Rekindle Your Passion for Wedding Photography in 3 Easy Steps

It happens to the best of them: we haven’t asked, but we’re sure that, were you to catch her on an off day, even contemporary glam photography guru Annie Leibovitz sometimes feels like the spark is just gone.

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Bottom line, no matter how passionate you may be about wedding photography, sometimes that passion just vanishes without a trace. Sometimes you feel stuck in a rut and, no matter what you do, you’re just not happy with your work. It happens to us all, which is why we’re here today to show you what you need to do, in order to rekindle your passion for wedding photography in three simple steps.

Ever felt this way? You need to find your passion for wedding photography again!

The danger of feeling stuck and trapped within monotony is that you develop an entire range of very negative, self-deprecating thoughts about your work. And while, at first, it may seem like these ideas will propel you toward creating ever better wedding photos, this rarely ever happens. Rather, you become more prone toward creative blocks, which, in turn, lead to creative frustration and a whole lot of resentment. In fact, what these thoughts are there to tell you is that you need to take better care of yourself, both as a person, as well as a creative individual, who happens to work in wedding photography. Here’s what could have gone wrong and made you feel that your work is subpar, or otherwise inadequate:

-          You keep compromising. Instead of working toward honing your creative vision, you’ve let go one time too many.

-          You don’t value yourself and your work enough. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to turn down a job or two every now and then – especially if you’ve been feeling stressed, overworked, and burned out.

-          You feel underappreciated and, hence, uninspired.

The good part is that all creative individuals, no matter the field they’re working in, feel this way every now and then. If they say they don’t, they’re lying (either to you, or to themselves). The part that’s even better: you can fix these feelings and make them work for you, not against you. Here’s how:

Step #1: Where do you see yourself?

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This may sound like a total cliché, but in order to find your passion for wedding photography all over again, you need to refocus on your vision. Your ‘voice’ as a photographer. Your signature style. This may mean that you’re going to have to start learning to turn down projects that don’t align with that creative vision. It’s all a matter of prioritizing and of asking yourself: ‘does this job make me feel proactive? Am I working to achieve a dream, or simply going with the flow?’ If your answer is geared more toward the ‘going with the flow’ option, perhaps it’s time to step back and assess whether or not you really need to say yes to the umpteenth White Wedding gig this year. Refer the potential clients to someone who can do the job and move on.

Step #2: Step outside your comfort zone

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The paradoxical thing about being a wedding photographer is that you sometimes end up saying yes to engagements that you know won’t help you learn. They are clearly not the type of work that you want to be known for. You would like to change, but simply can’t seem to motivate yourself to try something new, and would much rather stick to the beaten path. But if you genuinely want to find your passion for wedding photography once again, you need to step outside that comfort zone and experiment. What’s the worst that could happen? No, seriously. Consider the best and the worst possible outcomes of doing things differently. Hint: it’s always worth trying out something new, if only for the sake of the experience.

Step #3: Kick back

Take a break from work. Drive off a few hours away. Be with yourself and no one else for a few days. Learn to unwind and enjoy your own company.

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Think you can’t afford that?

That’s a fair issue. If money is standing in your way to relaxation, then work your way through this problem. Price your shoots better and as soon you’ve got some money saved to take a short break away from work, do it. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Success Stories: How to Create Your Own Photography Niche

In a day and age where social media and other media consumption habits gear users toward a torrent of visual information, how does a commercial photographer go about creating a lucrative business? The answer, according to more than just one accomplished pro photog, lies in knowing how to create your own photography niche. This is, of course, about personal branding to a large extent, but it also has to do with finding what you love, catering to an already existing audience, and getting noticed (and paid!) for it. Easier said than done, huh? Well, it might take a bit of soul-searching, market research, and adapting, but it certainly is feasible. Here’s how:

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Create your own photography niche by providing quality products to ideal clients

Do you happen to know at least one photographer who does it all? Product shoots, events, concerts, architecture, fashion, travel, babies – they know all about it and dabble in them all. While, on the one hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to sometimes step out of your comfort zone and try your hand at a type of photography you’re not entirely specialized in, this is not a very good business strategy. See, the reasoning behind such a ‘smorgasbord’ approach is that the photographers in question believe that if they have something to offer to everyone, then someone will surely want to do business with them. Key word: someone. Anyone. On the other hand, though, the process through which you create your own photography niche starts with knowing what you love to photograph and who you can sell it to, ideally.

So, in your quest to create your own photography niche, start out by identifying the following:

  • The perfect picture. What segment of photography do you feel most comfortable with? Narrow it down as much as you want. It could be a particular type of wedding photography, or something exotic like pet portraiture. The important thing is that you’ve got the technical skills, gear, and experience, to create great pictures of this kind. Finding this segment will take an honest look on your part at your current portfolio. You can also gauge social media reactions to your photos, for an indicator, as well as ask for unbiased second opinions from your peers.
  • The perfect client. First and foremost, a perfect client in any photography niche is one that trusts their photographer and knows they’ve chosen the best person for the job. Then come the specifics. Perhaps you like to work with couples in your area, or with big brands, or not-for-profits. Whatever tickles your fancy is entirely acceptable.

In order to create your own photography niche, you need to find that point of intersection between the two narrowed-down groups above: the perfect product you are able to deliver, and the ideal person to pay for it.

The benefits of creating your own photography niche

There’s far more to gain from specialization in photography nowadays, than just mere monetization. Of course, this aspect is not to be ignored, but here are a few other things you’re likely to gain in the process:

  • Confidence. By working with and for people who appreciate the kind of work you do, you will also gain more self-trust in your own skills and value. This way, you’ll be able to price your shoots at a fairer value.
  • Identity as a photographer. When you stand out from the crowd, when you’re no longer just another photographer on the virtually endless list of online artists, you’ve got yourself a personal brand.
  • New business. This almost goes without saying – when you know what you’re about and what you can deliver to discerning customers, you will also know where and how to go looking for them. If it hasn’t already, you’ll start seeing your photography business take off.

Who Is A Better Photographer, A Man Or A Woman?

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day, and it said:

Men tend to start businesses to be the “boss,” and their aim is for their businesses to grow as big as possible. Women start businesses to be personally challenged and to integrate work and family, and they want to stay at a size where they personally can oversee all aspects of the business.Who Is A Better Photographer, A Man Or A Woman

Right there you can start to see the difference in expectations and outcomes.

Men start businesses to see how big they can build them. Women build them more as an escape from the hectic life of a 9 to 5 job so that they can incorporate work and family into a more meaningful life.

And of course that leads to  one more thing. Men will build the business to maximize income. Women will settle for enough income to be happy (however she defines it).

So it got me to thinking about photographers and whether it was true in the photography field as well.

I found this great editorial on the subject over at Fstoppers – Photography: Is It Still A Man’s World?

In the article, Lee states that according to the National Endowment for the Arts Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005 report put out in 2008, women make up 42.8% of all professional photographers. Not bad, right? But when you look a little closer, you’ll find that demographics show 60% of photographers under 35 are women. Meaning proportionately women haven’t come into the photography field until recently.

So from just those statistics, overall women are definitely penetrating the photography industry. But according to the WSJ, men will build more successful, higher income businesses than women. Does that hold true in photography?

Need help on the direction of your Photography Business?

According to the NEA’s report, the median income for male photographers is $35,500. The median income for a female photographer? $16,300.

Yep. It definitely holds true.

When it comes to shooting, men and women look at things differently. And that’s only to be expected. But the same holds true from person to person, man or woman. Photography is art. And art is created from within. How you look at a situation and how you choose to express it is all based on how you approach your art form.

Both men and women can be true artists in every sense of the word. Both can move to the top of the industry. Both can make successful careers. Both have the opportunity to take it as far as they can go.

But statistics show by far women “get stuck” more on the details than men.

So the question isn’t whether men or women are better at photography, the question becomes are men or women better at the business of photography?

Because without the business side of things, if all you do is make enough to barely survive, you’re much better off getting a job and skipping the “photography business” altogether.

What do you think? Need help on the direction of your Photography Business?

3 Things You Can Learn From 300 Year Old Men

Fourth of July. Here in America, it’s a time of reflecting back to what life was like when America was first “discovered”, how an entire new world was put together, and how those concepts still apply today to not just use here, but to people all over the world as well.3 Things You Can Learn From 300 Year Old Men

I love reading pretty much any genre I can get my hands on. At any given time I’ll have a half dozen books or so started and in some location in my home. And occasionally I’ll pick up a biography – I love learning from people that have failed miserably and achieved high levels of success because of it. Who better to learn from?

Today I thought I’d reflect back on a few things our founding fathers did, and how their concepts still ring true today. You can definitely learn a lot just be “seeing” how they handled their own situations at very different times.

George Washington

George Washington owned one of the largest plantations in the nation. He produced wheat, rye and barley. While he was doing very well with his commodities business, being a good business owner, he was always on the lookout for other opportunities. He decided to capitalize on his resources by furthering his potential with his grain stock. He tasked his slaves to build him a stone mill to produce flour to sell throughout Europe and the West Indies. With that task in process, he began to worry that his slaves were too lazy – a common worry back then. So he soon tasked his slave managers to build a distillery right next to the mill – a perfect way to keep an eye on the mill next door. This distillery opened as the largest in the US, and produced more than 1,000 gallons of whiskey.

Take Away For Photogs:

George Washington was always looking for opportunity. When something worked well within his “empire”, he looked for ways to capitalize on it. As photographers, we need to do the same thing. Instead of looking at all the potential you have, focus in on one thing. Then do it well – better than anyone else. Find a way to capitalize on it as much as you can. Once that is running efficiently, determine what you can start or create to take your business to a whole new level. A wedding photographer may be making six figure a year, and be very efficient in their business model. Then they decide to start a wedding album app business to display albums on tablets – an idea they can sell to wedding photographers all over the world.

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin was a spirited man, always finding a friend that would believe in his idea. At the age of 21, he had an idea to build a newspaper. So he purchased on in Philadelphia and hired apprentices to begin printing a variety of articles and funny stories about the community. He also turned towards the local businesses, and began offering a variety of things for them as well, including brochures for their own marketing purposes, and classified ads and advertisements within his newspaper. He became very wealthy and retired at age 42, all because he worked together with everyone in his community.

Take Away For Photogs:

Small business works the same way today. Go it alone and it will be a hard, long road. Work with those around you and you’ll quickly shine in your community. One of the greatest things today is your community can be anywhere in the world, thanks to the Internet. You can join forums, social sites and portals, becoming an expert on whatever subject you choose. You can work with businesses in your local community and put on local events for your friends and neighbors. The sky is the limit – if you aren’t reaching out to other business owners and developing events together, you’re missing out on one of the biggest marketing “secrets” ever.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was like many of the founding fathers, and owned a successful plantation. In order to make it more profitable, he started a nailery, which broke down pieces of iron and turned them into small nails. Nails were hard to come by in those days, so his little packets of nails were very popular. Because he saw opportunity, he invested in a nail making machine, which helped him increase his volume. He operated it until his death.

Take Away For Photogs:

Within your business, there are things that will rise to the top and become more popular. Look for these things; then look for ways to increase the efficiency. Can you hire others to take on part of the responsibility? Can you find ways to bring it to a new market?

30 Questions You Should Ask About Being A Photographer Now

When you have a job, you don’t think much about it. You go to work, put in your time, do what you have to do, and go home and forget all about it.

Things are different when you own a business. You no longer can leave work at work; it follows you 24/7. You think about the client you have to call when you’re making dinner. You wake up with a new marketing idea at 3am.

But sometimes along the way you begin treating it as a job. Clients aren’t coming in as much as they used to. The talk on the Internet is buzzing about the changing industry. Is there really a future in photography?

And so you wind up doing the “job” while thinking about a million other things. Sometimes it takes a moment to step back into photography and really think about what it means to you and how you can move forward.

Take a look at these questions. Spend some time thinking about your answers. And then spend some time reevaluating why you are a photographer right now.

30 Questions You Should Ask About Being A Photographer Now

1.    How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

2.    What are you doing at your age and is it different from what you could be doing?

3.    Which is worse, failing or never trying?

4.    What would you try if you didn’t have to explain it to family and friends?

5.    What’s the best part of your day?

6.    If you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

7.    If you could go forward in time 10 years, what would you want to see for yourself?

8.    Do you believe in what you’re doing, or are you settling for what you’re doing?

9.    What is one thing you do differently than everyone else around you?

10.    If you had to completely change one thing about your life, what would it be?

11.    Has your greatest fear ever come true?

12.    What customer are you most grateful for?

13.    How do you reach out and touch the ones that mean the most to you?

14.    What if you listened twice as much as you spoke, what would you learn?

15.    Do you sometimes feel like you’ve lived this day one hundred times before?

16.    What works and what doesn’t?

17.    When was the last time you asked questions?

18.    If you learn from your mistakes, how many mistakes have you made this year?

19.    What does risk truly mean to you?

20.    Can you change your definition of risk to achieve more?

21.    If you knew you had five years to live, what would you change right now?

22.    How would you like other people to describe you as a photographer? How do they describe you?

23.    What do you love? Are you doing things right now that express that love?

24.    What is the difference between being alive and truly living?

25.    What would make you happy? Do you always have to achieve something or can you get to happiness today?

26.    What value are you giving those around you?

27.    Who do you most admire? Why?

28.    How can you be a mentor to others?

29.    What will it take to achieve everything you’ve always dreamed about?

30.    How do you see the photographic industry in 5 years and how will you be in it?

Why The $99 Payment Plan Is The Future Of Photography

Your car is a few years old. So you head out to find a new one. Do you look at the price tag on the sticker? Of course not – what does that truly mean? Instead you look at the payment amount. Does $495 a month work for you? Can you negotiate it to a lower price – a price that fits more within your budget? How about $395 for 60 months? Sure, that works, sign me up.

In today’s society, we live by the payment plan.

Combine your phone, Internet and cable together in one easy payment plan – $129 a month.

Mobile technology? No problem. Add up to 5 mobile devices, unlimited data, 500 minutes and we’ll give it to you for $179 a month.

New house? Sure. With an ARM loan, we can get your payments down to a low $1,500 a month. Does that work for you?

The payment plan is now a part of just about every industry in existence. Furniture. Energy. Even my daughter’s college offers an interest free payment plan.

So why not photography?Why The $99 Payment Plan Is The Future Of Photography

Lets say you design a portrait opportunity with all the bells and whistles. They get a morning session with you, inside and outside portraiture, unlimited clothing changes, lots of poses and combinations that separate your family into groupings. You provide creative framing options, coffee table albums, lots of options when it comes to display. Sure they can ala carte it all out. But what if you offered one complete “package” that includes everything from the sitting fee to the final images – all for the unbelievably low price of $199 a month for six months – no interest payment plan of course. Doesn’t that sound more reasonable than a $1200 package? It does to your clients.

Have a wedding photography business? What is the average amount of time a bride and groom will be on your books before you shoot the wedding? 6 months? 12 months? 18 months? Instead of selling them $2,500, $3,500 or $5,000 packages, what if you created monthly payment packages instead?

Lets say you offer an all-inclusive wedding coverage. Unlimited time. Unlimited images. Albums. Framed prints. Extras. Whatever you choose to include in the “package” covers the entire event, beginning to end. Now lets give it a price tag of $5,000. Yes, a lot of brides and grooms will panic when they hear $5,000. But what if we changed it around?

We offer a 6 month, 12 month or 18 month wedding plan. A 6 month payment plan of $833 a month, a 12 month payment plan of $416 a month, or an 18 month payment plan of $278 a month.

All of a sudden the pricing seems a whole lot lower, right? And it does to your clients as well.

Plus you get the added benefit of guaranteed income in the coming months, which also means you won’t face the age-old photographers’ nightmare of high season and low season, feast or famine when it comes to incoming clients and payments.

Have you tried the payment plan? How is it working for you?

How To Avoid Creepy Crawly People That Try To Bring You Down

I don’t get a whole lot of negative email. But occasionally one slips into my inbox.

I got an email from someone this week.

“You suck. Your stuff sucks. I can’t believe your online and in business.”

Okay, that’s not exactly what it says – but you get the point. (It had a lot of negativity and a lot more *$@% in it then I care to write here.)How To Avoid Creepy Crawly People That Try To Bring You Down

I scanned the comment. Then I looked at the email address. And that’s when I started laughing.

The email address was from a generic account (ie gmail, yahoo, etc) – but in front of the @ was a saying that made the whole thing ironic.

It seems when they created their email account, they felt they were a very ethical, kind, and happy person. Could someone like that really write the message I just read?

Delete. Not worth another thought.

Yet that’s when it hit me that this could be a valuable post.

You see I’ve been online long enough now to be called every name in the book. I’ve had some of the worst comments in the world posted to pretty much every account I have. And when I received the first one, it stung more than you can imagine.

I questioned who I was, what I was doing, and a whole lot more.

Gradually I pulled myself back up and moved forward.

Number two was easier. Number three was even easier.

You see, if you’re going to subject yourself to the online world, negativity comes along with it.

When people are comfy, cozy in their homes or offices and don’t have to see the deprecations of their actions, they can sling mud all day long. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe things aren’t going right in their world. Why not share a little of their misery with everyone else too.

Maybe you’ve heard the horror stories. Maybe you’re worried about the same thing happening to you. Guess what? It’s unavoidable. If you’re online, it will happen to you.

  • Someone will tell you your photography is crap.
  • Someone will tell you that you suck.
  • Someone will rip you apart in language you’ll hopefully never hear in person.
  • Yes – you will be bullied. In an extreme way.

And the more successful you become, the more likely you will have these comments posed directly to you.

How do you handle it?

Realize you shouldn’t take it personally. Yes, their goal is to tear you down. But only you can allow them to do it. In the online world, your best friend is your delete key. If you don’t like something – delete. And move on.

Do they continue? If someone sends you one rude message, delete and be done. If they send you something again and again, ignore and block. Whether in your email, your blog or your Facebook account, there are features in place that allows you to block contact with certain addresses. Do what ever you can to get them out of your life. If you don’t respond, over time they should lose interest.

Never, never respond angrily. In some cases, a message can really hit home. Maybe it sets off your anger. Or it makes you very emotional. Step away from the computer/phone/tablet. Put it down and go for a walk. Yell about it. Scream about it. Cry about it. But never respond. If you respond, you’ll say something you regret. And it could elevate beyond anything you can imagine. (Amy’s Baking Company recently found out the hard way in the past few weeks.)

Focus in on the positive. Every day I hear from people that have nothing but positive stories to share with me. Like this one.

Thank You! Your advice was such a gift of peace for me.  I wasn’t quite sure where or how to start.  Thanks for taking the time to listen and help a total stranger!

Your best clients love you and what you do. And when they tell you, put it in a file to go back to when you’re having your hard days. It will be a constant reminder that you’re on the right track, doing exactly what you are meant to do.

Are You Facing Photographer Burnout?

Imagine this.

You plod along day after day facing the same results.

You know what you want but you just can’t reach it. Things are holding you back from achieving what you truly want to achieve. You dread getting up. You dread facing the day. You’re tired at the end of the day.Are You Facing Photography Burnout

Something’s gotta change. But what? What can you do?

These are classic indications of burnout. But what truly is burnout? And do you really have it?

Burnout is the point at which you reach exhaustion of either physical or emotional strength and motivation as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

Burnout can be based on a variety of things, including:

  • Having a negative work atmosphere
  • Not loving what you are doing
  • Not believing in what you are doing
  • Having a horrible boss
  • Having the wrong clientele
  • False feelings of overwhelm
  • Negative feelings around inappropriate action

If you see yourself in any of these, and you know you’re probably facing burnout, now what? Where do you go from here?

First, realize that burnout isn’t something controlled by outside sources. Instead, burnout is internalized and comes from self-imposed feelings created in reaction to your surroundings. When you feel pain, you continue to internalize it until it moves from feelings, to daily inflictions, to a complete restructure of your lifestyle.

And that’s when burnout really impacts you. [Read more...]

Working Moms And A Photography Business

With Mothers Day this weekend, and as a working mom for 18 years now, the concept of being a “working” mother is just as emotional as ever. Start a conversation on “working” moms and you’ll quickly get into a heated discussion no matter what side of the fence you are on or what your belief system is.

The facts say it all.

  • A full 61 percent of mothers work outside of the home.
  • 4 in 10 working wives currently out earn their husbands. This has increased over 50% from a mere 20 years ago.
  • And with female college graduates currently outnumbering males with a 60/40 ratio, these numbers are only expected to rise in the coming years.

Whether you own a part time studio out of your home, or you’ve chosen to build a full time business out of a commercial studio, how can you be the best mom AND the best business owner at the same time?Working Moms And A Photography Business

Split Your Time

It’s impossible to do two things at once. You can’t take care of your kids AND provide 100 percent customer service. You can’t give a client your full attention if your child is running wild in the next room. When kids are with you, they want your attention. Even if they have nothing to say. In order to be affective as both a business owner and as a parent, dedicate time to both activities and be conscious of keeping that time exclusively for the activity at hand.

Be Present

When I’m with a client, I dedicate 100 percent of my attention to that client. No cell phone or texting. No interruptions from outside sources.

The same holds true when I spend time with my daughter. Even at 18, when she comes home from school, she wants my time to talk about her day. She may have activities to discuss, thoughts from happenings around school, or just in need of some attention after “kid-friction” that invariably goes on at every grade level, including high school. [Read more...]

Will Photography Make You Rich?

How do you define “rich”?

That, of course, is a matter of opinion.

According to the IRS, the top 10% of income earners in America today make 43% of all income and pay 70% of all taxes. The top 2% of income earners pay approximately 50% of all income taxes.

According to the Tax Policy Center, if you make $107,628, you are in the top 20% of income earners. If you exceed $148,687, you are in the top 10%. If your annual income is $208,810 or more, you are in the top 5%. And if you exceed $521,411, congratulations, you are in the top 1%.

But that is income. And does your income truly signify your wealth?

It doesn’t matter how much you make if you have significantly more expenses than you do income.

So maybe we should turn to net worth. According to the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, a net worth of $415,700 would put you in the top 20% of Americans. A net worth of $952,200 puts you into the top 10%. $1,863,800 would put you into the top 5%, and $6,816,200 would put you safely into the top 1%.

How do those numbers affect you? Did you think they would be higher than they are?  Do they seem attainable to you, or are they so far off, they almost seem imaginary?

Now let’s look at photographers. According to the US Department of Labor, the National Employment Statistics for May 2012 show that to be in the top 10% of all wage earners, you would need to make $66,990. To be in the top 25%, that number would fall to $43,930.

And more importantly, studies have also shown that average salary for photographers over the past 10 years has fallen anywhere from 8 to 12 percent per year. That is attributed to improved digital technologies and the barrier to entry that has allowed huge waves of photographers to enter the field.

Will photography make you rich? Again, the definition of rich can be arguable. But when we look at solely from a physical money standpoint, the odds are not in your favor. But does that mean it’s impossible? Can photography still be a viable option for you?

Yes, and here’s how.

Will Photography Make You Rich

1. At the lowest end of the spectrum is the general photographer, making on average $19,000. The photographers that are in the upper 10% are all niched and specialized, known within their genre. Which means for you to do well in photography, pick your niche, specialize, become as good as you can within that genre, and continue to promote yourself all over the world.

2. Focus on the bottom line, not what everyone else is charging for something “similar”. If you’ve read my Pricing Your Photography, you know how important it is to start with the end in mind. What do you need from your photography to survive? How can you create packages to achieve those results?

3. What is your revenue every year for your photography business? Have you ever added everything up to truly figure out how much your business is bringing in? In some cases just looking at the numbers can give you a wake up call. Make sure you use an accounting system and look at your reports all the time. I use online Wave Accounting – it’s free – and it has a wonderful graphic dashboard that tells you your numbers as soon as you enter the program. You don’t need sophisticated programs – just something to help you keep track of where you are and where you want to be.

4. Make more than you spend. If you are defining wealth by how much you make, yet you spend more than you take in, you are losing every single year. Instead, focus in on what comes in, and how you can spend less than that to put some away. Remember, to be in the top 10%, your net worth needs only to be $952,200.

5. Never focus your mind on making money with your photography. Instead, focus in on how to build a business. If you want a Six Figure business, you have to build the structure and the systems that will allow you to attain that level of business. You’ll never make it if you hand over your digital files for whatever price you can get. You must have a business model set in place that allows you to “see” your business long before a potential customer ever walks through your door.