An Open Letter to Cheap Shoot and Burners

Photo by Bjorn Tore Okland

We’ve gotten tons of messages from people saying that there’s no way some of the concepts and tips we’ve given here, could be useful in their business because “I do fine when I do mini sessions for $45 and include the disc. I get em in and I get em out and I’m making money.” Or, “I don’t need to read any books or do any learning. My business is fine.”

I have news for those of you that wrote. You’re not doing fine. You’re not making money.  Your “business” is nothing more than a hobby, that’s frankly stealing and destroying the livelihood of countless true professionals who have dedicated years to learning the craft and who are killing themselves to run profitable and legal businesses.

I’ve been fortunate enough to maintain a profit for the last 5 years and am hopefully on my way to same this year.

You know why?

I don’t care if someone tells me my images are “AMAZING!” on Facebook.  Although that is nice to hear, and something that helps boost our self-esteem, I’m not satisfied with just praise from friends and family. I know that my skills always need improvement, both in business and in image making. When criticized, don’t get angry, or complain.  Criticism means there’s room for growth, and you should feel lucky that there is someone who wants to help you change.  Even if at times, it might not be worded eloquently. I charge enough to make sure that I am always improving every aspect of my business. I charge enough that I can pick and choose my clients. I don’t feel the need to have eight $45 shoots in a day, and boast on your Facebook or Instagram that “I’m ALWAYS booked!” or “I’m SO BUSY!”  I’ll do one shoot that brings in 10-12 times the amount of a 45$ shoot instead and does 1/8th the work 45$ shooters do. And the BIG difference between them and I, is I turn a profit, after taking care of my costs. And yes, I said 10-12 times the amount. You see, I put in the effort to consult with my clients, and help them make educated purchase decisions on the prints or digital images that they don’t yet know they need.

So to those of you that truly believe that $45 1/2 hour mini sessions will grow your business. I have a challenge for you. Book clients at a normal profitable rate. And try to deliver images deserving of those rates.  Go out and put a value on yourself and your business.

The shoot and burn business is not sustainable. I understand we all have to start somewhere. But we should be proficient BEFORE we start charging for our work.

Education is key.  Not just with photography, but for your business. Learn how to run a business.  There are hundreds of books that can help.  Treat your business like a business.  Look at yourself as a business owner and treat your clients how you would want to be treated. Doing a day worth of shoots, collecting $360 and handing over 8 CD’s is not running a business. It’s having a hobby.

Push your education.  Push your business.  Push yourself.

  1. Very well said. I used to be a shoot it and burn it photographer years back. I decided that I didn’t want to kill myself and still be able to put my kids in college. I was fortunate enough to be found by my mentor (Brooks Institute of Photography Graduate), he helped me “see the light”. Four years later, I now do mostly commercial photography and I get paid several thousands of dollars for very few images. Makes for a much more sutainable future for my kids, retirement and the industry as a whole.

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