Over the past few months I have been trying to think about which of my many “hats” I really want to keep wearing. I'm a mother first, have to keep that one, then there's work… I have to keep that one if I want a roof over my head. And I do like my job. Then there is the blogger hat, which I'm just starting to love a lot. It has opened many doors and opportunities that I never thought that I would have, and I love it. My blog is still young. I'm not getting great numbers by any standards, but I don't really do it for that. I do it because I enjoy it. I've always loved computers and gadgets and even if I was not blogging, I would still be playing with them every day, so I might as well keep blogging about it! Then that brings me to the photographer hat, and this is where our story begins….
I don't even remember exactly when I started making $$ from photography. But when I did, it was fun for a while, but over time it became less and less fun. The pursuit to get paid masked the passion. And frankly…this will probably be more open than I have been on my blog… ever… people in my market are cheap. It's partly my fault though, because I had the attitude of “gotta start somewhere” and I marketed myself cheap to get business. Well, the economy has changed, the price of supplies have changed, my bills have changed… and my life has changed. So, in making some changes to my business to actually make it WORTH THE TROUBLE I found out that even loyal customers are not loyal anymore when you are no longer “cheap”. After the fact I have actually lost $$ on a couple of jobs from giving people a deal. In other cases they have dropped me for another that came along and marketed themselves as cheap. People always want a “friendship deal”, or they always want to get stuff for free. As soon as you go “well you do realize that this is my business right?? I am not trying to break even, I am actually trying to make money to pay my bills” then they want to think about it and see who else they can find.
My “gimmick” has been the on-site event photography photos. This is quick way to make a pocket full of dough in one night… but in doing so I work my ass off. And in anticipating a large event I have already spent quite a bit on making sure that I have enough supplies (photo paper, ink, photo folders, etc.) on hand. But every event does not go that way. Sometimes I might sit for 4-5 hours and only a handful of people visit me. In those cases I am lucky if I make back the gas $$ that I spent getting to the place in the first place. And this is via the “setup fee” that I charge just for coming to the event. There is no guarantee that I will make $$.
I have been thinking about making major changes in my focus for a long time because I have really lost my passion for doing that type of photography and the sometimes hassle that comes after it. Recently I had a couple of things happen that put the nail in the coffin for me so to speak. 1. A repeat customer dropped me after a change in price and misquoted quote that was quickly corrected, but they decided to go with someone else. 2. One of the suppliers that I use stopped carrying the paper that I love for my albums. All of the replacements are majorly expensive and would cause a huge hike in price. 3. Some “helpful” person took the time to come to my blog and basically blast me telling me that I don't know what I'm doing and I'm not using the right equipment. He (or she – not sure) had checked out my photography website which I probably had not updated for over 2 years which was full of photos of those “rushed Saturday night gigs” and some very early stuff that I had done. The site was put in place mostly for the use of those customers to come and view their pics after the events, NOT to draw business. I get my business 99.9% from word of mouth, and since I was already getting a lot of business I don't promote the website… so I had not updated it. Anyway, I am always too busy doing things for other folks to take care of my own stuff. Isn't that the way it usually goes??
To that person…. my new stuff is on Flickr, which you are welcome to check out. And if you still have some criticisms… bring it on. I am always willing to get helpful advice and I love learning new things. I just don't respond to nicely to “hi, you don't know me and I have never talked to you before… but let me tell you what you are doing wrong” 🙂 And I have good enough equipment thank you very much, although.. you are right.. I would like a great 2.8f lens. Anyway…
I've been doing this now for about 8 years I think. I think I'm about done with that part of photography. Not that I don't love people… I love photographing people. But, doing mostly rushed Saturday night backdrop events does not leave much time for “pretty” photography. I work full-time so photography is not my main focus. Gone are the days when I get to just roam around Chicago taking pics just for the heck of it.
What I really love is nature photography, and portraits. If I have a couple of hours of interrupted time with a subject, preferably natural light, and some good weather then I am all over it and can work. But, being in Chicago… I don't always get that luxury, so we have to work with what we are given! My dream has been to do a lovely summer wedding in which I have a lot of time to correctly photography the bride and groom without someone yelling “ok, time to move on to the reception” or something like that. But no luck. 🙂 Many of the area weddings I have done have been in the dead of winter or rainy weather. I did one in 90 degrees in a church with no air for an elderly couple, so there was no convincing them to give me my dream outdoor session. LOL! Also, they were all “on a strict budget” so wanted to work DOWN from the cheapest package. I really envy those that live in a great climate steps away from the ocean and can arrange with the bride and groom to devote a lot of time to a great photo session.
Ok, I have typed WAY too much. In summary, I am refocusing my “money-making skills” on my new passion. I may revisit the photography thing again later when I have some time to think and see if I even miss it. Now, if some really cool jobs come up (or that dream wedding) I will be all over it. But until that time, I will be rediscovering why I love photography in the first place.
And of course I will keep blogging. 🙂