Do you have a passion for photography and are planning to make it a full-time job? It’s an admirable and ambitious goal, and while it sounds exciting, the reality is that running a photography business is very different from pursuing photography as a hobby.
Many photographers learn the hard way when they encounter obstacles and many end up failing. I’ve made all of these mistakes myself and want to save you time, energy and potentially your business by going through 5 Common Mistakes Photographers Make When Turning Their Photography Hobby Into A Profession.
Mistake # 1: setting the wrong expectations
Yes, photography can be your passion and your work can be top notch. Your own friends and family may even ask you why you haven’t taken the plunge yet. The freedom to create what you want when you want it is the best part of any creative endeavorâ¦ as a hobby.
Once photography becomes your career, you are providing a service, not just art. Your clients have expectations and needs that are incumbent on you as a paid photographer. The reality is that you will lose a lot of the freedom to create as you wish. Customers hire based on what they’ve seen you create before, and they expect you to replicate the style you’ve developed and sold them on. Only the big names in photography enjoy complete creative freedom, and even that is rare.
If you just love to take photos, you may want to consider keeping it as a hobby. A passion does not always have to become a profession. You can just take pictures for your own enjoyment, and that’s totally okay.
Mistake # 2: lack of focus
You are all in your photography business, but you love so many types of photography. You’re the jack of all trades, taking photos of everything from weddings and engagements to businesses and the streets. However, in order to be successful, I highly recommend that you focus and specialize in one genre.
Think about it. The industry is teeming with incredibly talented photographers who spend their careers pursuing very specific niches. When you break down into multiple genres, you probably don’t spend enough time to become great in just one. Customers want the best, and to be the best, you’ll want to invest the time needed to get there. Whether it’s wedding, food, fashion or even cars, become exceptional and outperform your competition.
Mistake # 3: not understanding your audience
Knowing what your audience and target market want and value is crucial if you are going to sell your service to them. Take a Jewish-Orthodox couple for example. Their desired wedding photographs will be very different from those of a young adventure couple who want a wild wedding in Bali. The way you approach each couple will have to be completely different.
More generally, you shouldn’t be presenting an editorial style if you’re trying to book a couple for engagement photos. Likewise, your commercial car photographs will not be relevant to a family looking for their portraits. Take the time to fully understand what your audience wants and craft your message to be their solution.
Mistake # 4: getting lost in the technique
When we focus on the technical aspects of photography, we tend to lean on it when things go wrong. In addition, we end up trying to sell our services by touting the technical characteristics of our cameras and our work. This is called “feature selling” and examples show our expensive equipment or our signature bokeh style. Don’t worry, we’ve all done it.
When we do this, we lose our ability to connect emotionally with our customers. They can’t identify with themselves because they don’t see photography the same way we do as photographers. Your customers aren’t there for the most mega-pixel camera or your lighting technology. They are here for something different and this is our very last topic:
Mistake # 5: Not knowing your product
Nowadays anyone can take a photo, so just saying that’s what you provide won’t be enough. In fact, what you are selling is your ability to translate your customer’s values ââinto a photograph they can then use.
An advertiser looks for a way to visually express their brand’s message. Likewise, your wedding clients are looking for their memories captured and hung on the wall to remember. Photography and your technical skills are just the way to make it happen.
Hope you enjoyed this article and video on 5 Mistakes Photographers Make When Transitioning Photography from a Hobby to a Career. Keeping these mistakes in mind and avoiding them can save you a lot of time and energy when starting your own business.
I have made all of these mistakes myself, so rest assured, they only come from experience. Photography as a profession is very rewarding, but understanding the unique challenges that come with it is crucial for success.
PS For a complete course in the business of photography, check out the Professional Photography Training System at SLR Lounge Premium. Here we dive into all aspects of building a successful business around photography. We followed this pattern when building Lin & Jirsa into a 7-figure business, and in the course we reveal all the secrets on how you can do the same on your own. Thanks for joining us and see you next time!
About the Author: Pye Jirsa is a Southern California-based wedding photographer and co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. You can find more of Jirsa’s work on Instagram.
Image credits: Header photo licensed from Depositphotos