Here are two skills that I believe are essential to having a successful photography business:
Understanding how to shoot in manual mode
This is something that is important. Yes, there are benefits to the other modes like aperture priority. I’m not saying they aren’t useful. BUT, understanding the relationship between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed is part of being a photographer.
If you depend on auto modes when you’re shooting, especially professionally, you’re missing out on what is actually working or not working in any given situation. You’re also less able to control the situation.
Here’s what I mean by that.
First, let’s take something like aperture priority mode, often abbreviated as A or Av on a cameral, is a setting on some cameras that allows the user to set a specific aperture value while the camera selects a shutter speed to match it that will result in proper exposure based on the lighting conditions as measured by the camera's light meter. So, say you’re taking a ton of family formals and you want the back row and front row to be in focus no matter what. Av mode set to something like 3.5 or 4 will adjust the shutter speed for you around the lighting needs. Great, fine. But what if you’d like to zero in on a kiddo in the front row and start a bokeh beginning in the second row. You’re going to need to open your aperture to 2.0 or even lower in most cases. If you don’t understand that more light will be coming in now than at 3.5, then you won’t know to adjust your shutter speed to a faster setting. Or your ISO lower, too.
Basically, you have more control and understanding. And that makes for a better set of chops when you’re shooting professionally.
It can be a gradual process, but in my opinion, it’s a necessary part of understanding the skill. You’ll also have way more ability to manipulate the camera in any lighting scenario that an auto setting won’t allow.
Excellent People Skills
Perhaps this seems obvious to you, but if you’re imagining the dark room side of photography–or in most of our cases, long hours alone with Lightroom–then you’re missing 2/3s of the pie. Photography and running a business, any business, takes people skills.
Your brand depends on excellent customer service from the way you communicate in emails before booking, to your final interaction at delivery and afterwards on your email list to maintain positive relationships.
You may have assistants or associates that require clear and friendly communication, and most obviously, you need a high vibe on set when you’re shooting.
Photography, and I’m speaking about gig-based photography like weddings, commercial and ad, and lifestyle, isn’t a great fit for the extreme planner. If that’s you, that’s okay. But running a photo biz will help strengthen your go-with-the-flow skills and teach you how to think on your feet when things don’t go to plan. A simple change in the weather, time of day, and season of the year can drastically make a difference in your photographs of a place you’ve scouted out ahead of time. And when this happens during a shoot, you need to keep the vibe high, give clear directions, and not freak out. If you’re freaking out because you’re an extreme planner, there are tons of disciplines like product or landscape photography–or even editing and not shooting at all–that might fit your personality better.
So learn your stuff. If you’re new to the photo biz industry, hear this:
- You CAN do this. Absolutely. I believe that 1000% for people who are dedicated to building a business the right way.
- BUT you MUST KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR GEAR AND SOFTWARE before you can expect to make a steady flow of income. And I recommend learning to shoot manually.
- Next, once you have a handle on things, check your attitude. Are you keeping the vibe high and easy to get along with? Are you clear with expectations when you are meeting with clients? This is so important.
And that’s a wrap for today. Tune in Tues & Thurs for more PBH with me. If you’d like to join our listeners community in FB, we’d love to have you! It’s a place to learn, connect, and ask questions a photo biz related. Plus, I go live every Friday to answer questions and give out photo biz tips. Head to jennings.photo/community to join. That’s jennings.photo/community and I’ll see you in the group!