Things Change and Change Always Happens

So I went on a rant about “pro” horse show photographers poaching horse shows. (if you missed it go here)  Now while I am not going to rant (okay maybe a little bit) I am going to point out some things about the MWAC’s (Moms With A Camera) and others at horse shows and well everywhere. Perhaps MWAC is not the best term as that has an awful lot of negative connotations around it. (Thanks to MCP Actions’ Guest Blogger for pointing that out.)

Things change and change always happens.  Technology has made digital cameras more readily available with their prices coming down and technology going up.  It is the way of the world, and yet many photographers are trying to fight this change.  I have news for you guys – you can’t.   Whenever you have technology come down in price, then the amount of that item out in the general public goes up.  Remember the time before cell phones??? (yeah I am old – get over it…) The only ones who had them where the elite business people.  Prices started coming down and then we saw lots of adults who had cell phones, prices came down some more and now they are every where.  Even grade school kids have them!  So what makes camera equipment any different? News flash….it’s not.

So now we have a whole lot of people running around with the entry level DSLR to the pro level cameras.  And all of a sudden everyone wants to be a professional photographer….”I have always wanted to be a photographer”, “Now that cameras are cheap I can become a pro” and the list goes on. Really I am not against this!!   What I am against are those that do not have enough respect for those that are professionals and trying to make a living with their photography. On the flip side, I am also against those pros that bash on the newcomers.  Now before you start throwing things at your computer screen or screaming at me about this, hear me out.

All of us, not just a select few, but ALL of us had to start somewhere.  Each of us had to learn how to use our cameras, how to sell ourselves and our work, even how to price said work.  Each of us has done some kind of photo work for free (or dang close to it – so go ahead and admit it) to get photos in our portfolios or just to learn.  There is a time, a place and a way to do this.  Am I an expert at how those things need to get done? Heck no, but I do know there needs to be some respect from the up and comers towards the pros and from the old pros to the up and comers.

Instead of tearing down the new photographers, lets give them some advice and guidance.  Point them to a local meet-up  group, offer mentoring sessions, or workshops don’t just start telling them how awful they are.  Will some of these new photographers turn you down? Of course!  There are always those out there that feel they know everything. Not everyone is open to learning new things.  And there really is plenty of photography work to go around. If you are a professional, you better be on the cutting edge of your field (horse show, portrait, weddings, pet, etc.) both artistically and mechanically. That is what sets you apart form the up and coming photographers.  Now, I did not say drop your prices, if your work is good and you have great customer service skills you should be ok. I also did not say that poaching horse show is ok – it is NOT.

New photographers, most of you could stand to take someone up on mentoring, or perhaps take some business courses at the local community college…..what?? Business classes??  YES!!!  (or the SBA) If you are going to do portraits, horse shows or whatever kind of photography and plan on making any money at it, then you need to remember that it is a business!  If you want your photography to be a hobby, then pay attention to what else is coming in this post…you may learn a thing or two.

Many new “pro” photographers think that the photography world is just point your camera and take pictures, everyone will love them and buy them. Guess again, while you may post your pictures on Facebook and get 30 people to like the photo, and your mom telling you how great it is, it may not really be that good.  Our Moms love us, remember those finger paintings you did in grade school that she showed to all her friends…..yeah, she still does that, only now she uses your photos. Now, I am not saying you don’t take great shots, perhaps you do, but our friends on Facebook and elsewhere may see our work though rose colored glasses. And yeah it stings when someone critiques your work, but you will learn from it and grow from it, so be open to it.  Heck be brave and ask for honest criticism, you may not like what everyone says, but someone may give you some great insight on how to make your shots better.

And remember those business classes I said you should look into?  Trust me most of a photographer’s work is not and I repeat is not taking pictures. It is running your business.  There are invoices to be done, websites to maintain, gear to be cleaned and taken care of, there is bookkeeping, oh and the editing, ordering and delivering of your wonderful photos.  How many new photographers out there are running around shooting kids, or weddings or horse shows with out insurance or a business license???

Business licenses are required! You need to collect sales tax according to your local municipality, none of us like it, so suck it up and do it. You want to be a “professional” remember?

As for insurance, it may not be required – but it should be. Again you want to be a “professional” right? (here is where you hobbyists may want to pay attention) Let’s say you are going to shoot some children’s portraits for a friend.  The park sounds like a fun place, there could be some cute shots on that little rock waterfall or the jungle gym.  You have made all the time and date arrangements. So off you go to meet mom and child at the local park. Oh, look the little water fall would be soooo cute… you prop said child up on the little rock waterfall, and they slip and crack their head open.  Now we have blood everywhere, a screaming child that needs stitches and a mother in a panic.  Oh no worries, it was just an accident, or so you think.  Next day you are slapped with a lawsuit for the medical costs. Wait you don’t have insurance?  Hope you have a large bank account, because this is not going to go away cheaply.  I hope I have made my point. If you can get sued for something, eventually you will.

How about pricing?  You think you are not good enough to charge for your photography?  Well then you are not good enough to be a professional yet. Here is where mentoring and business classes will pay off.  Knowing your COGS is paramount to running a successful business.  If you want to price like Wal-Mart then you have created an image like them – cheap. This I think is what worries many of the older professional photographers. The new photographers that will do a session for $50 and give the customer all the images on a cd. Guess what pros, if this scares you, then you are going after the wrong customers. Think about it, do you want a customer who is so price driven that they do not care about quality or customer service?  No, this goes back to you better be an amazing photographer, who because of their artistic abilities and knowledge of how to make great pictures can command a customer that is willing to pay for it.

Horse shows – my favorite and least favorite place to see newbies that want to be pro. There are ways to go about shooting at a horse show, just showing up and shooting is not one of them.  If there is an official show photographer, they are usually contracted in some way shape or form.  And depending on the location of the show are required to carry a minimum of a 1 million dollar liability policy.  The hours of a horse show tend to be horrific (and many times the weather as well), they stand in the arena all day and many times into the night to make sure everyone has pictures of them.  Lunch? Bathroom Breaks?  Don’t be silly, the horse show has to keep moving along. Now along comes the new photographer who wants to shoot horse shows, they stand ringside (many over the officials shoulder – yep have had it happen, a lot) and happily shoot away. Many listen to the pros camera to see when to actually take the picture. (yep had that happen too…) Next thing you know they are handing out business cards to everyone or emailing them and giving the pictures away.   I will cover all of this more in another post – just wanted to give you guys a little bit of insight…(so stay tuned!)

Bottom line, there are going to be more and more new photographers coming into the photography world. The price of technology has allowed this to happen.  It is not a bad thing, it may be scary if you are not sure about your work. But if those things scare you, then you have bigger things in your own business that you need resolve. It is a small world, we all need to play nice and really why not continue to change and move forward by helping and respecting each other.

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