Why You’ll Never Make it as a Professional Photographer

Why You’ll Never Make it as a Professional Photographer

Note:  This article has been altered slightly from the original.

An open letter to "amateur-professional" photographers who don’t seem to understand the value of our profession

Dear Photographer-

I have read several of your comments on Facebook recently, and many of you don’t seem to understand the value of what we as photographers in this amazing profession offer.   

I see you making decisions about your pricing, giving away files, and general approach to running your business that goes completely contrary to the decisions a true professional would make.   You say things like, “I’m in it for the art, not the money.”   Yes, you can, and should absolutely love the art, and it is your obligation to be the most amazing artist you can be, but if you aren’t in it for the money also, how can you pay your bills to the point of running a legitimate business?   One individual wrote on my facebook that they weren’t in it for the money that they were happy to be paid in hugs and tears from grateful clients.   Last time I checked however, I could not exchange hugs and tears of my clients for payments on my mortgage, my utilities and other bills.   

In a legitimate business, there has to be an exchange for money…decent money!    

Because you do not see the  definition of “professional" as I do, you price your work in such a way that will always keep you as an amateur.   You see the cost of goods as your only expense (I see this all the time in certain Facebook groups).   Because I am a professional, I do not base my prices off from COG, but rather from  CODB (Cost of doing business), along with a lot of other things such as the value of my time which means I have to factor in all kinds of costs.   I spend tens of thousands of dollars a month to pay staff, rents, insurances, contractors, marketing etc.   True professionals understand the actual costs of doing business, and price their work in such a way that will sustain them  and their business because they see their business as a real entity in which they are dependent on for supporting themselves and their family.  

You are not convinced  by the value of what we as photographers offer.   As a result, you believe in giving away files, and working for next to nothing.   You have falsely convinced yourself that people won’t pay top dollar for amazingly produced portraits anymore, just as you have convinced yourself that the problem is all the cheap photographers out there or the geographical location in which you work.

Recently I posted some portraits like the one below which hangs on our wall in our California Studio.  It is 50” x 60” finished in our Masterpiece finish, and sells for $40,000.   

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After posting these images, “photographers” wrote things like the posts below (I have purposely blurred their names and profile pictures to protect their identity):

another wrote:  

and yet another wrote:

$1000. to $2000.?  Really?   My cost to make it with all the artistry and framing and other cost is way more than that.   Asking for me to justify charging that much?   It is sad to know that many times the people who believe the least in what we offer are photographers themselves.  

Do you believe it is outrageous for someone who makes a million dollars a year and has a nice sized home and who would cherish a portrait like that of their daughters for 20 years or more to spend the equivalent of less then 1/5 of 1% of their income over a 20 year period to have such a significant piece of art in their home?  If so then you have a problem believing in the significance of what we are offering people.  You lack passion and conviction about what our profession is about and I guarantee you will never thrive as a professional until you believe the work you produce is worth many times more than what you are actually charging.  A sale only happens when passion transfers from the seller to the buyer.   By the way, if you think that was a complete aberration of an example, because most people don’t make that kind of money…True, most people don’t, but there is enough who do.   Roughly 500,000 people make over one million dollars a year in the United States.   Furthermore there are over 1,000,000 people who make over $500,000. a year.   You see, where you see scarcity, I see abundance.  Only people with an abundant mindset will thrive in this profession.  

You believe the majority of people won’t spend high levels of money on photography…You sell out of your pocketbook because you assume everyone is like you, with the same budget as you, and then unfortunately, you attract clients that are just like you.   As a result, you will never have a thriving professional photography business.   Below are 4 sales that we got from last Saturday.  It represents roughly 1/2 of the sales we got for the weekend.    People who thrive in this business believe those kinds of sales are possible and educate themselves in such a way as to learn how to achieve those kinds of sales.   These sales were actually from average income clients with regular jobs but who possess a passion about the value of portraits in part because their photographer also possesses that passion and it is wildly contagious.

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Success requires more than nice camera equipment and an artistic eye.   You must have high levels of education on business.  Many of you don’t believe success is possible enough to invest in business education, so you don't.    You think spending $500. or $1000. on business education is expensive and you then attract clients who think spending $500.-$1000. on photography is expensive…Like always attracts like.   

This letter is not meant to offend nor be condescending.   I am just trying to keep it real…and if you take to heart what I am saying, and make the proper adjustments it just might be life changing for you and your clients.   

Our profession is one of the best kept secrets in the world, and if you understand the value of what we offer, and posses a passion for it like no other while applying the principles and practices of a real business, this profession, just might surpass your wildest dreams.


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About Bradford:

The Million Dollar Photographer Blog is for people who aspire to earn 1 million dollars a year or more in photography by learning how to run their photography business as a business.   It is the name I call the “blog," NOT myself.  I started my portrait studio in 1988.  Went Bankrupt in 1990.  Worked 4 jobs (including a 800 person newspaper route for the L.A. Times in the middle of the night, and telemarketing during the evening) to build my studio dream back up.   My studio put me into poverty in the beginning, but earned me over 25 million dollars (most of that within the last 8 years) once I learned the right formula.   I have gone from working 6 days a week to working 6 days a month earning millions of dollars a year as a photographer.   I have 3 wonderful children with one on the way and an amazing beautiful wife who is my best friend and greatest soulmate.  We pretty much can’t stand to be apart from each other!   I love to travel, enjoying God’s beauty around the world and the freedom my photography business allows me in doing that.

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