Take a moment to cast your mind back to the very beginning of your journey in the world of professional photography.
What was life like for you then?
What were you thinking about on the first day you decided to make a living from your camera?
Were you optimistic? Scared? Enthused? Nervous?
All of the above, and a lot more besides?
Every successful journey is a result of taking one small step at a time. But, reaching the right destination also requires knowing where it is you want to go before you start out, as well as the reason WHY you’re making the journey.
Take going on a trip, for example.
Unless you’re a crazed fugitive on the run, it’s unlikely that you’ll simply decide to pack a bag and rush to the airport without first deciding where you want to travel to, knowing why you want to go there, and what you’ll need when you arrive, right?
The same principles apply to being a professional photographer…
Professional Photography Isn’t As Easy As It Looks!
Although it might seem easy from the outside, the photography business isn’t a case of simply picking up a camera, taking some nice photos, and deciding to charge people the next day.
Yet, so many photographers do exactly that, don’t they?
They jump in without deciding what they want to specialize in and with no deep understanding of why they’re doing this other than they know they want to make some money at it.
After all, you only have to be in the business 5 minutes before realizing there are far less stressful ways to earn a living, so there must be a reason for getting yourself out of bed in a morning to work at something more challenging than you first thought.
The secret to success down this road is knowing NOW why it is you’re making the journey to begin with…
Take a moment to ask yourself this question:
“Why are you a photographer?”
The great thing about this exercise is it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business or what you do – anyone can benefit from knowing the answer to this question because it will deeply influence your marketing from this point forward.
It may help to have someone else ask you the question in person, with instructions not to give up probing deeper until you can reduce it no further.
Another thing to bear in mind is your UVP (unique value proposition).
In other words, what value do you bring in terms of the experience and service, combined with your personal philosophy about photography and approach to the business?
You also have to pass everything you come up with through the filter of “can the client reasonably expect this from any photographer?”
If the answer is “yes”, you have to go deeper until you get a “no”.
This is one of the hardest things any photographer can do and, to be brutally honest, many give up on it because it feels so hard.
Why do some folks try to skip this step?
Because the answers lie at the core of who you are and your belief systems around being a photographer. You need to dig deep to uncover the diamond at the center that will be your message to inspire and connect with the people you want to serve.
Another great question to ask is, “would my customers be happy hiring someone who said the opposite of what I come up with?”
For example, few people would be happy with a photographer who missed the important moments, provided a boring experience, and delivers poor service.
The questions you should ask yourself are something like these:
- How you would you feel if you were forced to quit?
- What prompted you to become a photographer in the first place?
- What do you most love to photograph and why?
- Why did the people you’ve already worked with hire you? (Hint: ask them).
- If you had to describe the emotional experience you provide for people what would it be?
The answers will be as unique as you are because they represent the essence of you as a creative artist.
But a quick word of warning…
You might feel a little uncomfortable during this process, which is a good sign. It means you’re getting close to the true emotional reasons that drive you to be a photographer.
You may also need to delve back in time.
Not every photographer was born with a camera in their hand, or picked one up before kindergarten, but some of the answers to this question may still be found in your childhood.
For example, the subtle influence of other family members or friends, or specific events and circumstances, may have planted the seeds for what you’re doing now.
How will you know when you have the answer?
In most cases, the real reason for being a photographer has nothing much to do with photography itself, the technology, or your artistic ability.
Instead, when you come up with reasons not directly related to the act of photography, you’ll know you’re getting close.
For example, “having a good eye” is not a real reason, any more than “having a steady hand” is a great reason for someone to become a surgeon.
However, having a profound need to allow people to see themselves in ways they never imagined possible because you know from personal experience how confining a poor self-image can be – now that’s a good WHY to have, wouldn’t you agree?
Action Is Key: Inspiration Won’t Magically Show Up
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work…
The world is full of people who are waiting for the inspiration they need to start that big project they’ve always been meaning to do, write that novel, or start a business.
Newsflash: It ain’t coming.
Inspiration isn’t a bus or train that’s going to show up according to some kind of timetable.
Nor is it something mystical or magical that strikes like fairy dust at some serendipitous moment.
If you’re waiting for your muse to shower you with inspiration, you’re going to be in for a long wait, and that’s exactly where we lose so much of the amazing potential in the world.
Because if people would only exercise their initiative to just get up and go to work on whatever it is they desire, we’d see a whole lot more success and a lot less struggling.
As a professional photographer, you already have all the inspiration you need right there inside you—fuelled by your passion for photography and a burning desire to create something amazing, so get up and go to work to bring your creative vision to life.
And the funny thing about taking action is it has an odd habit of leading the way to the inspiration you were waiting for…
If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend the great book, Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
In this book, Simon demonstrates how some of our most popular and enduring brands have succeeded because they focus heavily on WHY they do what they do, instead of just WHAT they do. You can do the same thing for your photography business.
Think about this seriously—I promise you it will make an enormous difference to how you view your business moving forward.
Here’s a video of Simon’s now famous TED talk, which may also help: