Top 10 Ways To Fail As A Photographer

Every once in awhile I find something while out searching that gives me inspiration to write a photographernew blog post. Today was one of those days. While I would never name names, I decided to give photographers some ideas on how to change their business around.

I just read that under normal times, the 80/20 rule applies. So in normal times, 20 percent of businesses will thrive and prosper, and 80 percent will hold steady or slowly go into decline.

But in today’s economic times, we move to a 95/5 rule. Meaning only 5 percent of businesses will thrive and prosper, and 95 percent will hold steady or slowly go into decline or failure.

And I know why.

You can’t give up; you have to work a little harder.

You can’t quit marketing; you have to market more efficiently.

You can’t do what everyone else is doing; you have to clear your own path.

So with those thoughts in mind, let’s discuss the 10 ways you can currently fail as a photographer, and hopefully you’ll see some ideas that can help turn around your own business.

1. Create a website like your competition. A ton of photographers use Flash presentation sites where they can input a little content and a selection of their favorite photographs. And yes, I’ve been to multiple sites that look exactly alike – the colors, photos and logo change, but they’re all so similar, they immediately lose their impact. Do something new and fresh. Make them say wow. Create a web presence that knocks the socks off of your prospects.

photographer pricing

2. Charge what your competition charges. How did you figure your pricing structure? Did you look at other studios, and lower your prices because you’re newer at the game? That’s how today’s prices got so low. You have to charge what you’re worth. Great artists charge for their years of experience and training. They charge for their talent. And they charge for their expenses.

3. Give the same items in your packages as everyone else. “I give away the complete digital files because everyone else does.” If that’s your attitude, you’ll be in the 95 percent group very quickly. People start comparing when you’re just like your competition. If everything stands equal, it comes down to price. So give them something so unique, they’ll never be able to compare.

4. Photograph just like everyone else. Where’s your flare? What’s your style? Sure, everyone starts out at the bottom, and spends years working on their talent. But eventually you come up with your own style, and you become recognizable.

5. Work at your pace and on your time. Do you work at the convenience of your clients, or for you? While everyone needs to set boundaries, its important that you meet your customers expectations as well. Being available by cell phone 7am to 11pm 7 days of the week is not necessary, and it also shows you’re clients you’re willing to be manipulated. But being available Wednesday nights until 9, and all day Saturday from 9am until 5 pm gives flexibility. Make sure they know when they can reach you – and when they can’t.

6. Give average customer service. Photography is a service business. Depending on your focus, you probably don’t have more than a handful of customers per day (on the high side). How much time does it take to give a little extra?

7. Charge for the extras. You do need to get paid for what you do. But do you really need to charge for little things? Incorporate them into your fees, and become an easy business to do business with. If you charge $1500 for a wedding, do you really need to charge $100 extra for weddings 50 miles or beyond from your studio? Instead, raise your fees to $1600 for everyone, and it will all average out.

8. Keep your fees low. It’s not about what you charge. It’s about what you provide. People want value, not low prices. Everyone has a different threshold in mind. You can’t be in charge of their pocketbooks. You simply have to charge what you need to build the business of your dreams. And there’s no way you can ever do that on your own charging $500 for an all-day wedding. (There simply isn’t enough weekends in the year to help you get to a full time income.)

9. Market in the same ways. If you’ve always advertised in the phone book or the local wedding guide, stop. Is it bringing in a full time business? If not, its time to change. Try a new website. Try creating a blog. Try networking with a new group. There’s a ton of opportunity – many for very low fees.

10. Complain. What do you say when you’re out networking, or meeting with potential clients? Do you say things like, “business is rough” or “I haven’t had a new client in a month” or “the one business that referred me just shut their doors”. Would you want to work with someone that constantly complains? Or would you rather be around someone that’s always looking at it positively. Attitude is everything in this business.

One of my favorite sayings is “fake it till you make it”. Even if you’re not at the Six Figure level yet, there’s no reason you can’t act like you’re there.

image source mikebaird

18 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways To Fail As A Photographer”

  1. I love your list. I think the most powerful point is number 10. I do a lot of networking and things have never been better for my business. By being positive and passionate about what you do, you attract people to you and your business. People like to do business with happy, successful people.

  2. Michael – I couldn’t agree more. We have buttons we wear in one of the referral groups I belong to. “I refuse to participate in this recession.” We spend two hours together every week, we have fun, we’re all upbeat and positive – and the business is flowing! It’s great. Business will always be there if you’re out and receptive to it.

  3. It’s amazing really, a large chunk of the crap that’s going on at the moment is self fulfilling to be honest. People think they’re in a recession, so they spend less, there begins the downward spiral…

  4. You’re right. I refuse to have a recession mind set, who wants clients with kind of mentality anyway, the people who will pay my rate are looking for me and I will find them.

    Thanks Guys very Encouraging.

    • Hi Melissa

      Actually number 2 and number 8 are more along the same lines as each other. Since this post is about ways to fail, the two work hand in hand. Many photographers will price their own photography by finding what the competition charges, then lowballing it. Over time, prices continue to fall because as more enter the market and charge less, the prices continue to fall. Then once they hit a low fee, its hard to raise them up again. Instead, you need to think of the value you provide, and offer things to make you more valuable than just a picture taker. Customer service. Framing options. Album design. There are a ton of ways to add value. And hopefully help you raise your prices to where you can make a decent living.

      Hope that helps – Lori

  5. Very good advices, and luckily I managed to check 7 or 8 tips out of 10 which I personally had “in order” already.

    Some of the listed ways are harder to achieve than others, and some aren’t necessarily for all. For example, I for one have probably been in a very fortunate position as I haven’t had any need to actively market (sell myself) – I’ve had a steady, constant, flow of clients in the amount I can handle basickly without any active marketing..

    .. but I always go for quality before quantity, and my amount of clients might not be enough for some other photographers.

  6. I love this article. Sometimes it’s scary holding your nerve but it always pays off in the end, even if finger nails are bitten down a bit!

    A business coach, Pamela Bruner said recently, ‘if at least 20% of people aren’t saying you’re charging too much then you aren’t charging enough!’

  7. Great article. I thought each of those tips hit home for me…someone just starting out. It is easy to want to compare your work to others when you are just starting a business, but I am taking your advice and doing things my own way. Thanks!


Leave a Comment