Dear Female Photographer,
Have you ever read a blog post by a really amazing photographer about the RIGHT way to run your photography business?
You admire this photographer. And it’s very obvious that she knows how to run a successful wedding photography or portrait photography business.
Her suggestions are wise. And you really appreciate them because things aren’t going as well as you would like for your own photo business. So, you immediately and diligently take her words to heart. You get to work applying the suggestion(s).
Personally, I’m a HUGE believer in learning from my peers. And I appreciate how generous my fellow photographers are when it comes to education. For the most part, I see a lovely willingness to share knowledge and encourage peers within the photo industry.
But I had to learn a lesson the hard way. And the lesson is simply this:
Don’t lose YOURSELF by blindly following “wise” suggestions.
It reminds me a little of cross country skiing.
If it’s as cold in your neck of the woods as it is mine (8 degrees, to be exact), then perhaps you love winter sports as much as I do.
The thing about cross country skiing is that it’s a whole lot easier to travel down a path that has already been visited by other skiers. Similarly, learning from others in the industry can help us achieve success faster. If someone has already learned some really wise hacks and tricks that lead to success, it’s logical to assume those tricks will help lead you down a similar pathway to success.
Trails in the woods lead to all different areas of a park. Perhaps the most popular route is one that leads past a gorgeous waterfall. And so, if you follow that well-trodden path with your skis, you, too will reach the waterfall. It will no doubt be lovely … as frozen waterfalls usually are!
But what if YOU want to get to a different area of the park? What if you want to visit an overlook that can only be reached through an entirely different trail? One that doesn’t already have ski tracks? Maybe no one else knows about the overlook. Or maybe no one has any interest in that particular area. But you do.
So how will you get there?
Will the path that lead to the waterfall work for you? It may for a time.
And following that easy, trampled down pathway may help you conserve energy for when you have to veer off to a spot in the woods and begin blazing a new trail that will take you to YOUR desired destination. It’s a harder route. It takes longer to blaze the trail. But it’s the only way to get to the overlook YOU want to see.
Why am I writing this?
It’s January. It’s that time of year when I set goals for my photography business. And drink way too much coffee and tea. And eat way too much chocolate and baked goods. It’s the time of year when I evaluate how certain decisions have affected my business and reset goals where needed.
A few years ago, I followed the sage advice that you shouldn’t simultaneously offer too many genres of photography to clients. Specialization is where it’s at! I was shooting weddings, kids, families, newborns, seniors, commercial — so everything. The more I read about how specializing is the the easiest way to get the right clients, the more I became convinced that it would be best for my business.
I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that niche photography can lead you to clients that are OBSESSED with your work.
I thought that the advice would help to simplify my business … even though I didn’t really want to follow it!
So I looked for areas of my business that I could do without. Maybe I should just do portraits? Maybe just weddings? Maybe just seniors?
I could see the wisdom in sticking with just one genre. I could truly see how marketing would become clearer and easier. But the thing is, it didn’t feel right letting go of any of the areas of my business.
But I started chopping off areas of my business and putting them to rest anyway.
I followed the “sage” advice.
But it didn’t work. Not for ME, anyway.
After a few years, I sat down and re-evaluated everything. I still agreed with the advice. I still agreed with the idea that specializing and concentrating on just one area of a photography is wise. But … I came to the realization that it’s not the right choice for ME. I didn’t feel whole without the other areas of my business. I missed them. And as a result, my work suffered. I suffered.
So. I learned a lesson. Yes, the advice was good. But it wasn’t what was best for me. Would I still recommend that same piece of advice for someone else? I would! Because that advice has truly brought success, happiness, and peace of mind to other photographers! It just didn’t work for me. And that’s ok.
Why didn’t it work for me?
I had to look back at my own definition of “success”. My definition of “success” is very specific to my life and what I wish to accomplish in my life. My life and my goals look NOTHING like the photographer whose advice I was following. And so, her advice wasn’t quite what I needed. And that’s ok. I’m still glad I tried it … because now I know.
So … yes. Learn from your peers. Learn from the wealth of AMAZING information out there. But just remember two things:
1. Your business is YOUR business. Advice that works for most people won’t necessarily work for you. Don’t forget to stay true to who YOU are as a photographer.
2. If you think you should try a suggestion (like, your gut is saying … I really think this is right!) … then try it! At the very least, you’ll learn that it doesn’t work for you. And that’s ok. That will lead you one step closer to figuring out the best strategies for your own business.
This blog post was written by Kate Callahan as part of a series of articles designed to inspire and encourage her fellow female photographers. Check out more articles and helpful information here: dearfemalephotographer.com