creatively influence the work they are paying for. ) Yes, they are the client and they should have some to most of the final say. But in my experience, and others' I've spoken with, the client sometimes doesn't know their ass from their elbow in what looks good, hence why they hire you...a professional...to overcome that obstacle. If we have photographers or artists running around just yesing every client to death on what is art or what looks good, we will be drowning in a sea of shit in no time. Some one has to steer this ship.

The point is, that if you offer the client what they want and that is of lower merit than what other creative photographers are willing to produce aesthetically and functionally; and negating what you would believe they might actually need,
you can undercut those creative photographers who do not offer that to the client, with that competitive advantage, and get the work instead. Particularly if you don't have the overheads for high quality that they have or the inclination to produce high quality work, or are not designing for purpose outside of just making the sale.
Also true if you are just starting out and building relationships with new clients.

Christian Santiago's picture

Can't agree with #4. A lot of clients don't have a creative bone in their body, but because they're paying for your service they want to feel like they're doing something. It's their " I have my own production moment." Can't tell you how many times clients ask for something stupid, ignore my advice that it's stupid, and then complain when it looks stupid. There's a reason why they hired you instead of trying to do it themselves.

"Photographers almost always begin as artists. The camera doesn't draw the interest of the business minded, rather, it draws the passion of the creative. "
This is when I started to disagree. Photography, and cameras, often draws people who want to be creative, who haven't shown any particular ability in other arts but who think that all there is to be creative with a camera is pressing the button on top.
Too many, certainly the majority, when they find out that being creative is actually hard work, their interest shifts to being technically proficient, perhaps amortizing their investment by earning money or keeping the camera as a convenient aide - memoire but no longer attempting to be an 'artist'.

Travis Alex's picture

I love this.

#3 is a slippery slope though - "While they certainly will be happy with the highest quality they can afford many won't be as interested if that increase quality slows the deliverable or increases the price"

mainly because of this: It's one thing to be fair with your pricing for the time spent, it's a whole other conversation when the client just wants an over the top concept, with 100 variables for a "great bargain". It's important not to sacrifice your standards just to fill your pocket in some cases. Mainly because if the client leaves with something sub par than what they expected for the price, that could really hurt your future business.

Know your audience and make your choice