Take a minute and think about a few things:
We’re living in the age of instant gratification. We text, tweet, and abbreviate. Our spelling has become absurd, phonetically attacking a conversation for the sole purpose of packing a full paragraph into just 140 characters. We eat on the run, multi-tasking and getting a little work done so we can justify stepping away from the biz at lunchtime. MacDonalds has two lines for the drive-in window, and we can order combo meals, and the decision-making process becomes even faster.
New photographers jump into the market thinking because they understand Photoshop they’re perfectly capable of being a professional. They shoot with wild abandon and a mindset of, “No problem. I’ll fix it later in the computer!” The truth is, no matter what your skill set, if it's a lousy image there’s one fundamental rule of nature, “You can’t buff a turd!”
The reality is you can’t Tweet quality. There are no shortcuts to creating outstanding images. There are no shortcuts to building relationships with your clients. There are no shortcuts to great marketing. All of this leaves me with one sentiment – it’s time for many of you just to slow down, take a big breath and decide what you want to be when you grow up.
If you’re a shortcut, bought a camera and learned Photoshop artist before you understood lighting, exposure, composition and your gear, here’s you’re missing some incredible opportunities:
- You’re doing yourself a huge disservice and leaving a lot of great revenue on the table. A great series of images shown to an excited client has the potential to create not only more sales from the original job but additional sales as your client shows your work to their friends. Any moron can get their first client - the key is to get more, along with the first one coming back.
- You’re doing your client a disservice, by not “being all you can be." Yeah, it’s the US Army’s slogan, but it’s so dead-on, for every profession. You can’t compromise on being the best at what you do. When you present images that exceed a client’s expectations the excitement and goodwill you’ll be a part of will take your pride and theirs to an entirely new level.
- You’re undermining the credibility of an entire industry. I remember a story several years ago on the local news. It was a consumer protection story where a woman wrote to the TV station for help getting her wedding images. Mistakes happen, and there are always extenuating circumstances, but when what should be a quietly resolved customer service issue gets so out of control the local news media gets involved, the business entity didn't do their job. Think about the number of people who watched the story and got a wrong impression about professional photographers. Even worse, think about the credibility boost the story gave to all the Uncle Harrys and all that gear they own.
- You’re making it harder to build your business than it has to be. When a client is disappointed and underwhelmed the entire business model collapses. Ever gone back to a restaurant where you had a really bad experience? Of course not, because nobody does! On the other hand, when you exceed a client’s expectations you’ve got a customer for life, not to mention one more member of your word-of-mouth publicity machine.
- Last on the list; you're probably not having that much fun, because half the time you don't know what you're doing. You can't create images that tug at people's heart-strings if your own heart isn't in it!
So, here are a few ideas to help you fix the problem:
- Slow it down and pay attention to the quality of your images and the quality of your relationships.
- Build your business one client at a time and treat every client as if they were the only person who was ever going to pay you for your skill set as a photographer.
- Focus on being the very best photographer you can be. Have a mindset that one of the magazines wants to do a story about you, but you told them to wait until you had the images you wanted!
- And as always, NEVER compromise on quality - images, relationships with clients, building trust within the community.
You’re part of a fantastic industry, and there’s help every step of the way, providing you respect and love the craft. And trust me, if you respect the craft, there is no way to describe the return on your investment!