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.
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.