Photography Business- Revising the Dream

Photography Business- Revising the Dream

The biggest thrill I get for maintaining a blog is the capability to compare my thoughts and progress over time.  (I just recently started using this blog for both photography and personal posts instead of maintaining two).  Once I gain insight on something, it’s interesting to go back and read earlier posts to see the path I traveled to developing that clarity. 

For nearly ten years, I’ve had the dream of opening my own photography business.  Man, if only my blog went back that far!  I’m sure it would’ve started off with adorations about playing with my first, big, Nikon 35mm camera, feeling like a semi-professional, and a rekindled passion for photography.  I would’ve chuckled at mentions of dropping off rolls of film for processing and not being able to wait to see the results, followed by bitter/sweet recollection of once wanting to create a dark room to develop film at home.  

And there it is, dream revision #1- Create a dark room to develop film at home

It seems obvious why I relinquished this desire: space requirements, expensive supplies, much time needed on top of a busy schedule, messy, technology changes to digital, etc…  Being introspective, I realize my passion didn’t lie in processing photographs.  I merely thought it would be fun to learn how to do and possibly improve my photography skills.

Getting back to the overall photography business dream, why did I want this so badly? 

  1. Family life.  I wanted a lifestyle with as much time available for my future husband and children as possible 
  2. My passion for taking/creating artistic images.  It was a means of  incorporating it into every day of my life
  3. Career Success.  As a career-oriented individual, establishing a business and becoming self-employed seemed the definition of achieving success.  
  4. Money.  I wanted to earn a decent income. 

This leads into dream revision #205 {and it’s a big one!!} – Eliminate ‘photography as my profession’ from the plan

Yep… I said it.  It’s a huge conceptual change that will probably shock many people in my life who’ve witnessed the effort I’ve put into Photogenics and because it’s successful!  I have met many great people, built a large (returning) customer base, received more requests than I feel comfortable accepting, incorporated an additional photographer, created an impressive portfolio, and started pulling in profits as of 2012 with increased pricing for 2013. Why does it seemingly appear as if I’m throwing in the towel now?  

Well, to clarify, this doesn’t mean that Photogenics will cease to exist.  It has been a very rewarding and educational experience.  In fact, I have many big plans for it with specific goals carved out for this year and a followup 3-5 year plan in mind.  On the flip side, making photography a profession (with emphasis on sole career), was merely one of many possible solutions in order to obtain the four desirables listed above (my true motivations).  I have decided to take a very different route to achieve them, although photography and Photogenics will always play a major role in my life.

So, getting down to the logic behind not pursuing photography as my profession/moneymaker… 

  1. Family life.  I want a lifestyle with as much time available for Beau and our future children as possible.   Near the end of 2012, I was averaging roughly 4-6 sessions a weekend.  [Take notice of the term ‘weekend’.]  I have to admit business was somewhat inflated due to the holiday season.  [Take notice of the term ‘holiday’.]  My point is this- profitable, business photography is a life of evenings, weekends, and holidays- the very time I would rather be with my own family capturing our moments instead of someone else’s.  Also, during times when I wasn’t at an event, I was editing or doing some other related task that took priority over obligations or interests (boyfriend, family, friends, career, house, car, working out, cooking, gardening, christmas shopping, learning more about photography).  There was truly not much time for anything else.
  2. My passion for taking/creating artistic images.  I want to incorporate it into my every day life and continue to hone my creativity/skills.  For all the work put into Photogenics, only 10% of the time is actually taking pictures.  90% is spent on business tasks such as communication, networking, selling, order fulfillment, marketing, and bookkeeping.  During the times I am taking pictures, much of my artistic freedom is lost.  Understandably, clients typically have very specific expectations of what they are looking to receive; therefore, they lead the decision making for the session. At that point, the photos are more of a deliverable than an art form.   Moreover, it is not rare that clients ask to have specific photos I took replicated, meaning increased posing and using the same locations.  Over and over and over.  And to top it off, I found myself rarely picking up the camera for personal dabbling in between sessions..      
  3. Career Success.  I feel I’ve already attained this in my current career.  I was roughly 23-24 when first deciding to go the photo business route.  I was in school, new in my career, and working hard for a little bit of pay (living check-to-check).  Career success and money had much higher importance than they do today.  I have experienced rapid career growth in the last five years and feel I’ve reached a level I’m proud of, with increased focus on delving more into the IT side.
  4. Money.  I want to continue to earn a decent income. As mentioned above, I have greatly elevated in skillset and roles within the last five years, nearly tripling my salary.  Fully burdened, I come out over $100K for a 40 hour a week job.  I don’t think that profit to investment ratio is easy to reach (or perhaps even possible) in a photography business. I would be responsible for healthcare and benefits for any employees (and myself).  Necessary equipment is costly and would require upgrading more often.  And time contributed would be much more than what I put in to my current role. 

To sum it up,  I would have to give up a successful, consistent, 40 hour/week career in which I’m making a high salary and benefits in order to pursue working an inconsistent, (at minimum) 80 hour a week schedule while striving to earn merely half of my current salary within the next few years… and do less actual photography!  And to boot, I wouldn’t have much time for what’s become most important to me- available family time.  Um, no thank you!!  🙂

So that’s my reasoning behind the decision.  Of course, I don’t want to discourage anyone else if they have dreams of getting into the photography business.  Photogenics has been one of the most rewarding, learning experiences I’ve ever accomplished (and will continue with it in a different way).  We are all different with unique backgrounds, lifestyles, circumstances, desires, motivations, and goals.  This was merely a list of considerations that I wish I had been able to realize and think through earlier, especially since signs of this outcome were evident all through previous blog posts.

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