Ah self-sabotage! It’s so easy to get too caught up with all the online noise and suddenly you think you’ve made a terrible mistake and you’re googling “how to sell my camera.”
Here are ten thoughts I’ve definitely had (and conversations with other photographers confirmed I am not alone). Along with some top tips as to what you can do about it.
1. EVERYONE is doing better than me.
Ah hello Instagram and Pinterest! I see you! And I totally get it. We’re visual artists so it makes total sense to go follow a load of photographers for inspiration. Doesn’t it? Well… not always! A feed that is purely other people’s photos and success stories is lovely to look at. But just remember, we’re all on our own journeys and going at our own pace. One wedding photographer might be saying they’re fully booked for 2025 but they might only need 5 weddings to reach their capacity. Whereas another might want to shoot 60. It’s all relative to what else is priority for that person.
2. I received one negative comment and now I’m never going to make it.
I bet you received at least another 20 lovely comments, but you’ve forgotten about those. Criticism or negativity can be super hard to take when it’s our own work. However, there is ALWAYS a lesson, so look for it. My first negative comment came quite early on where I had posted pictures of a Bride and Groom to be on my social media without having sent them to the couple first. The bride messaged me and asked me to take them down. My head immediately went to “OMG she’s going to cancel me for her wedding.” But the reality was she was self-conscious and hadn’t loved one of the pics I’d posted, even though I thought she looked really lovely in it. So, the lesson was to send the preview to the client FIRST and ask if it’s ok to share. The actual wedding was wonderful and the couple were a joy to work with.
3. I can’t take time off, what if someone needs me that day?!
Ok, well take it from someone who has been there. You will reach BURN OUT if you don’t schedule some time off for yourself. Yes, people might enquire for those days and it will be super hard to say no, but your mental health and your loved ones probably need you more. It’s completely acceptable to set boundaries for yourself, and to clearly communicate them. So, if you don’t want to work Sundays, say so, and stick to it. If that customer really wants you, they’ll respect your boundaries. And if it’s an event that can’t be moved then find yourself a few other photographers you can refer work to and vice versa!
4. I just don’t feel like I’m good enough.
Ah. Self-doubt is a bitch isn’t it?! I know some super successful photographers who freely admit this happens to them on the regular. The fact is, in an online world, there will always be ghosting, cat-fishing and people who just don’t care about the human at the other end of the keyboard. If you’re getting ghosted lots, maybe review your processes – ask for feedback on your enquiry response. But understand, that this will happen because people are either too busy to reply or they don’t want to hurt your feelings (not understanding that the lack of response is actually worse!)
5. I’m too expensive.
You’ll question your prices. Because at some point, you’ll get tagged by a well-meaning friend in a thread on a public Facebook group that says “Looking for a reasonable priced photographer” and there’ll be hundreds of responses. Some of which will be offering to do the shoot for free or at very low prices. But, take it from someone who has learned this lesson the hard way: offering shoots at very low prices will not build you a profitable and sustainable business. Just because someone else is offering their services on the cheap doesn’t mean you should. No matter what you choose to charge, there will always be people who think you are too expensive and there’ll be others who think its great value. The key is to decide what you want to be known for and then communicate your value to your customer.
6. Growing a big Instagram following matters.
Sure, growing an audience matters. And it’s super impressive when the follower numbers are high. But if your audience is a few hundred strong and those people actually BUY from you, then jobs a good ‘un. An ENGAGED audience (ya know, where people actually chat to you and the social media’s all SOCIAL) is the key. There’s no need to go viral – unless you really want to, and if that’s what you want then go for it. But you’ll need to do it the hard way, where you do the work and not by buying followers. All that does is add a load of dormant accounts to your follower number and those will never engage, comment or BUY from you.
7. A potential customer just asked for something I don’t offer, so I’ll just do it anyway.
Again. Learnt this one the hard way. If your customer is looking for a really specific style of photography. Say… a studio cake smash for a child’s first birthday with a lovely background, loads of props and great lighting, all inspired by pics they’ve seen online but they couldn’t afford the studio prices so came to you. But you don’t have a studio, lights, background or props. The customer will be disappointed.
I know it’s super hard to turn work and income away but some people are just not your people. If they are not asking for the thing that YOU offer, refer them to someone who offers the thing they want. It’s easier in the long term, trust me. (Oh, and will also free you up for the people who DO want the thing you offer!)
8. I need to appeal to everyone so I don’t miss out on potential clients.
There’s a saying about this isn’t there, something about trying to do everything and be a master of none. Photography is all about style and creativity. Find that style and the things that you LOVE to photograph. And then… practise it, nurture it and then people will book you for it.
If you try to appeal to everyone you might find yourself spending all your time doing shoots that just don’t light you up.
9. There are SO many other photographers out there.
Yup. There are. But there’s only one YOU. So, stop worrying about whatever everyone else is up to and focus on yourself and your business. Have you made a plan? Set some big, scary goals? Built a banging portfolio that you’re proud of? Have you made it clear to potential customers exactly what services you offer and how they can book you?
10. I can’t raise my prices. What if my clients find out I used to charge X?
What if they do? I’ll bet you’ve done a lot more work and gained a load more experience since then. You’ve probably invested in some training and new kit. It’s YOUR business and YOU ARE ALLOWED to update your services and prices as you go. Not that anybody ever actually questions this. So, go forth and charge your worth my friends.
For hints and tips on running a successful photography business, come and join me on Instagram at @hannahbrookephoto.
Register HERE to get your name on the waitlist for my Photography Business Bootcamp.