Are you a businessperson first, or a photographer first?

Most 'new' photographers in a country like India today actually started out with a regular day job - an IT professional, a call-centre exec, a copywriter. With the rise of smartphones, the drop in prices of DSLRs and the proliferation of 'candid' wedding photographers, anyone could 'become a photographer' and earn money from their passion. There was enough business to be had. Brides, flush with cash from the booming economy, surrounded by beautiful pictures of their friends getting married were more than willing to invest in that special photographer.

This picture is still largely true in 2017. The demand for photographers far outstrips available 'professional' supply. BUT, that also means that people are just as willing to 'let my uncle with the DSLR shoot the wedding', as the quality is 'just about as good as a pro'. This is where the professional photographer who consistently stands out, wins. And when it rains for the winner, by God, it pours.

For the same reason, not standing out means pricing up or getting those prized weddings & gigs is getting harder for most. And what with demonetization et al, there's another reason to believe (incorrectly, of course) that the entire industry is in the doldrums. People still want great photos, it's our job as professional photographers to help them separate the great from the good.

'Standing out from the crowd' or 'creating your brand' rarely, if ever, happen by accident. Which is where the 'treating your setup as a BUSINESS' comes in. What does this entail?

1) Learn & master business competencies. If you cannot, at least outsource them: Accounting, contracts, web development, social media. All of these are done by any business. Why should a photography business be any different. Learning the ropes by yourself though, is easier said than done.

For example, if you are finding it time-consuming to keep track of what prices you offered to every customer, who paid how much, when you need to pay suppliers, etc., you are much better off leaving it to an expert to run this part of the show for you.

2) The 80-20 rule: In business, the Pareto principle is commonly quoted. It says that about 80% of business comes from 20% of the customers. If you are a wedding photographer, you might wonder how 20% of your customers can give you 80% of your business. They're not THAT likely to get married again, are they? The reality though is that most FUTURE business comes from delighted PAST customers - by word of mouth! If you do a great job making your customers happy today, they will get you business tomorrow. So the 20 customers who are happy today, will get you 80 customers over their lifetime!

3) Learn from competition. Find your niche: The best photographers spend a large percentage of their time studying other top photographers. If you have #1 above sorted, this gives you time to grow, to be inspired by what's out there. Look at the award winning Fearless images. Scour through the archives of the International Photo Awards. You will find yourself in some of these images. That becomes your signature. That becomes your brand. You can then go on to build that brand just as a business does.

Net, net, if you want to run a great photography business, the earlier you get the 'business' part of it sorted, the better you spend your time perfecting your craft.