Why Perfection Makes You A Poor Photographer

“I’ve been working on my website for months now. It took me months to choose the right system to design it on, and I’ve had to go back through all of my images, finding the perfect ones to include in my gallery. We’re almost finished with it now, but it’s still not quite the way I wanted it to look. I’m not sure how many people I’ll tell about it, because it truly isn’t up to my standards.”

Do you see yourself in the above statements? Or how about:

“I’ve been shooting for years now, and love the idea of building a business. I’ve created my business cards, and have been planning for quite awhile. But I’m just not sure what to do next. I want to make sure everything is in order before I find my first client. I don’t want to give the appearance my photography isn’t up to par, so I’d rather wait and make sure everything is right before I start bringing in clients.”

Yep, both of the above examples are a form of perfectionism – something I hear quite a bit in start up businesses.

Perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. It’s the tendency for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.

Unfortunately, those standards are always self-evaluated, and determined through your own mindset and opinions.

Being a perfectionist may sound good in theory – who wouldn’t want a business set with high standards? But in reality, perfectionism does more harm then good because it puts us into a state of paralysis that reduces “action”.

In a report on perfectionism, psychologist J Clayton Lafferty PhD said it best:

Perfectionism has nothing to do with actually trying to perfect anything. It is about illusion, the desire to look good.

And while he was talking about perfectionism in corporate America, the same holds true throughout small business as well.

Small businesses work because they are willing to take action, and move forward with a new idea to test and see how well the market likes the idea. Then they tweak, and tweak, and tweak, until they get it right.

The 80/20 Rule

When it comes to perfectionism, in order to conquer your fears and move forward with your business ideas, take the 80/20 rule to heart. Get your business ideas into place so you have 80 percent of the idea ready, and then run with it. The other 20 percent will fall into place as you tweak. Let me show you how this might work.

Sara works full time, and has started up a portrait business on the side because she is worried about her job and whether she’ll be laid off in the coming months. Having a photography business ready to go would give her something to fall back on when that happens, or if she can build it up to a full time status first, it would be a great reason to quit the corporate race, and run with her photography. She has business cards in place, a website built, and many samples to help get her started. But she’s not sure how to price her photography, what packages to offer, and how to have a system said up to make her look “professional”. So she’s sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the answers to come along.

Instead of waiting for things to happen, Sara needs to make it happen.

She doesn’t have to have a perfect portrait package in place; she just needs her first customer.

For a portrait session to take place, she needs 5 things:

1. A price for a sitting fee
2. Prices for prints
3. Equipment in place to photograph the client
4. A location to shoot
5. A client

That’s it.

1. The price for the sitting fee can be changed for every client if need be until you get the fee that works for you.

2. Prices for prints can be changed for every client until you have the pricing structure that brings in profits for your business.

3. Camera equipment can be added as you grow and learn what works for you.

4. Locations can change daily, with every client, for every mood.

5. Clients will always be changing and growing with your business.

Your first client will not break your business if it isn’t perfect. Nor will your second. Or third. Or fourth.

Every client is a learning process. They will help you decide what you like, and what you don’t like. They will help you decide what works, and what doesn’t.

Instead of pondering what will happen, just do it and find out what does happen.

Then use that experience to grow into your next.

1 thought on “Why Perfection Makes You A Poor Photographer”

  1. Good choice for a blog post. The hardest bit can be getting started – and often it’s because the individual is worried that without that ‘perfection’ in place, they’ll get harshly criticised. Therefore, it’s safer to keep everything to yourself. But you’ve got to get it out there or else you’ll never start. And as for perfection – every shoot is a learning exercise, every client an opportunity to grow. Photographers, whether they’ve been in the business six month or sixty years, never stop learning.


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