How To Be a Full-time Photographer – Part 2

Part 2 of a series “The Complete Photographer’s Guide on Turning Pro” by Scott Robert Lim

International and master photographer Scott Robert Lim (Photog. Cr, AOPA) has taught thousands of photographers and has a passion to help others achieve phenomenal success with their photography. Throughout his two decades of  being an entrepreneurial artist and a decade of being an elite photographer, he has gathered some profound insights on starting a career with photography.

This article discusses what it takes to be a full time photographer. What kind of training and dedication needed to produce world class imagery. If you are a part time photographer or have an established business and can’t seem to get the next level with your photography and business.. READ ON

 Important Questions that Demand Answers…

Do you have good answers for the below questions? If you don’t, you probably are not ready to quit your 9-5 and join the ranks of  becoming full-time photographer. On the other hand, perhaps your business is struggling and you can’t figure out how to get to the next level, you need answers to these questions…

  • How can the photographer separate himself from the masses of average photographers and generate customers that will pay two to four times market value?
  • How can the photographer generate good business consistently without a huge marketing budget?
  • How does a photographer create a signature style and why is it important?
  • How much should I expect to invest in…. time and money if I want to be a full time photographer?
  • What relevant skills are needed to be successful in a market that is constantly changing?
  • How does a photographer know their work is any good, what areas to improve and how to improve them?
  • How does a photographer know they are charging the right prices, when should a photographer raise or lower their prices?
  • How does a photographer break through and get to the next level, in business, with their photography, in life?
  • Why is wedding photography the easiest way to create a part-time/full time photo business?
  • How does a photographer book a $10,000+ wedding?

Turning pro not only means producing great images, it is much, much more than that. It is being business smart. However having an MBA probably won’t help that much because being an entrepreneur takes on a completely different skill set. Most MBAs are smart enough NOT to become entrepreneurs- it is a hard road to conquer, but some of us have no choice in the matter.

What if one doesn’t have the luxury of having a MBA, CPA, JD, Ph.D, DDS, MD, etc. and no one is eager to pay $100K+/yr for our services? How are we going to make this kind of cash? You may be like myself, a COLLEGE DROP OUT and becoming an entrepreneur may be our only option of earning a decent living because NO ONE is willing to pay us “losers” what we think we deserve.

Or maybe money is not that important to you because you’ve made some good money before but you feel life is more than just earning good cash but we want to feel significant in the work we produce and photography seems like a great way to accomplish this and working for ourself seems so attractive we are willing to take a salary decrease.

WARNING: Full time artists don’t make a lot of money! BUT IF YOU CAN GET OVER THIS FACT….

A photography career is one of the best jobs in the world!

When our house is burning down we think of three things…

  1. Saving our pets
  2. Saving a few of our children
  3. Saving our memories!

The reason why we CAN HAVE A CAREER in photography is because memories are one of THE most coveted things in life and if  you become one of the best in the world at photography- there will be opportunity, I guarantee it!

If a person can earn a decent living and has a choice, more likely a person will choose a job where they can control their hours, how much they make, travel the world, do something they have a passion about and providing something highly significant to others. This is why photography is one of the best jobs in the world. Who doesn’t want to provide amazing memories that will be passed down for generations and get paid for it! I absolutely LOVE being a photographer!

the $49 Workshop & You Tube is not the only Solution…

I have met thousands of photographers around the world and after being in the industry as an educator for a half a decade- it is clear, better technology, You Tube and the all day $49 workshop can not transform the average photographer into a world class photographer with a signature style and brand. We must respect the photography industry like any other art form or industry that creates full time careers.

It is ridiculous to reason that a person can be an engineer, lawyer, doctor or concert musician by simply watching You Tube videos and attending one day workshops. To increase the odds of success, a photographer needs a comprehensive program put together by a skilled and experienced educator who has established generational success. Any great education program must pass down a ‘legacy of success” just like other prestigious learning institutions i.e., Julliard for music, Harvard for Law, MIT for science, Wharton for business, etc. Not only must the program be sound, but the students must be qualified, they must demonstrate an intense passion and dedication for photography, not for just one year but several- please respect the photography industry!

Who’s going to pay a photographer for average imagery when technology, You Tube and the $49 workshop will make it easier and easier? The future photographers that will be successful are those that demonstrate skills far ahead of “average” photographers consistently producing images at a world class level.

If you want your images to have impact, images that grab your soul, and represent the unique person you are and your clients- it will take years of practice and a world class training program. Just being talented is NEVER ENOUGH. The pro sports industry clearly demonstrates this. How many highly touted, talented rookies actually make the roster of a pro level team? Not very many. Talent helps but determination, passion to improve, years of practice, coaching and life skills are a must!

Style Creates Business in a Slow Economy

I have had the luxury of viewing the work of literally hundreds of photographers, maybe even thousands and I can usually ascertain within a few minutes if a photographer has “got it” or not. 90% of the time or greater, the photographer may be skilled technically but does not have any emotional impact because IT HAS NO STYLE. The greatest factor in determining a person’s long term success in a highly competitive market is IF the artist can create a SIGNATURE STYLE that is relevant in today’s market place and history proves- beauty sells. Creating a style embracing beauty is very powerful, consider these two examples…

Why does an Apple product cost significantly more than their competition yet boast being the stock markets most valuable company in the world? Why would anyone pay thousands of dollars (100 times market value) for a Louie Vuitton purse and yet their business INCREASES in a down-turning economy? CREATING A SIGNATURE STYLE IS IMPERATIVE and increasingly more important as competition increases and the economy is soft. Style is a reflection of beauty and creates a competitive BRAND advantage over average businesses. When the economy suffers, companies drop their prices to gain market share but all of sudden the market is flooded with a bunch of average products at low prices. The entire market is like shopping from the Dollar Menu at McDonalds. The business that are coveted are those that have some individual style and highly relevant and when these top companies drop in price a bit (but still above market value) they have an extremely competitive advantage.

In a slow economy, usually every business experiences slower sales but the businesses with high quality brand recognition can survive the rough spots in the market. Take for example Starbucks Coffee, if they promoted a two for one sale on their specialty coffee drinks, MANY coffee lovers would want to take advantage of the situation. However if a typical donut shop ran a sale on their average tasting $1 cup of coffee to $0.50, what coffee lover would really care? In fact they could probably drop it to $0.10 and it still wouldn’t bring coffee lovers to their shop. This is EXACTLY the case of many photographers today, they could offer FREE wedding photography services and many people wouldn’t even bother to book them. They would prefer booking a skilled photographer trained at a world class level for $800 in today’s market. If you’re a bride looking for one, please contact me, I have many students that would jump at the chance! (scott@scottrobertgallery.com)

When a business can produce beauty, style and be relevant in the current market place, it will add HIGH value to the consumer and create sales in economic downturns. Products and services that are easy to create lack style and brand recognition because they are easily duplicated and sometimes even a lower price will not increase sales because it adds nothing UNIQUE to the market place!

Fundamental skills with NO STYLE = frumpy = average = NO BUSINESS = out of business

Conclusions:

  1. Successful Full Time Photographers that charge 2x-4x market value must exhibit skills far above “weekend warriors” and the quality gap will get greater as the economy gets worse. A great question a bride should ask a photographer is if they are a part time or full time photographer and how long they have been in business. A full time photographer who has been in business for 2-4 years or more (without the aid of any other income) is usually a lot more skilled than a part time photographer. Of course their pricing will be higher but in a slowing economy, getting an experienced photographer at a great price is HIGHLY likely. Experience also brings consistency.
  2. Full time photographers MUST develop a Signature Style that brands their business.

If a photographer is interested in find out how to create a Signature Style, READ ON

Finding the Right Training- Part 3

 

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The Complete Photographer’s Guide on Turning Pro” by Scott Robert Lim

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November 23, 2011 - 11:40 am

How to Be an Awesome Weekend Warrior- Part 1 » Scott Robert LA - […] Part 2 “How to be a Full Time Photographer” […]

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