The Business side of Photography
Starting, owning, and operating a small business is hard work. For those outside looking in, it might seem glamorous at times. It is not. There is this impression that you get to make your own hours, work from home often, and do what you love to do. There’s some truth to it all, but there is also a darker side people forget about. The self doubt, the uncertainty, and wondering if you are going to make it. The limited monetary resources and having no idea how to best spend them. The equally limited time and not sure how to best spend it. The unproductive mental jealousy of other talented people having a great deal more success for reasons that are sometimes baffling. To name a few.
There are two sides to this story of course. In photography, namely wedding photography, there is a lot of reward for working hard. Getting the shot that you know the bride is going love is a great feeling. Having a truly amazing photograph printed three or four feet large and hung in a home is a real delight. It’s art. The little things delight too. Any photographer that says they don’t love it when people comment on Facebook with things like “this is so Vogue”, “love it”, and “OMG, stunning,” is just lying.
For us it is rewarding because we view wedding photography as an art, not a job.
This is very tough to remember. We have weeks when we are so busy we can’t see the forest through the trees and we get overwhelmed. Every few months we wonder if it’s worth it. Should we just quit? Are we ever going to be at that next level? There always seems to be a next level doesn’t there? The frustration leads to doubt. Why can’t we all be honest about it? The only thing we see on Facebook are the triumphs. People rarely share their fears or failures. There are weeks when I’m confident we are making good choices and propelling Pabst Photo in a very favorable direction. There are also weeks where I worry that we have lost months of marketing, moving, and momentum.
Yes, the money. It’s hard to ignore. Impossible to ignore. Balancing the idea that we are artists against the backdrop of wanting to run a successful business is tricky. The artist side says you must continue to do great work and follow a passion and eventually the money will follow. The business side says you must sometimes sacrifice artistic vision and provide a product that is in demand.
Almost none of this has to do with photography itself. In regards to photography, I am confident we are getting better every year. Most of the worries and woes come on the business side of photography where so many questions are not clear. It’s hard to know if an advertising campaign was worth it. Where a lighting class or seminar can show results in a single photograph almost instantly. My continued education regarding photography is easy for me to see because they come out as beautiful images. My business decisions are more difficult to justify. I often lay awake thinking about the business side of things. What could we do next? Should I have done x, y and z? I don’t know.
To all the fans of Pabst Photo, we really appreciate the support. To those who own your own small business. I cheer your successes and encourage you to continue in your declines and shake off the doubt. We’ll try to do the same. Fore more articles about the nature of this business, check out my wedding photography business journal.