Why your work doesn’t have to be perfect to be profitable

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” ― Leo Tolstoy
Why Work Doesn't Have to be Perfect

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I’m with Leo here. Most of the photographers I work with struggle with perfectionism. It’s an occupational hazard and a downside of being a creative. Aiming to make the best possible work you can is fantastic, beating yourself up when you’ve done your best but you still aren’t happy with the results is unhelpful and will make you miserable. There are some specific things I see photographers get perfectionist-y about, which I’m going to address here as to why your work doesn’t have to be perfect to be profitable:

  • Not knowing if your work is actually good enough and assuming it’s not
  • Constantly comparing your work to other photographers
  • Thinking you should shoot like everyone else
  • Attempting to recreate other people’s editing styles and presets when you’d prefer to keep your images more natural
  • Getting frustrated with clients who don’t wear what you’ve asked them to
  • Being irritated when clients don’t have super tidy homes
  • Thinking the only possible time to shoot is golden hour

Comparison & Portfolios
Photography is quite a lonely career choice. You’re the only one taking the pictures and it’s difficult to be objective about your own work. It’s easy to slip into the trap of comparing your work with that of other local photographers which will quickly make you bitter and miserable. When I first started out, I booked myself onto workshops with photographers I admired and paid for portfolio reviews so I could get some objective feedback on how I could improve and learn how to make my work better. A huge time saver because I immediately knew what I needed to change and how. You don’t have to struggle, there are plenty of people and resources available to help you. Investing a bit of money will shave years off your business journey too, believe me I know and I wish I’d hired a coach way sooner than I did.

The importance of YOUR creative style
It’s easy and understandable to think that you should shoot images just like everyone else’s and then when yours aren’t quite the same, beat yourself up. When we see other creatives succeeding, it’s tempting to shoot and edit in exactly the same way and that’s what most photographers start out doing (guilty as charged over here). However, if you want to carve out space for yourself in the market and build a business where clients actively seek you out for a shoot, you’ve got to allow your unique vision to shine through. I’ll bet you have some idea about what this is, you’re just not brave enough to run with it. I’m here to encourage you to explore your creative ideas and make some work that’s as individual as you are. When you shoot the way you want to, it’s incredibly freeing and the comparison goes right away. Guess what? You’ll also attract new business too.

When clients don’t cooperate
It’s easy to get very frustrated when clients don’t think through their outfit choices for a shoot or ask for a shoot in their homes which they don’t take the time to tidy beforehand. As the person creating the images, it’s important to communicate what you’d like your clients to wear (I send a Pinterest board with some ideas and request no big logos or busy patterns) and ask them to make sure their house is tidy. If they actively choose not to follow your instructions, you can double check (politely) that they’re ready to shoot and if they are, you’ll have to roll with it. I’ve had a family shoot where one of the kids had a t-shirt with a huge Minion on the front and then been faced with a messy garden to work in and I’ve also had clients who still insist on the ‘jeans and white t-shirts’ look despite that fact it’s no longer the late nineties. At the end of the day you’re taking images for your clients so if the look isn’t perfect, but it’s what they want, to have to let go of the frustration and get on with it. Shoots like this don’t go into my portfolio or website, disappointing, but it’s as simple as that. Not every shoot will come together as you’d like, and you can think about these as creative challenges rather than getting depressed about the fact that you didn’t get the perfect shots. At the end of the day if your clients are happy with the resulting images, you’ve done a good job.

Golden hour only shoots
Sunset shoots are gorgeous, there’s no doubt about that. But they aren’t always convenient for your clients or for you. You don’t have to shoot at specific times to get great shots. Family clients with small children will be reluctant to shoot at 5pm because that’s generally the start of crazy hour and I don’t know about you, but I’d really prefer not to be surrounded by screaming children and uptight parents. If you’re shooting at client’s homes, get them to send you photos of their main rooms and garden in the morning and afternoon so you can determine the best time to shoot. I know not to believe clients when they tell me their house is light because my idea of great light is not the same as a non-photographer’s. I make sure I know what the light is doing at certain times of day at the outdoor venues I shoot at so I can shoot at 10am or 3pm to accommodate my clients schedules and still get fabulous images. As photographers, we are incredibly conscious of light and when it looks best, but I don’t think it makes that much difference to a client, they’re looking at themselves in the photos, not where the sun is. If you can relax your grip on the need to control everything about a shoot, you’ll have a far better time and so will your clients.
Doing your absolute best at each and every shoot you do is a given as a professional photographer, however expecting every shoot you do and every image you take to be perfect and award winning is only going to set you up for huge disappointment. As soon as I let go of expectations for my shoots and just allowed them to unfold, I enjoyed myself far more. When we are relaxed and in the moment, creativity comes to life.

Does perfectionism hold you back?
My job as a creative and business coach is to help you as a photographer navigate the road blocks of developing a creative style, working with clients, improving your work, building a portfolio and being your unique self minus the need for perfection. If you’d like more information about how working with me can transform your business and get you enjoying your work far more, please schedule a discovery call here



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