Here in the US, we’re in the last minute race between two candidates that will attempt to steer our country towards a brighter tomorrow. And while the issues are flying high, with each side accusing and trying to explain why they are the only true leader for the job, only one thing is for sure: the middle class as we know it is quickly dying away.

Nope, I’m not going to get political here.  But I do think it’s important to watch what’s happening and base your own decisions off of the trends that are happening. That’s what I’ve done my entire life, and it’s how I ended up where I am today.

I grew up firmly planted in middle class America. Nice house in the suburbs. Dad made a good living. Mom stayed at home with the kids. New cars. Nice schools. College education. Life was good.

And a huge majority of the population had the same lifestyle. The suburban sprawl took place, giving a newfound luxury to many people throughout our country. And not just our country, throughout the world. Those same values and trends have occurred everywhere, allowing the middle class lifestyle to filter out to many.

Living that lifestyle was great. But what was even more important is what came after.

Our parents didn’t plan for retirement – it was expected. Sure, they took advantage of stock option programs and retirement pension plans. But the company they worked for took care of them. They knew social security and their pension would be there waiting for them from the moment they retired until the day they died.

Today that’s all gone.

Our savings rate is pathetic.

We have more debt than we know what to do with.

Our real estate values continue to drop and who knows when and if they will recover.

Unemployment and underemployment are skyrocketing.

Social programs are being eliminated left and right.

Our kids are staying at home longer because their college debt is skyrocketing with little hope of finding a great job.

Our parents are having to move in with us as they begin facing serious health issues such as Alzheimer’s.

And overall, we’re struggling just to survive.

So we must choose. Do we want food on the table or a new car? Do we want a roof over our head or a summer camp for our children? Do we want to cover our medical bills or take a summer vacation?

Yep, in many aspects it’s a bleak outlook.

Yet at a time like this, it’s also important to step back and look at what we have.

Though things may be looking down at the moment, how do they compare to life 40 years ago?

My parents lived in a 1500 square foot home while I was growing up. I raised my daughter in a 3300 square foot home.

My parents made do with one car until I was a teenager. It’s impossible to survive without one car for every driver anymore.

My parents’ idea of a vacation was going home to family in Iowa two weeks in the summer and a week at Christmas. Occasionally we’d do some venturing out to places like the Ozarks. Our vacations include cruises to the Caribbean, Europe, and Disneyworld every couple of years.

Yes, I realize that my reality compared to my parents may be different than yours. But if you stop to put the comparisons down on paper, I’m sure you’ll see the same trend … you are better off in many aspects than your parents were.

Now I’m not saying that’s a continuing trend. I’m not saying that we aren’t facing a hiccup at the moment, and everything will be roses tomorrow. But it is important to put things into perspective once in awhile.

Things are different. And things are changing.

When I am deciding what to do with my money – no matter how much money I have to spend – I have to make very conscious choices. I don’t buy for the fun of buying; I buy only the things I truly must have. I buy things because of the experience they give me and how they will impact my life.

The reason people don’t go to a middle class photographer is because they can get the middle class photography experience in their own homes. They can whip out their iPhone at any point in time and capture the moment. They can quickly load it up to Facebook and share it with people around the world. They may not be great images. But they are good enough.

And when they compare what they can get for a $150 fee from the middle class photographer next door, there really isn’t much difference. That middle class photographer shows up with a camera at a local park. They pose you in a few ways and snap the shutter. They throw the images onto a CD and hand it over to you so you can put them on Facebook and share them with friends.

Why not eliminate the middleman and save the $150?

Today’s iPhones capture larger format files than our original professional digital camera did back in the early 2000’s. With the apps and the tools out there, they do a pretty decent job of capturing some truly beautiful images.

Which means we have to be better.

We can’t just snap and sell. We need more.

We can’t just shoot for the fun of it and expect them to buy.

We have to control our business in such a way that we reach way beyond what the average photographer can produce. It’s not just about the photography anymore. It’s about the experience.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
~Maya Angelou

Surviving means doing what you’ve always done and waiting for things to turn around and present you with a better life.

Thriving means realizing it will never happen that way again. The only way to move forward is to plan for a future that doesn’t exist and give it something you’ve never done before.

The old middle class photography studio is dead. People can capture their own middle class images in a quick and easy way.

The only way to move forward in this business is with new attitude, new ideas, and a new passion.

Are you up for the challenge?


Invitation:
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