by Steve Kozak, M. Photog., Cr., PPA Certified
Going into the photography business in today’s economic climate is certainly a challenge, but for those who jump in without preparation, it is like a professional sports team facing an opponent without a game plan. The result will most likely be a lop-sided victory for the competition and the unprepared team will go home perhaps battered and bruised if not humiliated. Don’t let this happen to you!
Establishing yourself as a professional photographer takes conditioning, practice and an investment of time in the preparation and execution of a thorough game plan. If you are considering taking the leap from the stands and getting onto the field, be sure that you are up to the task and ready to face an opposition that is poised and ready to take you down.
As with any sport, success begins with a proper execution of the fundamentals. For photographers, the fundamentals include a proper understanding of exposure, lighting and posing. These are the very foundations of our craft and are the basis for the creation of a quality image. Cameras take pictures…photographers create images. If you are relying on the automatic features of your camera and eTTL with your flash, you are hoping and guessing and playing a game of “trial and error”. Professionals understand and master the tools of the trade. This eliminates insecurity and keeps you from having to look at each and every image on the back of the camera. Confidence is a winning approach!
In baseball, each pitch carries the result of what the pitcher delivers. For the photographer, each image represents the artist’s command of the light. Every photographic image begins with the presence of light which can be measured, manipulated or redirected depending on the photographer’s ability and skill. It is this control of the light which keeps a pro producing work at a very high level. Photographers who are not in control of the light will soon find themselves out of the game like a pitcher who can’t throw strikes. Demonstrate command of your “pitches”.
Once you have mastered the fundamentals, you can begin working on the nuances of the game. This is the stage where an athlete combines training with natural talent to perform at a high level. For photographers, this is where we combine the fundamentals with the art of capturing great images. We develop our vision and use our creativity to produce images that go beyond a simple capture of a person’s likeness. We are now capturing images that tell stories and capture personality. We interpret what we see and find unique ways to present our vision.
Can you imagine the results for a team that took the field without a plan for both the defense and offense? It would not be pretty! This is what happens when a photographer goes into business without a business plan. It is not enough to simply take great images, it takes marketing and branding to put your business on the offense and get you moving forward. It will not matter how wonderful your images are if you don’t have fans willing to pay for your work.
In today’s economy, we can no longer wait for clients to call us when they are ready to have photographs created. Our marketing has to create the need and the desire for clients to own what we offer. Savvy photographers know how to create marketing pieces that appeal to the heart and speak to the emotions. “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” and “half price 8×10’s” does not move a client to desire images. We have to show images and tell stories that connect us with our clients. Connect with your fans!
Even with the great protection offered by PPA’s Indemnification Trust, you still need to invest in a personal liability insurance policy for those times when disaster strikes. Injury to a client or damage to property is a very real possibility when you are in business. It is only wise to protect yourself and your personal assets with inexpensive insurance coverage for those unexpected mishaps. Protect yourself!
Know the fundamentals. Establish a game plan for running your business and growing your income. Protect yourself while you are out competing and you are ready for the major leagues of professional photography.
Steve Kozak is the Executive Director of the Texas Professional Photographers Association and an instructor at The Texas School of Professional Photography.
Steve has helped countless numbers of photographers turn their passion into a profession and their photography into profits. With his class, you will gain a wealth of knowledge and a unique insight into creating images at a professional level and how to price and sell your work so that you can keep on doing what you love. Learn more about his class at Texas School.