I have an unbridled passion for capturing and documenting my subjects with photographs. This passion allows me to bring fresh life and emotion to traditional photography. My goal at every photo shoot is to tell the story of the event with a single photograph.
There is so much joy and excitement in being a photographer that sometimes the "other job" we have—being the owner of a company—gets lost in the shuffle. If this has happened to you, you know what I am talking about. If it hasn't yet, it will!
The whole concept and passion that we bring to our photography needs to be brought to our business life, as well. I mean, you wouldn't let your customers tell you how to operate your camera, so why let them run your business?
Your business has to be run for your customers and not by them. So many times when photographers are starting out (yes, I was a victim of this), they want to do everything they can to separate themselves from the competition and to bring in lots of business.
There are two flaws with this concept. First, you should never worry about other photographers being your competition. If they are better than you, great; learn from them. If someone is not as good as you, help them along. Don't sit and worry if you are better than someone else. Just try to be better than your last shot. Never let your ego get in the way of your art.
The second mistake, if you follow this strategy, is you will never become your own business. You will be working so hard to give your customers anything and everything they want that pretty soon they will be calling the shots.
The concept we have at Schrader Photography is simply this: "The customer always comes first, but that does not mean the customer is always right." Who knows better about things like time management, lighting, posing, angles, etc.—you or your clients? How many wedding photographers have been told by the bride to shoot things "this way" or "that way" or told you how to manage your timeline? I know I have. But how many weddings have you done? And how many do they have under their belts?
Of course, you want to fill all of their wants and needs, but you need to make sure that things are done the right way. And the right way may not necessarily be the bride's way.
We are in an age where digital cameras have made everyone a "professional-amateur" at photography. So what you need to ask yourself is, "How am I better? How can I raise the bar in our field?"
You must separate yourself from the "pro-am" and the "good enough" concept. Today, a lot of people don't want to make the investment in capturing and preserving this moment in their family's history for future generations. They go with the "good enough" concept, thinking, "This is not as good as hiring a professional, but we did save money and these photos will be good enough."
If you insist on producing products that are easily produced by amateurs, your business will soon be overrun by people who can work for far less money.
To be successful in photography, shoot who you are and what you love. Don't sacrifice your style for the sake of the customer or for a few dollars. They come to you for your experience, your style, your professionalism. Remember, when it comes to customers, if you shoot it, they will come.
Gregory Schrader of Schrader Photography (www.schraderphotography.com), in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been in business for almost three years. His clientele ranges from upscale wedding couples to kids to prize-winning pigs at 4-H fairs, and everything in between.