Along the way, thoughts have come up that step outside components like your website, blog, social media, etc. Today's "blue plate" special is just one of those topics.
Recently my co-host on the Photofocus "Mind Your Own Business" podcast, Chamria Young and I had a lengthy conversation with David Scruggs and Jill Smith, two passionate wedding photographers based in Atlanta. They recently had a wedding to photograph where later in the evening, long after the rehearsal dinner, the mother of the groom was killed in a random shooting. The last photograph of the groom with his mother, father and siblings was taken at the rehearsal dinner. (Note: the podcast airs on September 14, 2018.)
The topic of this podcast focused on the importance of never compromising on the quality of an image, but afterward, I started thinking about how deep that really has to go. It's such an important part of calling yourself a professional that I wanted to share a series of ingredients so that as an artist, you NEVER compromise on the quality of an image. It goes well beyond technique and understanding the craft!
What Makes a Professional Photographer
- Listen, listen, listen - your role when capturing memories is to know and understand your client. That can only come with listening to them and building a relationship based on understanding their needs. You have to see the world through their eyes.
- Never compromise on your skill set - Being a photographer is about meeting your client's needs and having the skills to photograph at any time, regardless of the degree of difficulty. Of course, there will be times when something comes up that's over your head, but that doesn't change the importance of a never-ending quest for your own education.
- Backup gear - When you least expect it, something is going to go wrong with your gear. Normal wear and tear, a dropped camera body or lens, a piece of equipment stolen - NEVER be without backup gear for those "just in case" moments.
- Always be on time - Your clients trust you to be where you're supposed to be and always on time. And, even if you arrive just a few minutes late, you've created stress that wasn't necessary.
- Be accessible - whether by email, phone or face to face, you've got to do your best to always be available.
- Keep your promises - NEVER make a commitment you can't keep.
- Build relationships - In any business, but especially photography, it's essential to build an ongoing relationship both leading up to an event and afterward. Your success is about your ability to build trust. Don't be an artist who fulfills the client's needs and then is never heard from again.
- Exceed expectations - Remember - "There are no traffic jams along the extra mile!" Roger Staubach
- Love your career choice and show your passion for capturing memories - You can't capture images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
- Recognize the need for change - Whether it's your style or merely tracking consumer trends, being a pro is about adapting and being able to stay relevant to consumer demands.
- Support your associates and the industry - While this is outside the client/photographer relationship, a strong network can also help you through some of the most difficult challenges. Be involved in your local guild or association. Be helpful to other photographers, and you'll find they'll also be there for you. Things come up that just aren't planned, but working together there's nothing you can't accomplish.
- Have fun and be fun to work with - "Fun" is one of those words so often lost in business today. Building trust, capturing memories and being an outstanding artist has a core focus on loving what you do. Everybody has a bad day now and then, but being a professional photographer is about loving people and seeing the world through their eyes and often their heart.
It's time for you to thrive, not just survive!