Business section 2


You and Your Personality


This section is about you or, more importantly, your personality.  Why your personality?  Because, this is what makes us what we are.  How we deal with problems.  How we deal with people, stressful situations, AND how people see US.


If all you are going to do is sell pictures via the internet, with no client meeting or discussion then any issues of personality are not going to be a major problem, as long as you can deliver what you promise.


However, when we have to deal face to face with individuals and sell not only our photographs, but ourselves, then personality becomes very important.  Knowing ourselves is very important, but difficult to actually do.  I have known photographers who have no understanding as to why they aren’t getting any work, when it is blatantly obvious to others.  They have difficulty dealing with people, or refuse to deal on-line as they have a fear of modern technology, or they find life stressful and have thought photography would be easy and they quite like it.  The difficulty is for us as individuals to be honest about our weaknesses and failings.  Usually we ignore them, or hope they will go away.


So, let’s start talking about ourselves.   When we work in an office we are usually part of a team.  Questions that might be pertinent to ask are: what part of the team do you play? Can people talk openly to you?  As a leader of the team (if you are one) do you get stressed?  Blame yourself, or others if this go wrong?  Feel that the only way to get things done around the office is to shout at people?  Are you approachable?  Would you wish to work with someone like yourself? 


In an office we have to work together.  As the boss/team leader you choose your staff and they will probably say they like you because they feel they have to.  While in reality they really wish you were dead.  So what is the truth about YOU?


These questions aren’t really just about working in photography, but any business where you are self-employed.  First impressions are very important and the client must feel confident with you AND in your ability to take photographs that they wish you to take. 


I assume that you have a certain confidence in yourself and in your ability to take photographs, to think you could be a photographer and earn money being so.  The difference of being an amateur hobbyist photographer and being a professional trying to make is living is huge.  Anyone can be a photographer, just buy a camera and some lights and that’s it.  I had a discussion with a photographer on this point some years back and he commented that the difference for him between a good amateur and a professional photographer was simple.  The amateur could take as long as they wish to take a photograph, re-shoot many times and only answer to themselves for success or failure.  The professional has to get the shot whatever the situation, every time, all the time and has to answer to the client.  Stress therefore is a big issue for photographers.  Stress could be for relatively short space of time, you might only have minutes to get the shot, or it can last for hours where you are dealing with client/s models, set-builders, locations, lighting – the list goes on.  How are you under stress?

When we are working in the office we usually work with a small team, possibly the same team for days, weeks and maybe years.  In this way we get to know people, have a laugh, socialise and work.  Working for yourself, on your own, can bring its own problems.  There is no one to talk to about problems.  You might be dealing with different clients on a daily basis (kids/adult portraiture) or weekly (weddings).  How are you with dealing with many different people and personalities?  How are you at being on your own for hours?  Are you relaxed and friendly or shy and nervous?  A bit simplistic I know, but you get the picture.  Working with lots of different people can cause lots of different problems.


Working for yourself means just that – working for yourself.  There is no need to get out of bed at a set time, or be at the office for a set duration, or to do anything at all.  There is no one watching you, or doing annual assessments or planning training days and office parties etc.  There is just You on your own waiting for the call from a client for the first time.  Are you the type who is stubborn, but sensible, able to get out of bed even on a rainy day and work, phoning people who have no interest in you, instead of watching day-time TV?    


Of course there is no one type of person who will make a success of a business and we are all types of personality depending on the situation and how we feel on the day.  However, running a business is about being consistent.  No one wants to meet you one day and find you fun to be with and the next morose and despondent.  If you are selling yourself as a major part of the business, and we are when we take a portfolio round to show people our work, then first impressions are very important.  If you are positive and confident when the client first meets you, they expect that same confidence on the day of the shoot.  We have al heard of ‘artistic temperament’, but who wants to work with a paranoid schizophrenic on a daily basis?  Not many, and if you are like that then your work has to be excellent, well beyond the norm. 


I have met many people who wish to turn their hobby into a profession, especially those interested in photography.  But it is one thing taking photos as and when; quite another taking photos for a client within a specified time.  When your hobby becomes a job it is no longer a hobby but a business and the bottom line is it has to pay you a wage and make a profit.   


There a no typical business men/women, as there are no typical business models or, to put it another way, there are as many business models as there are types of people – but I think to make a successful business and this is especially true of photography, you have to be focussed almost to an obsession, but without losing a grasp of reality about the profitability of the business. 


If you think yourself capable of dealing with the stresses and strains of irregular money supply, hours of work and clients, then the nest step is marketing yourself and the business.  That is what the next section is about.



By the way I am available for talks to students, etc, on general business matters.