Is it More Important to be a Good Photographer or Businessperson?

One vital data point that you may not have considered when you started off on your photography journey is that success might not come down to how good of a photographer you are. The most successful photographers aren’t always the best photographers and the best photographers don’t necessarily get the work. This begs the question: is it more important to be a good photographer or a businessperson?

My answer is both. If you care about your craft you might be inclined to say that strong photography is the most important thing. However, if you don’t learn the business side of photography then no one will ever see your work.

Let’s talk about the business of photography and the advantages of having a diverse skill set. Successful photographers need to be great at more than just taking pictures, they need to be able to run a profitable business and market their world to potential clients.

May the Best Photographer Win

Let’s take a case study of two portrait photographers trying to win a client. A client does a quick google search and finds two websites that they review with an uneducated eye. Then they compare various things such as pricing, testimonials, personality, and availability in order to make a decision.

Or take the example of a commercial photographer who is sharing their website with clients that do have a more educated eye for recognizing quality photography. Even so, they might choose to work with someone that they’ve worked with before and know is easy to work with. They might compare things like pricing, licensing terms, and if the portfolio includes work that specifically fits the vibe of the project.

As you can see, in both cases the best photographer doesn’t always get hired. A less experienced photographer with incredible marketing skills might be more findable than the expert. A client’s first choice might come down to someone that’s easy to work with or someone who does work that’s good enough for the right price.

What Makes a Good Photographer

All of this complicates the question of what makes a good photographer. And, what makes a good photographer might vary based on the specific industry or niche or even what the client is looking for. In business, photography isn’t good unless it has value.

When selecting a photographer, a potential client might be looking for any combination of qualities. Your job is to determine which qualities are not only your strengths but also marketable in your industry. A photographer needs to provide value to their clients.

Are you hyper-creative, extremely trendy, and great with people? Or are you reliable, consistent, and great under pressure? And how do you find the right clients that value those qualities?

Here are some qualities of a good photographer:

  1. Creative
  2. Trendy
  3. Personable
  4. Reliable
  5. Consistent
  6. Good under pressure
  7. Efficient
  8. Flexibility and adaptability
  9. Problem solving
  10. Passion

Business Skills for Photographers

If you’re still reading, then perhaps I’ve convinced you that you need to think about the business of photography. Specifically, it’s important to get a handle on marketing both in how you present yourself through your branding and how you find potential clients. I’m not saying you have to do everything yourself, you can always outsource whatever your weaknesses happen to be.

You can start by determining where your photography fits into the market so that you can find potential clients. Then you’ll need to figure out how to sell to those clients, keep them happy, and provide them with an end product of value. And finally, you need to be able to do all that while turning a profit which means having and sticking to a budget and setting pricing appropriately.

Let’s break that down into a simple process:

  1. Know your market
  2. Find clients
  3. Be able to sell to those clients
  4. Customer service
  5. Provide value
  6. Make a profit

The Good News

Hopefully you’re not discouraged by adding all of this to your plate. Now, not only do you have to be a great photographer but you have to excel at marketing. Thanks a lot.

Look at it this way, the more of your skills you utilize, the more ways you have to succeed. Imagine if your photography speaks for itself and you’re a people person. You can’t lose.

Besides, trying to be the best photographer isn’t actually an easy goal. I’m not saying don’t go for it but the good news is that someone might be looking to hire a photographer with your specific organizational skills. While we often complain about how little of our time we spend actually doing photography and the plethora of other tasks we have to do as entrepreneurs, it’s important to remember that the added complexity helps create our unique place in the market.

Be Both a Photographer and a Businessperson

Be a great photographer, likely that’s why you chose or are considering this profession. But don’t forget about the business side of things.

And remember, it’s ok to delegate — great leaders do. Get some marketing help if you need it or get an agent to help with sales. All you have to do is factor those costs into your budget.

Now, what do you call yourself? Put whatever you want on your business card as long as it makes you feel proud of your bravery, creativity, and diverse skill sets.

About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.

Image credits: Photos from 123RF