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7 Photography Business Mistakes to Avoid

Ok, ok, this post should probably have been titled, “6 things I repeatedly F’d up over the past ten year period and sometimes still do, and regret” but that is a little wordy for our purposes. So read up and start learning from my past mistakes!

Not Having a Contract

Probably the top answer to any photography business dilemma is “put it in the contract next time.” A contract for all jobs large and small can prevent almost all conflicts and misunderstandings. I prefer to use Blinkbid to combine my contract and estimate into one document which I can easily email and request a digital signature on.

If a certain item is REALLY really important to you, don’t bury it too far down in the fine print. For example, if you never ever give out RAW files under any circumstance, and you are willing to die on that hill, make sure that verbiage is in a prominent place near the top where the client can read it. People tend to glaze over contracts.

Suggested items to include: deadline, deliverables, fees, possible additional fees, usage/copyright, deposit and refund policy, reshoot policy, client approval work policy, payment schedule, late payment fee, early payment discount, overtime rate.

Agreeing to Bad Contracts/ Not Negotiating

Despite what people will tell you, there’s no such thing as a “standard contract.” A contract is an agreement between two parties. So you want to make sure its agreeable to you. Just because the terms may be “standard” to the hiring entity, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wise for you to agree to.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate copyright terms, fees, and liability. Ask for revisions until both parties are satisfied. If the terms absolutely suck, don’t be afraid to turn the work away, you may miss out on a few dollars, but you’ll be doing our industry and yourself a solid over the long haul.

If the terms are bad but would perhaps be acceptable if the fee were higher, don’t be afraid to ask for a higher fee!

Not Following Up

Follow all leads. Check the voicemail, return the email. Set up an auto reply if you think you’ll be out of touch or slow to reply. Small leads I thought would be a horrible fit for me over the years have sometimes turned into big jobs or big referrals. If they called or emailed, they are already interested! Don’t waste that intial contact.

Not Giving Enough Referrals

The best way to get more referrals is to simply give more referrals. Be sure to follow up on any jobs you cannot handle with a list of local photographers who can. The prospect will appreciate your help and the other photographers are likely to return the favor down the road.

Buying too Much Stuff

As all photographers know, CreAmY BokEh is the most important thing in our lives and also our main driver of profit. If we just had MoRe CrEamIEr BokeH and even faster autofocus, we’d book 16.2 times more clients, be more recognized in our industry and have 2.5M followers on Instagram.

I was not being serious there in case you’re sarcasm sensor is off. Here’s some reasons not to buy gear- I’m here to talk you off the ledge. In fact, come back here anytime you’re about to buy gear and read this again.

  1. Gear doesn’t make your work any better and in fact, it really shouldn’t.
  2. Buying gear frequently and/or changing systems every few years is not environmentally friendly. More stuff ordered means more trucks hauling stuff to you, means more packaging, means more junk ultimately in landfills, more fuel burned etc, etc. Reuse it. It’s still good.
  3. Gear depreciates like a MOTHER. We like to rationalize purchases with stuff like “a good lens is always a good lens.” Good lenses do have a long service life, but there will be a “MARK II” version of that lens in a year or two or the new mirrorless mount version, a stabilized version, etc etc. Lenses are tech and tech improves all the time, making old tech more worthless on the resale market.
  4. When to buy new gear: My new criteria for new gear
    1. Does it make my life significantly easier/more efficient?
    2. Is it something I already have a regular need for, or could I simply rent it for an occasional need?
    3. Can I buy it for cash?

    As a product photographer, a quality macro lens, a great camera stand and a great laptop are necessary, but for the occasional use items like a long telephoto for sports, I’ve learned to be honest with myself and rent for the day.

    If its going to speed up my workflow more than 10% and allow me to earn more income in a much shorter time or use less cuss words throughout the day (my camera stand, for example) then it may be worth investing.

    Side note- if you must buy some gear, please shop local and pay cash.

Not Investing in Continuing Education

Buy tutorials instead of gear! Not only is it more environmentally friendly, you’ll be supporting your fellow photographers and improving your skillset instead of supporting big business.

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