3 Mistakes Photographers Make and How to Avoid Them

As a photographer, I've made several mistakes. Years later, I still mess up, but it's a good thing because I'm still a photographer, and I'm still learning. 

If you don't mess up, you aren't working hard enough. If you aren't pushing yourself to your limits and seeing what you're capable of, you're simply playing it safe.

Our mistakes matter less than we think. A lousy photo session doesn't define our careers. You've probably found typos in my emails, but that doesn't mean it's my end. I'm writing this because there are four specific mistakes photographers make over and over that actually can bring things to a screeching halt. Luckily, they can easily be remedied, and it's up to us to make them or not. So if you find yourself doing any of these three, here's what you can do instead.

1. Don't have a niche

The first thing you were probably told was to have a niche before you start. It was perhaps prefaced with something like "Just shoot everything" and then pick what you like. Of course, you should shoot what you love and know a lot about, but that isn't the complete story. You're eventually going to get bored with it, and it happens to everyone.

If all you have is a niche, what will happen when you aren't in love with it anymore, or your audience is frustrated and not interested.

Do this instead: Work from your worldview.

This is a starting point. Your state of mind. This is how you see the world, and it gives you the freedom to photograph what fascinates you. It connects your audience with your unique perspective and allows it to be much deeper than a single lighting set-up, a single backdrop, or predictable work.

Whatever your view is, define your audience and fill the rest in with your vision. For me, it's interacting with every child and family and connecting their imagination with my photographs. 

"Every child is a different type of perfect" is the worldview of my friend Robin Chavez who is addicted to Mexican food, craves the outdoors, and is passionate about photography and digital art.

When you find your worldview, you'll know it will be broad enough to challenge your creativity but narrow enough only to attract your ideal client.

2. Don't hide your talent

If someone tells you, you're obsessed with photography, ask them if they show up for their job.

Embrace the title. You are a photographer. Photographers before us certainly did not have it any easier than us today. So many of them used gear in the last century that we would scoff at nowadays. They also didn't have the benefit of digital photography and photoshop. Even with these, it's never been easy to make it as a photographer.

It also doesn't get any easier when we don't promote and share our work so others can find it. Millions of photos go up every day on Instagram and Facebook, and none of it will get noticed if you aren't regularly sharing your work. 

Do this instead: Create a platform.

This means building your social media following, building relations with your dream team (people who have direct access to your desired audience), and building an email list. Email is the most powerful way to communicate and has much more reach than social media. It's also free. 

Build your dream team by finding people who have access to your audience. Find ways to work and collaborate by providing their audience and the value. Social media is also great because it can be how you accomplish both of these and is also a great place to find your audience.

To start building your dream team:

  • Identify the individuals or organizations. Do your research, be genuinely interested, and you'll become interesting. 
  • Provide Value. Add More Value

3. Don't wait for people to come to you

Get out there. Setting up a website and posting to social media is not even partway there. So many photographers arrive on this platform and wonder why they aren't getting any work or attention. Your friends and family can only hire you so many times.

Why? Because it's the easy route. Seeking out opportunities is hard work and involves time and effort. It might not seem like a "creative" task, so we settle for whatever dumb luck will land us. 

Do this Instead: Get out of your way.

This means finding an audience that appreciates your worldview. It might be high school seniors, children, newborns, or entire families. You'll accomplish this by going back to step 2 and completing those actions. You'll probably notice there will be a lot of overlap and that the people you're looking for probably hang out together online and in your town. Find the first few, and it gets easier after that.

Once you embrace the business side of photography, you can stop feeling bad about charging for your work. Without a business, it's hard to sustain photography. Know that your art is valuable to your clients, and have peace of mind that you're giving them more value than they are paying for.

If you're reading this, it's not too late to correct these mistakes. 

Which of these three mistakes have you made?

-Tara Lesher

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