Several times in the last month there's been a common scenario in a few of the threads on some of the photo-centric forums on Facebook.
It's always the same, a photographer whose business isn't doing well comments on why business has been slow. Typically the blame falls on the influx of part time photographers, Uncle Harry, Debbie Digital and all the Soccer Moms. Then they blame the manufacturers for making it so easy for everybody to own a decent camera. Finally the consumer gets blamed, because "they don't the difference between good photography and bad."
Well, at the risk of sounding like a rant, let's look at what's wrong. For at least half the negative comments posted, I went and looked at the author's websites. In almost all cases, I found mediocre images, difficult to navigate sites and irrelevant information. The websites either looked tired or barely thought through - the equivalent of building a house without a blueprint.
If you fall into this category, I'm not challenging your right to feel frustrated, but let's put the blame where it belongs and even better let's go to work and fix it!
In terms of part-time photographers stealing your business: The industry, especially in the wedding category, for at least the last 30 years has been at least 50% part time. In fact, a few of the best artists in the industry have been part-time, usually because their benefits from their day jobs were so strong they couldn't afford to make the move to full-time. Just because somebody is part-time doesn't mean they're not focused on their skill set and passionate about their clients and their images. It also doesn't mean they're not talented artists!
It's the manufacturer's fault: If it wasn't for the manufacturers who are focused on the newest technology we'd still be shooting with gunpowder for a flash system. Seriously, technology has created the greatest creative tools in the history of photography. Plus, it's always been a challenge. Back in my Hasselblad days a third of our business came from the serious hobbyist, who often had better equipment than many of the pros.
There are some great cameras available today, but just because a consumer owns great gear doesn't mean they're terrific artists. I still love the line about people who own great sports cars - that doesn't mean they're race car drivers! LOL - that's especially true in Florida when you see a new Vette go by at 11 mph with the right turn signal still on!
And, if I stay on topic with photography, the consumer doesn't have access to the same tools a professional does. From new products at your lab, your album company and framer you've got a wealth of ways to present your images. Plus, let's not forget hybrid solutions and your ability to use products like Proshow Web Premium and create incredible mixed media slide shows.
The consumer doesn't know the difference between good and bad images: Okay, part of that is true, but it's your job to teach them. It's your job to establish the value for a print. It's your job to help them understand that memories are precious and deserve more than representation on their Facebook page.
I've shared this video before, but if you missed it check out one way Bryan Caporicci educates his clients. Then read Michele Celentano's "I Believe". Attend any workshop where Beverly and Tim Walden are speaking and sharing ideas about establishing value with fine art portraits and you'll hear another approach to establishing value.
I'm not saying there aren't plenty of challenges in running a photography business today, but so often the blame for weak sales needs to be put where it belongs, on the face looking back in the mirror every morning. You can't fix all the outside challenges, but you can focus on everything within your control, including marketing, brand awareness and your skill set.
It's time all you "Negators" out there started thinking about your skill set and raising the bar on the quality of your images. Then look at your website and especially your galleries. If an image isn't better than what Uncle Harry could capture, then dump it! Only show your best work. Next, what are you doing to market yourself? Are you involved in the community? What are people saying about you? When people think about needing a photographer does your name come up first?
If your business is slow and things just aren't coming together this year, stop looking to pass the blame and let's start working to fix it. You've got so many people and companies in the industry willing to give you hand, starting right here with me!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.