The Business of Photography: As Much as Things Change – Some Things NEVER Change

Going back to my grandfather’s portrait close to a hundred years ago and his in-laws, my great grandparents,
probably fifty years before that – some things haven’t changed!

by Skip Cohen

​Ever notice how, when you get a group of seasoned professional photographers together the conversation at some point, always goes the same way?  People start talking about the “old days”. The conversation always highlights how much easier things were or how much less competition there was.

There’s sort of an inherited legacy out there starting with the senior crowd, yes, even older than me LOL, photographers who complained about photography going down the tubes because of the shift from black and white to color. It’s probably their offspring who years later complained about the move from manual to autofocus and then from film to digital. Now we’ve got the “thank-God-I’m-retiring-so-I-don’t-need-to learn-video” crowd, as hybrid imaging becomes an ideal skill set extension.

Well, the more I think about it, while technology is always changing and new gear and software are pushing us to expand our skill set, there are still a few fundamental qualities of being a pro that have never changed!

For example, new photographers have the same challenges they did years ago: How do I close the sale? Should I advertise my prices?  How do I get people to know I’m here?  Then there are questions on insurance, promotions and the importance of never compromising on quality.  Every challenge has been there for years and in fact, are NOT unique to photography, but important no matter what business you’re in. 

Just to help remind you of where your priorities need to be:

  • You still need to produce a quality product! Every time I hear a photographer say something about consumers not knowing the difference, I can trace back his/her actions to missing something in customer service.  Consumers do want quality, but you have to take the time to show them the difference.
  • Providing great Customer Service is still vital! You’ve got to respond quickly to customer requests. Learn to empathize and exceed client expectations.
  •  You have to listen to your clients and anticipate their needs. That old line of my grandmother’s is still valid. “You’ve got two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk!”
  •  You have to market yourself to get through all the noise. I’ll admit it’s harder than ever to build brand awareness, but the necessity to do it is still there. All that’s changed are the vehicles you use to get your message out there.

Your work still requires a passionate eye, a great heart, and a quest always to look for that decisive moment. Ansel Adams once said,

                         “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”

And that’s one more thing that hasn’t changed – as a professional photographer you’re still part of an incredible legacy of creative spirits like Ansel, Avedon, Scavullo, Karsh, Eddie Adams, Arnold Newman, Dean Collins, Don Blair and Monte Zucker, just to name a few.  They gave us a foundation and a legacy that belongs to every professional photographer.  While it might sometimes be challenged by technology and the economy, it remains a powerful tribute to pride, quality, creativity, and art.

So, that old quote still applies: As much as things change, some things never change.

SkipCohenUniversity – SCU Blog

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