Now now, don't get all excited, "business time" here on the MCP blog is all above board.
(For those who didn't just get that reference, here's something awesome for you)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGOohBytKTU
"Business time" will be the part of the blog where I share what I've learnt in my adventures. Hopefully it will be useful for those also starting out as freelance photographers. Perhaps it will even help couples understand their nutty nutty wedding photographers!
Today's topic for business time is Ethos. Your business ethos is basically your ideals that sum up what approach you have for your business, or in this case, your photography. When I first started out, I aimed for the budget market as I wanted to gain experience with the minimum amount of expectation and pressure weighing on my head/camera.
Since then, as I've been going through the process of developing my skills, I have also been learning what kind of direction I want to take my photography in. This has been a really fun part of the adventure for me, and the one big lesson I've learnt is this: whilst it's great to get inspiration from the huge professional superstars, just remember that's them and you need to be you. You can't ever ever ever be better than someone else at being them, which means if you're copying someone's style and aspiring to be the next XYZ, you will always fall short.
This sounds pretty obvious but one thing I've noticed is that a lot of young photographers idolise and obsess about the big photographers and how well they're doing. This results in the newbie struggling with trying to recreate someone else's work and therefore always feeling uncertain about their own creative direction. A great piece of advice I was once given was that if you shoot in a way that seems natural to you, then your photography skills and style will develop much more easily. Quality of work can be gained over experience and time, but the photography itself will feel so much easier when you're on the job, because it's just instinct rather than being overthought.
Sadly, finding your style is only half the battle.
When you're new and particularly when in a budget market, the reality is that you will be attracting customers who only want you for your price tag. This is fine at first, because they get a good deal and you have the room to gain experjence whilst you're developing. However, once you've reached a point where you start to know how you want to shoot and edit, I think it's important to start being forceful and confident about your ethos with clients. There are pros and cons for this which might already occur to you, this was my thought process:
Con that's really a pro A potential client might be put off and you'll lose the booking. This sounds like a con but actually it can be a pro. If you're shooting and editing in a style you don't like, you re-heally won't be enjoying yourself on the day. You also probably wouldn't want to use it in your portfolio, and portfolio building is so essential for a newbie photographer.
Big pro The clients that do book you, really get you. They are much more likely to love the photos you deliver, because they already love what you do. This is why bride-looking-for-a-photographer 101 is "find a style you like" (at some point in the future I'll be writing a guides for brides type thing).
So really what I'm saying is, there's no real reason to NOT push your own ethos out there and try and promote yourself to your ideal market. This is something that does take time, and I've only very very recently started to be firm about the way I shoot and what clients can expect from me. Even though it's heart breaking to turn down a job, where one booking is rejected, another enquiry soon pops up in its place. More importantly, sometimes I have found I regretted my first booking because the later enquiry is so much more in line with my ethos and I know it would've been a great wedding to take on. Ideally, you want every wedding you take to be one that you're super excited to shoot, this way you'll be bursting with ideas and are more likely to perform better on the day because your heart is really invested.
Furthermore, from a practical point of view, you can't build a documentary style photography business on a traditional portfolio and vice versa. The bottom line is that you just won't ever attract the clients you want, so taking a wedding that isn't right for you is a lose-lose situation.
Soooo, the moral of today's business time story is: if you think you know how you want to shoot, stick to your guns and don't compromise. It's scary in the short term, but I promise you, it pays off!
My photography ethos can be viewed on my website here.