If you’re a photographer, you need skills. Obvious right? You would think so, but if it was obvious fewer photographers would be shutting their doors. Most photographers acquire the necessary photography skills to be successful. Not everyone, but a large portion of the togs I come across I would say are good enough. The problem is that there is little awareness of the non-photography skills needed to succeed that are just as important. Lets call these photography business skills. You need to be a manager, sales rep, marketer, leader, promoter, product developer and still find some time to shoot. It’s a tall order, but if you’re going to find success, you’re going to have to develop these skills. Like acquiring any skill, this will take effort and time. Here’s a list to help you get started:
- Make a list of your strengths and deficiencies.
- Devote time to developing needed skills.
- Find resources for developing these skills.
- Put what you learn into action.
Mind Your Business
If you are reading this post, you want to know how to build a successful business with your photography skills. That’s great, I’m here to encourage you in that endeavor, but in order to realize this goal, you have to make your business your life blood. You have to be interested in every aspect of your business, not just the stuff you really enjoy doing. If you talk to enough photographers, you’ll find that most of them are using a business model they didn’t author. They took the most basic aspect of someone else’s business model and decided to call it their own.
There isn’t anything wrong with using someone else’s business model — if you know exactly what it is about the business model that makes it work. Why can Jane photographer charge $$$$ for her services and Kelly photographer can only charge $ for her services. Most people can’t really answer that question. The answer is not that they have so much more skill than you, and it’s not simply about raising price. The answer comes as a result of mastering the many (often frustrating) intricacies of your business over many years. It’s a price few people are willing to pay to succeed.
Think Outside Yourself (and Photography)
Like any entrepreneurial venture, there are things common to all businesses. If you’re not a business junkie, there are aspects of business you haven’t considered. If you’re not fluent in the language of business you can’t expect to know your business strengths and deficiencies. Reading and listening to people who have insight into the business world can be very helpful in reaching your business goals, regardless of the particular discipline. Listen to what business experts say and think of ways those things may apply to your business. Make this a consistent habit. A small amount of time each week will be more fruitful than a one time binge.
It is also helpful to note what draws you to other artists. Lets take an example from outside of photography. Think of your favorite music. What is it that is it about that music that moves you? Be honest, is it the technical skill exhibited by the artist that compels you to listen? Probably not. More likely, their music moves you because you feel a deep connection to it. It speaks to you like other songs don’t.
One of my favorite bands is the Counting Crows. I’ll be the first to say that these musicians are not what I would consider “refined.” They have a very raw style and their singer doesn’t have the best voice, but that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about both relating to what they are singing about and seeing how the songs change (and improve) over time. They are always changing their songs, playing them in different ways to see if they can push them further. It’s a process, not a destination. Your photography is similar. You’ll make small adjustments to your style and how you can connect what your shooting to your audience. When this happens it won’t be an accident that you find success — you’ll know exactly how it happened.
photo credit: Ryan McGuire