This is the second guest post by wedding photographer Sara Chapman. Be sure to check out her excellent first post, “Confessions of a Second Shooter.” Another little known fact about Sara is that she is the second subject who will be featured in my “Mixed in America” documentary series. I’m thrilled to have her contribute to DDMag.
I have a lot of irrational fears: being surrounded by water; masks; really long, unkempt hair; and dolphins (or really any animal that is bigger than me… so pretty much all of them!). Even though I’m scared of these things, I have found myself face to face with them a time or two and it’s been impossible to avoid them. I’ve lived on an island. Masks assault me every Halloween. I’ve gone to an aquarium and looked at dolphins. I also had a swimming instructor one time with ridiculously long hair (quite possibly the reason for my fear of water.)
Starting out as a wedding photography business owner, I have also been faced with fears. This time they are totally rational.
I think that one of the biggest fears we all face as business owners is the fear of rejection; especially artists because what we create is so personal to us. There is a common phrase that I hear a lot when I go to photography conferences. Speakers say that you as a photographer are your brand. Although I do think that there is truth to that, I also think that it can be a dangerous way to view your business.
What this idea seems to promote is that people book you only if they like YOU, not necessarily that they like your product. For young people coming into the business, this concept can be misunderstood.
Are you your brand? Or are you a person of value that creates something of value? All of a sudden when a bride doesn’t book with you, you may start to think, “They don’t like me. I wasn’t good enough. I suck at sales.” The reality of the situation could just be that they didn’t have enough money, or that a friend of theirs offered to do it for free. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, when I don’t get an email back after I’ve responded to an inquiry I struggle with feelings of rejection. It hurts my heart and erodes my confidence. Learning to cope with these situations is something I’m still working on.
If you are establishing your business and you find yourself getting rejected time after time, the fear of failure can creep it’s way in. This kind of fear can be paralyzing. It shouts words in your ears like, “You should give up now. You are never going to make it. Everything that you do is going to fail.” It’s hard to work on your business plan, or come up with your price list when these thoughts are attacking your mind.
Creating a Community
Dealing with these fears hasn’t been easy, but I’ve managed to find one important way that has been helpful to me. You might find these suggestions helpful to you as well.
Building a community of supporters around me has been beneficial, as I’ve started my business. It doesn’t have to be a huge crowd. I have found a few people who can fit into three different categories whose support has been critical to my staying in the game.
First, I have a friend who lives in another state that is also starting out in a photography business. I think it’s great that we live far away from each other because it minimizes the temptation for us to compete against each other. It’s easier to talk strategy with that person versus someone who lives two blocks away and has the same potential costumers as you.
Then, I am fortunate enough to have a father who has been in photography for a long time now and I love being able to bounce ideas off of him. But I also know several other older photographers that I can call up and they will give me advice. Having a mentor who has been in the business longer than you have can guide you in ways you could not foresee.
Finally, having someone who is not in the same profession, but cares for you and believes in you can be equally as helpful. Because they bring an outsider’s view, they can bring in a clearer perspective. They can challenge you to think outside of that photography world that we sometimes get caught up in.
Look around and see whom you already have in your life that might fit into any one of these groups. So many times when I have felt so disappointed with the way my business was looking I have found hope from talking to these people. I encourage you to build a community around yourself. The fears of rejection and failure are a lot harder to battle alone. Although I may not fit into any of these categories for you, if you feel lost and need a place to start, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Chapman is an Atlanta based wedding photographer and daughter to humanitarian photographer Gary S. Chapman. She is a recent graduate from North GA Technical College, and has an associate’s degree in Commercial Photography. Telling stories with her camera is her passion and she hopes to continue sharing memories with her clients for years to come. Follow her ongoing adventures as a wedding photographer at her website sarachapman.com.