One Word – Can Changing One Word In Your Question Bring Success?

Are you asking yourself “How do we make people pay for photography” every day?

Maybe you’re asking the wrong question.

Instead, maybe it should be “How do we let people pay for photography”.

Changing “make” to “let” changes everything. It changes the way you think about your business. And it changes the way you approach your ideal clientele.

I found this idea listening to a recent video by a woman, Amanda Palmer,  that asked similar questions about her own industry – music – which in many ways is going through just as much chaotic change as the photography industry.

And what she found by changing her thought process was an amazing transformation.

She doesn’t charge for her music any more – its all for free on her site. Yet she’s active on social, caters to her fans BIG TIME, and simple asks for what she wants. And it works … to the tune of more than $1 million through a crowd funding site.

When is the last time you asked for anything? Or are you nervous about asking for what you truly want?

What if you asked for one thing you need every day? How would that impact your business? How would that impact your life?

Your Action Step:

Watch the video. Then ask for one thing today. And see what road this new idea takes you down.

Why Are You So Negative About Your Photography Business?

I literally read it every day.Negative Photographer

“All you give is pie in the sky advice. Everything’s great. How can you say that when it’s anything but?”

“People are awful. You can’t trust anyone. I want to provide quality work but I have to deal with all of this ‘stuff’ within the industry. Why can’t I just shoot and be the artist I want to be?”

And I feel your pain. I really do.

But when I read things like this, I know there is very little I can do. I can’t turn a switch in your brain and make you look at things differently. I can’t rework all you’ve done up until now to come to the conclusions you’ve reached.

I read a great book recently – one I would highly recommend. You can read it in an hour or two if you put your mind to it. It’s a fast read. But the thoughts are incredibly powerful. Thoughts that will make you think about how you approach things.

The book is Risky Is The New Safe by Randy Gage. I’ve followed Randy for years. I’ve attended one of his seminars. I love his “no bull” approach.

In this book, he wrote something I’d like to share. Something I’d like you to take to heart.

“Take the same opportunity and offer it to a broke person and a wealthy person, and I guarantee you they will see it differently. When I was poor, I looked at everything through the lens of the mind viruses I was infected with. No matter what business venture I was exposed to, I approached it with the beliefs that you need money to make money; you need an education and have to know people, and so on. I could look at anything and immediately give you 15 reasons why it wouldn’t work. While I was accumulating all the evidence why it couldn’t be done, people with prosperity consciousness were simply doing it.

For those many years I was struggling financially, I was a cynic. And nothing kills innovation, creativity and ambition faster than cynicism. It’s poverty consciousness.

Wealthy people have a healthy skepticism that causes them to evaluate things objectively and make good decisions based on solid assumptions. Skepticism is healthy; cynicism never is. Here’s why: If you ask the wrong question, the answer doesn’t matter. “

Make sense?

If you ask why the photography industry has changed, why you can’t make money the way you used to, or why consumers are terrible for wanting the digital files, you’re asking the wrong questions.

If you ask how you can change your pricing structure to give people what they really want, look for alternative ways to build your photography packages, or ask how photography will impact people in the coming years, you’re on the right track.

Photography isn’t dead. In fact, it’s anything but.

We read a lot now. But that’s changing. We’re incorporating more than ever into video and audio. We’re a graphic society. We attract through imagery. We’re obsessed with quick pictures. We love color and vibrancy. And that’s not going to change.

But the way our society lives, works, moves and thinks is changing.

Go back a hundred years or more, and it took a generation to get a new idea into place. Now it takes a year, or even a few months.

With that much change, it’s hard to wrap our brains around new ideas. Even before we come to terms with one idea, we’re on to something else.

But don’t think photography is alone. Ask anyone in any industry, and they’ll probably start talking about the chaos. Look at the music industry. Or the publishing industry. Or education.

Watch this year’s TED prize winner – Sugata Mitra and his wish to design the future of learning. Its simple. Its brilliant. And I couldn’t agree more.

Everything is changing. And yes, it’s difficult at times. Mind-blowingly difficult.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and exhilarating and full of potential.

What if you approached one thing differently today? Instead of saying “this sucks”, what if you said “I’m going to do one great thing?”

I know it’s not easy to believe this. I know it’s not easy to do this.

But what’s the alternative?

6 Tribal Laws That Affect Your Photography Business

I recently wrote a post 13 Ways To Make Sure 2013 Doesn’t Suck For Your Photography Business. I’ve been doing a lot internal planning with my own business for 2013, and I used that post as a trigger for all of you to start thinking about what you want the New Year to bring into your own lives. In order to stick with that theme, I’ve decided to run a “13 Days Of Photography” feature throughout December to help provide you with a ton of ideas and tips on things you can do for your own business starting on January 1st. Here is 6…

“I’m really wondering what to do next year. My business has never recovered from what it was a few years ago. I try and try, but I just can’t find the clients who are willing to spend what they used to. I’m struggling to stay in business and I just don’t know if it’s worth it anymore. People want different things today. They just want digital files to share on Facebook, they don’t care about wedding albums or large portraits above their fireplace. Maybe I should shut my doors and do something else.”

I hear this story again and again from photographers all over the world.

And in many ways he is correct.

What is happening in today’s marketplace isn’t the same as what happened a few short years ago. We don’t shoot film, we shoot digital. We don’t need photo albums, we have our iPads. We don’t need to print a 4×5 to send to relatives half way around the world; we share it on Facebook and they see it instantly.

Times have changed. Which means we must change too or get lost in the shuffle.

Its like selling buggy whips in the era of horseless carriages. If the marketplace is changing and you don’t change with it, you will be put out of business.

Finding Your Tribe

One of my favorite books by Seth Godin is Tribes. A tribe links a small group of people to an idea. It creates a movement. And it is lead by the one person that foresees the change and decides to do something about it.

Will photography go away? Nope. Never. In fact its bigger now than it has ever been in the past.

Yet today’s technology has made “old time” photographers obsolete.

Which means as an industry, we have to find new ways to structure the business and move into a new direction. Seth Godin explains it best; it’s worth the watch. Then use these six steps to help you create your own movement.

Find a group that’s disconnected

This is the easy part. Photography doesn’t exist like it used to. You’ve figured that one out, right? Now its time to look at it in a whole new way. What can you do differently? What can you do to reach out to people that still love photography, yet want something in an entirely new way? [Read more…]

The Only Thing That Limits Us Is Our Imagination

How do you interpret the world? What is realistic … and what isn’t?

What if you could take different pieces of reality and put them together? What story would they tell?

Take a look at this video and see how quickly it turns your perspective around.

Artwork is truly in the mind of the beholder. And Erik’s tips to combine photographs can really make you think not just about combining multiple images into one, but also how you will tell stories with multiple images.

  • Photos combined should have the same perspective
  • Photos combined should have the same type of light
  • Make it impossible to distinguish where one image starts and the other ends.

Ultimately, in order to get just what you want, it takes planning. What are you going to try next?

Will You Regret Not Jumping Into A Full Time Photography Business?

If you look back at your life so far, what do you regret?

I’m sure a few things pop into your head immediately.

Do you regret not finishing up your degree? Or maybe never going to school at all?

Do you wish you would have followed a different career path? Or chosen a different job?

I watched one of the top TED videos from 2011 today on regret, and I’ve included it here. It’s around 15 minutes in length, and I would highly recommend watching as it teaches a lot about how we look at ourselves.


One of the most interesting things Kathryn Schulz mentions is:

When we look back at our lives, there are many things we regret:

  • Education 33%
  • Career 22%
  • Romance15%
  • Parenting 10%
  • Self 5.47%
  • Leisure 2.55%

Yet financial regrets are even less.

We don’t wish we made more money and had more cash to buy bigger houses and cars. We want to take care of ourselves and the people around us; the ones that we love the most. We want to educate ourselves to feel fulfilled. We want a great career that we love and feel we are contributing to society.

We regret not taking chances that have could have done more to improve our lives. We regret not taking advantage of opportunities that come by.

So now is the time to think of what you have today, what opportunities are being presented to you, and what you will do that will affect the rest of your life.

Will you move forward with your goal of creating a successful full time professional photography business?

Or will you face regret at some point in the future?

How Can You Turn Your Passion Into A Photography Business?

What if you grew up loving something and being very passionate about it, and always wondered if you could turn it into a business and a career. Can you really turn “anything” into a lucrative business model?

I think that’s one of the exciting things about small business, and what the Internet has done for us as a society.

Small businesses can be started from scratch, immediately, and you’ll know within weeks if it has potential. Add in the Internet where you can reach millions of people with just a few clicks of the mouse, and you’ll be able to define your target market, and whether or not you’re truly onto a unique idea.

This week I found a great video from a photographer who makes her living photographing “secret” places. She’s invited into some amazing sites, and has created photographs that will haunt you and inspire you. In her presentation, she makes one key point that to me relates directly back to turning your passion into a business. She says she spends more time contacting and connecting with people to allow her to photograph in the places she loves then she does actually photographing. That’s the key.

You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make your business ideas a reality. If you want to sell something big, it may take weeks or even months getting the idea into place. You can’t get discouraged. And you have to knock on as many doors as it takes to make it a reality.

What Questions Will Define The Photographic Future?

Never before in time has the world traveled so fast. What you learned as a kid, simply no longer applies. Much of what I learned throughout my college career is obsolete. And technology I bought a mere five years ago can bring chuckles from 16 year old daughter.

It’s easy to look back and see what’s changed along the way. But how do we look forward and predict what’s going to happen?

One great place to follow future thinkers, and learn what they think the future will look like is TED. TED brings out new videos every week from the greatest minds in the world. And occasionally they hold TED conferences that bring many people together in different locations. This week, TED is hosting TEDGlobal 2011 in Scotland. And one of the things that caught my eye from their blog was not a video, but instead a question they asked the audience.

What trends should we be watching?

And the answers bring a lot of insight into the direction we may be heading.

“The internet is a huge platform to leverage citizen participation in the world.”

“I see three institutions going away in the next ten years: marriage, schools, and hospitals.”

“There is a growing and dangerous trend of reducing complex ideas to simple ones.”

“Technology has outstripped imagination; let’s bring imagination back to the forefront.”

Is Photography Imagination?

When you work with technology, things tend to be black and white. You do something and get an expected response.

And that tends to be how a lot of photographers operate these days. The term “spray and pray” comes to mind. Instead of knowing what you want to capture, what story you want to tell, you simply jump in and take dozens of pictures, hoping you capture something that’s “workable”. Then you had back to the office and work in Photoshop for hours, until you attain the look you were going for.

In order for photography to be a true art form, you have to think first, and click the shutter second. Take a look at this video by David Griffin, photo director for National Geographic.

In it, David talks about the “flashbulb moment” – the moment that lives in your mind for eternity – what you saw, what it was like, how it smelled, what you felt. Pictures don’t give you a flashbulb moment. But a photograph can, and it can convey that message not only to the photographer, but to every person that views it.

And that ultimately is the difference between an amateur and a professional. An amateur takes one or two flashbulb moment photographs; a professional creates them all the time.

You have to have storytelling power. Instead of showing knowledge of what’s happening, you must showcase empathy. You must go beyond the superficial, and expose the reality of the situation. No matter if you are capturing a child’s first birthday portrait, or showcasing the plight of animals in the wild.

The Key To Photography: Connection

Have you ever watched Ted? They have the most amazing speakers. I head over there all the time and watch one (or two or three) to be inspired and learn something new.

Yesterday I was in my Ted watching mode, and I found this wonderful talk by Brene Brown called The Power of Vulnerability.

As a human researcher, she spent years out in the field studying humans, and why we’re so afraid of one of the most key characteristics we face – vulnerability. It’s worth watching:

In it she talks about a variety of things, and it brought several aha moments to light, including one on connection.

Ultimately we as people want to feel connection with those in our own community. Connection is why we’re here – its what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. We want to fit in. We want to belong.

On the opposite side of connection is disconnect. If you are vulnerable, you end up with shame, or the feeling of being disconnected. And that’s something we all avoid like the plague.

We never want to “not fit in”. So we do whatever we need to do to make those around us happy. Even if it means putting our own feelings and beliefs in jeopardy.

As an artist, as a photographer, this can be hard to take.

  • If you’ve ever created an image that you love and your client hates, you understand vulnerability.
  • If you’ve ever created the perfect package, only to find none of your clients are willing to buy it, you know vulnerability.
  • If you’ve ever put together a wedding album that you simply love and you feel tells the complete story of the wedding, only to have your client rip it apart, you know vulnerability.
  • If you’ve ever put the business on hold because everyone around you tells you how risky it is to start your own business, you know vulnerability.
  • If you’ve ever struggled with vulnerability, and tried to numb it so you would be more liked, more accepted, find a way to push back.

Do one thing today that shows your courage. Do one thing that helps you take that crucial step to believing in yourself, and connecting with people that truly love what you do.