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3 Things Every Great Photographer Wants You to Understand

Entrepreneurship is on the rise. More and more people, both young and old, are beginning their own independent ventures. According to the Kaufman Index, the rate of startup growth was 58.5% from 1997 to 2016. Also on the rise is the use of social media and online marketing by both small businesses and large corporations. In many ways, Instagram was a huge game-changer in helping brands of all industries get word out to their audience. With the increasing importance of having a strong online brand has come the rise of engaging and authentic creative assets, which in turn has increased the value of creative professionals such as graphic designers, video producers, and photographers. However, many fledgling solopreneurs and entrepreneurs are very new to the world of marketing, and aren’t savvy in how to assemble the talent that will help them to represent their brand visually. I and many of my colleagues who are great photographers are very heartened by the increasing number of people who are beginning their own business ventures. We’re rooting for you! Because when you succeed, so do we! You’re reaching out to us, asking our rates, our process, and getting down to the nitty-gritty of launching your campaigns. Since you’re new to the game, though, there are just a few things we need for you to understand and really take to heart as you’re considering commissioning one of us. A great photographer is ALWAYS learning. My formal education in photography began in 1998, when I was a sophomore in high school. Film was still king, and digital technology was barely in its infancy. I shot photos using a 35mm camera and developed black and white film in the darkroom. I carried those skills, techniques, and principles I learned into college, where photography was my major course of study. Over the years, I’ve adapted to digital photography, learned digital photo editing, and as recently as last year, I made cinemagraphs and photo/video production workflow efficiency my obsession. This means that every time a client books me for a session, they’re getting nearly 20 years of experience, and for all 20 of those years, I’ve been learning, growing, and mastering. This is dedication to a craft, and my clients reap the benefit of that dedication. For example, one benefit of my obsession with efficient workflows is that I am now able to offer stripped-down photo sessions at a 95% discount from my normal session fee. This benefits me also, because now I can expand my market and work more flexibly. I and all my photographer colleagues stay eager to learn about what’s next in photo technology! A great photographer LOVES what they do. Don’t ask me to explain it… it’s just the nature of love! All I can tell you is that my love for snapping away took over me before I even began studying photography. That love drives every decision I make when I hold my eye to the viewfinder. That love drives every creative choice I discuss with my clients before we begin a major project. That love makes me take time out of almost every single day to peruse articles and news stories about new lighting techniques, emerging camera technology, and what’s going on in the world of intellectual property law. My clients rarely fit the “dream client” profile: that would be the client with a huge budget, unending respect for and trust in my technical and creative skills, and a retainer agreement. That’s okay though, because my passion for my profession means that every job I book will be a love-fest anyway. A great photographer knows their strengths and stands up in them. Beware the photographer who says “I do it all!”. While they’re busy trying to be all things to everyone, great photographers are busy excelling in their photographic strengths. There is a reason why I turn down actor headshot gigs. A reason why I don't do fashion photography, wedding photography, or family portrait sessions. They're just not my passion, so I never spent time obsessing over being great at those genres the way I did with candid and conceptual photography. Because I put hours upon hours into both candidly shooting events, people, and landscapes, and in using art history to construct and illustrate conceptual narratives, I can say with confidence that those are my strengths and that I deliver quality photos as a result. When you’re considering photographers to entrust for a project for your business or brand, take a long look at their portfolio. Is it organized into categories? Is their work consistent? What feeling do you get when viewing their work? Are their strengths clear, and can you see how their skills will benefit your brand? A great photographer appreciates when a prospective client has done their research and seeks them out for their specific strengths. * * * Anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer these days, but that doesn’t mean you should consider hiring them. A great photographer uses their passion for improvement, their love and respect for their profession, and their confidence in their strengths to capture images that will grab eyeballs and attract customers and clients, which leads to sales! Hiring a great photographer is always a worthy investment that adds value to your business/brand. And a great photographer knows their worth and charges accordingly. I mean, sure, you could save your money and entrust your cousin with that super-cool digital camera who picks it up only when he or she is on vacation with the success of your creative assets, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Great photos lead to a distinctive and profitable brand. Great photographers take great photos. Seek greatness when sourcing talent to represent your brand’s visual voice. ​~A. Lewis Alexia Lewis is a Creative Director, Photographer, and Aesthetic Consultant in Los Angeles, CA. Her clients include music producers, bloggers, national magazines, solopreneurs, event planners, and just about any business who places a high value on quality visuals. Visit to see her work.

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