Thriving As A Portrait Photographer, EVEN NOW!

The one reoccurring feeling I have expressed over and over again from photographers is not how do we “Thrive”  but how do we even survive.  I hear the fear in the messages from professional photographers, concerned about the reality of a shrinking market and everyone (capable or not) thinking they are a professional photographer.  The answer to the question, “HOW DO WE THRIVE OR EVEN SURVIVE” is not a new one nor is even a difficult answer for most business people.  Almost all photographers think like artists and there is no person more broke in the world than an artist.  As a matter of fact, many artist associate poverty and suffering with their talent.  Bull Crap!

I live in beautiful home, I have a Harley, a Dodge Viper and the night before Valentine’s Day I bought my wife a New BMW 750.  How can I say these things when so many are so worried about survival?  It’s not fair the crowd will say!  Again I respond Bull Crap!  I have made it my life’s works to study and understand SUCCESS and business in addition to photography.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Photography, but a studio without a business person running it is a place to practice a hobby until the money dries up!

Yesterday, I posted an article about shooting JPEG’s outdoors (when appropriate) to save time and money.  This article had a good response from many, but a few had the “artist” way of thinking and exclaimed, “I shoot nothing but Raw Tiff’s”.  I have also been to the programs that the speaker swears that everyone must shoot raw tiffs because no one is good enough to shoot JPEG’s.  These same speakers go one to tell attendee’s they shoot 300 to 500 images of a senior session and edit them down.  Am I the only one in the room that wants to scream out, “You are an idiot!”.  When times were good, waste was common, now that we have a new economy to work in you have to be a smarter business person to survive.  You can’t listen to the good old boys telling you, “you don’t sell many of these, but they sure are fun to take”.  No, No, No!  You take what sells, you shoot exactly the number of images that come with the session and you look at every possible way to lower your cost, without effecting the quality of the final portraits and the experience of your client.  And if anyone tells me that you can see the difference in a 16×20 captured as a quality raw file and a quality jpeg file they have much better eye’s than me!

I am a little more direct in my writing today because quite frankly there are a lot of people that need to focus as hard on learning about business and success as they do photography.  It’s not easy anymore!  You can’t run your business like it’s your hobby and make a living.  And if you are being put out of business by soccer mom’s and photography students, the problem isn’t Them it’s your business abilities.  Photographers have to learn to sell again, to work for each sale, not just expect it.  You can’t arrogantly qualify people with a $1000 or $1,500 minimum print order or purchase if you want to  have any volume at all.  You must learn how to turn $300 to $400 packages/orders into $1500 to $2000 orders.

We went to an investors meeting for a man who was opening a new restaurant in our area.  The Doctors and their wives were asking about the menu and the chef, the business people in the room were asking about his other restaurants, which he had opened 6 and all of them successful.  Business people understand that a successful restaurant has less to do with the food, then the experience of the patrons and the business abilities of the man running the restaurant.  This man could have made a success of a steakhouse, fish market or hot dog stand, because he completely knows the market he serves and know how to make money in a food service business.

I don’t care how bad times get, I don’t care how many unskilled photographers there are trying to get into this profession, there will always be studios in every city, in every area in this country making a great deal of money in their business and it will have more to do with their business abilities than their photography skills!  Statements likes this photographers hate to hear.  I think they don’t want to hear this because it is difficult to learn to run a business successfully and it isn’t fun, like photography.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on February 18, 2010.

3 Responses to “Thriving As A Portrait Photographer, EVEN NOW!”

  1. Great post today, I totally agree with you, as far as jpeg or raw I started using a digital camera in 2001 after years of using a Hasselblad. I only shoot jpeg because in the beginning you had to use the canon software to convert the raw and I didn’t want to have my employees spent the time to do that. I agree that if I could expose Kodachrome properly I could expose digital correctly.Remember when a 120 roll of film had 12 exposures on it and we would take 12 saleable images in a session? I am teaching a class for our state assoc. in june and I am going to use a 192 MB cf card and do a demo session with it. I doubt that many of the people in my class will have seen a 192MB cf card. I really have appreciated your bolg since I discoverd it about a month ago. I think you and Have a similar philosphy about our businesses, Keep up the great blogs. P.S. I also have a Harley Davidson (Road King) and my wife drives a Corvette and we have a small vacation home in Cabo San Lucas. We should hang out sometome if we were closer to each

  2. You hit the nail on the head. The only problem is that it sometimes takes many years for some of us to learn this business stuff because we are so addicted to photography.

    • Unfortunately in today’s economic climate and with the untrained masses almost willing to work for free, a newer professional photographers has to know about business before they ever try to run or open one! Which if you think about it is no different than any other profession. A chef understands from day one that if he doesn’t understand how to run the business of a restaurant they will be out of business in a week, no matter how talented he or she is.

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