The Problem With Our Profession!

As you study and read books on business and success at the heart of any great business venture is filling a void that is not being filled.  If you are constantly irritated by the fact the nearest grocery store, dry cleaner, hardware store or coffee-house is a twenty-minute drive from where you are and live you in community of many other like-minded people, you have just discovered the perfect business opportunity.  If you are an average person, with no social or mental problems that would make you less normal than the person next door, you can bet that many other people in your area or community feel the same frustration about a market that is not being served.  This is a simplification of a little more complex idea (example you could live in a town of 30 people and there would be a good reason they don’t have a Starbucks Yet, I think there minimum is 40 people!)  However the business principle is a sound one, find a market that isn’t being served and serve it.

Now look at our profession where the average photographer does the complete opposite.  “We live in a town of thirty people and there are already 10 photographers, I think we need another one after all what if everyone has a wedding on the same day?”  Photographers don’t look to find what markets aren’t being served they simply see what everyone else is doing and they figure there is a good reason that everyone else is doing that, so they will do it too!

Example, when I first opened my studio, I noticed that two markets seemed not to be served or not served well.  Now, I am not talking about “photographer’s ego here”, “well there are forty other photographers doing portraits but they are not even close to being as good as me!” NO, I am talking about reality and business here. Being that I grew up in an agricultural area, there were many dairymen, horse breeders and FFA students with prize farm animals that in some cases were worth thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars and there were no photographers that would go to these animals and take quality portraits for their owners.

Luckily for me, the second market was high school seniors.  While there were companies that did senior portraits they did the boring brown painted backgrounds that had always been done.  This was about the same time as Larry Peters started talking about seniors. I thought what if I contracted high school seniors, but offered them everything and anything they could get from any studio.  This was a market that wasn’t being serviced.  Seniors had to be photographed by the contracted guy and then go elsewhere for something nice. It was an idea that started a 27 year career.  However I photographed more than one cow and horse to finance my business on my way to building up the studio I have today.  The point is I had little competition in the these two markets and the work in these two markets led to other work in more competitive markets.  When “cow-guy’s” daughter was getting married who do you think did the pictures?  If I could make “old-Betsey”  look good I could surely make his daughter look beautiful.  Seniors’ parent hired me for weddings and family portraits (back in the days I did weddings).

When you fill a niche or a market that isn’t being served, profits are high because competition is low.  Photographers today follow the path of every other photographer and competition is ridiculously high.  I saw a young photographer’s post on Facebook the other day.  He said, “after two years as a photographer I finally made some money, I sold all of my photography equipment!”  This is a sad but true fact in today’s crowded profession.  Prices keep falling because everyone is trying to do the same thing as everyone else, in the same area.

You might be a wedding photographer, but with the competition being so high, people are offering weddings for $99.95 (like Newfus).  Although weddings are where your passions lie, advertising in such a competitive market with such ridiculously low prices is out of the question.  A high-end real-estate agent asks you to take photographs of some of his or her more elegant homes for advertising.  The pay isn’t bad and it is much more profitable than $99.95 weddings.  Since this is a less than glamorous job there are few photographers willing to take it.  This is filling a niche or market that isn’t being filled.  Going through the cow crap to photograph “cow-guy’s” prize bull wasn’t very glamorous but it paid the bills and brought me additional work in areas that I preferred.  Even in ultra-competitive markets there are niches or parts of the market that are not being served or with a little twist could be served much better.  This is the difference between building a successful photography business and slugging it out in the trenches for every job and ending up a school teacher or UPS Driver.

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on October 2, 2010.

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