I Don’t Want To Sell Anything
I’m going to date myself with a movie quote from 1989’s Say Anything:
“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” -Lloyd Dobler
That in a nutshell is me. Well obviously I create images and I process them, and I sell them to the client… I just don’t want to sell anything TO YOU. I don’t mean that in a rude way, I swear. What I mean is that I didn’t get into this business to teach workshops, to mentor, to sell YOU anything. I got into this business because I LOVE working with clients, capturing babies’ first portraits, working with children, capturing on camera what is unique and divine about each family, creating something lasting, expressing myself as an artist. Does that mean I’ll never teach? Oh, who knows… let’s be real, the industry may reach the point where the only way to make a real living is to sell to photographers, some markets are already there. My market is not… yet. I’m still making a nice living servicing real clients and doing a job that feeds my soul, so as long as I can I will continue to do so. Everyone out there is trying to sell something to YOU.
“Take my workshop, buy my posing guide, buy my software, buy my product, use my digital delivery service, let me mentor you, you need THIS!!!!!”
There is so much NOISE OUT THERE THAT YOU CAN’T EVEN HEAR THE ONLY VOICE THAT REALLY MATTERS… your own.
Since I’m not trying to sell you anything I’ll share some advice, for free. There is no magic pill, you cannot buy IT, or bottle IT. By buying into the workshop culture around you, you are not becoming a photographer, you are becoming a consumer of photography products. Workshops can be a great thing, but not when you are taking them in lieu of spending the time to develop your artistic eye. There is no shortcut, no easy 3 step process to finding YOUR OWN VOICE. Do you want to be one in a thousand photographers who learn to mimic someone else or do you want to be an artist creating something that is your own? If you are just starting out- shoot, practice, obsess, immerse yourself in your craft, read, digest, but DO NOT COPY. Find what you love, find what you are best at, develop a business you can be proud of. There is no substitute for blood, sweat, and tears, no overnight success stories as much as people are out there trying to sell you that dream. If you are going to go into this business do it because you LOVE it, not because you want an easy, overnight mommy job. If that’s where you are coming from be a yoga instructor, or sell tupperware. This is art, these are people’s memories, and that should matter to you above all else.
The Art of Balancing Business and Life
What do you think of when you hear that word? The fact that you are reading this indicates you’re probably somewhat like me. You think of the weight in your hands, the hum of your lens focusing, your view through the viewfinder… the way you hold your breath as you wait for that moment to unfold in front of you, the thunk of the shutter as you take your shot…. swoon. What could be better than making a living doing something you love? Having your passion turn into your paycheck, working from home, being your own boss… it all sounds great, right? Well it is great, but make no mistake… photography is a fickle mistress (or mister). She will suck out your soul, she will take over your life, she will burn you out, use you up, and step over your lifeless body as she leaves. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but I swear it’s true. Once you take that step to take this passion for making pictures and charge money for it everything changes. Let’s talk about some steps you can take to create a fulfilling career with balance for your life.
A little about me… what the heck do I know anyway? Well a lot I guess, but not everything… life is always a work in progress and no one is as together as you think they are. I am a photographer, a mother of four very busy children and two French bulldogs, and a wife to a pretty great guy… he ain’t bad to look at either. I’ve been with my husband for 24 years, married 17 years, been a mom for 15 years and this is my 6th year in business as a fine art newborn, maternity, child and family photographer here in California. I was recently named PPA’s California Family Photographer of the Year, top 10 photographer in California, and Fuji masterpiece award winner. I make my living working with actual clients, so I know what that juggle is like. In another life I was supposed to be a college History professor. I like to think I keep History of another sort and all those degrees look sort of cute on my wall. What I strive for in my life is balance. It is my biggest struggle and my biggest success when everything is clicking. It’s not always easy, we as women are pulled in so many directions, but balance is attainable.
First, you probably should decide if you really want to go into business. There is nothing wrong at all with being a happy and accomplished hobbyist. What makes you want to start a business? Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit, do you want to be your own boss, do you like working with people? The reality is you will spend way more time running a business than you will taking pictures. You will be a bookkeeper, a customer service representative, a sales person, a marketing director, a late night editor… 90% of your time will not be taking pictures. Really think about what owning a business will mean for you and your family before you take the leap.
The price is right, or is it? What the heck does pricing have to do with finding balance??? Well, kind of everything. So many photographers, women especially, start into business thinking that any money made is just gravy. I love taking pictures and editing, I would own all this gear anyway, if I walk away from a shoot with $100 it’s all good. While that may be true when you’re taking pictures of your friends as a favor once you hang your shingle that vibe changes. You are providing a service that a client is paying money for. That client will have expectations and demands… and oddly the lower your pricepoint the more demanding the clientele. Don’t ask me why this is true but it just is, its some odd inverse correlation that the lower the pricepoint the bigger pain in the butt the clients… a big cosmic joke. Soon you’re missing snuggle time watching trashy reality tv with your husband (or is my husband the only one that watches trashy reality shows???) because you have to edit alone at your computer. You stay up late, you’re tired and grouchy, you feel guilty playing hotwheels with your child because you have so much else to do. You miss little Billy’s soccer game because someone insists they need a photoshoot precisely at 11:00 on Saturday, even though you know the light will be crap, even though you would rather be at the soccer game. Suddenly that $100 or $300 doesn’t seem so worth it especially if then you are having to pay taxes on it. I won’t go into the details here but do your research and set appropriate prices so that your time is properly compensated and you don’t end up burnt out and resentful.
You cannot do it all, stop trying. We’re supposed to be able to do it all right? That’s what they tell us anyway… look at Martha Stewart… she does it all! Martha Stewart has a staff that does it all people. No one can do everything. You cannot be a full time mother, a wife, have an outside job, be a full time photographer, bookkeeper, marketing director, etc… You can’t. There will come a tipping point with your small business where you either need to scale back or outsource. Awe… it’s a magic word- OUTSOURCE. I outsource my editing, my album design, I outsource scrubbing my toilets and cleaning my floors. Darn if I could outsource cooking dinner I would, instead I’m trying to get friendly with my crockpot. You need to really look at which tasks need your personal touch and which tasks do not. Taking the pictures is all me, as is client relations… oh and raising my kids… those things need my personal touch. Editing the full gallery and scrubbing the toilets? Not so much. Outsourcing allows me to run a full time business working part time hours myself. I only edit my favorite 5-7 images I’m going to blog, my assistant does the rest. I shoot 3 days a week max, I can have my youngest in part time preschool and home with me the rest of the week, I volunteer, I tote my kids around to sports every afternoon. My evenings are spent curled up with the aforementioned hot husband and a glass of Zinfandel. Is my life perfect? No! But, it’s a whole heck of a lot better than it would be if I were trying to do everything myself. I am more present for my family because my business isn’t sucking up all my time and attention and that’s priceless. Speaking of priceless… while it is priceless, outsourcing does cost money. That brings us back to the whole charging what you’re worth thing… wink… wink. Outsourcing my editing also allows me to take on more shoots than I would be able to otherwise, making me more money. It’s a win/win.
Prioritize and Specialize. Photography is a weird thing, it’s “art” but it’s a job. How do you create amazing art but insure you provide what the client commissioned you to produce? Well, in short, you find the right clients. Working with newborns, babies, and young families feeds my soul. I am so inspired and energized by a newborn shoot and my work shows it. There are few things I can think of that would be more painful to shoot than corporate headshots or architecture. I think brides are pretty but I would loathe giving up my weekends to shoot weddings. Be real with yourself about what you love and what you don’t, what you’re good at and what you’re not. There are very few photographers that are good at everything. I know hundreds of photographers and there are maybe… two that I could recommend for a wedding, a newborn session, a child and family session. They are both crazy talented super freaks but that’s not most of us. When you first start your business you will dabble in lots of things and that’s fine but in time a clear path should present itself to you, follow it.
All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl. All business all the time will make you tired, boring, burnt out, and likely bitchy… who wants to hang out with someone like that? Fill your life up with lots of things and do it without guilt. Play hotwheels or barbies with your kids, get out and ride bikes, walk your dogs, work out, catch up with your friends on Facebook, go out for coffee, get a pedicure, see a movie, make out with your husband. While you are doing these things don’t be stressing about what you should be editing. Make yourself a schedule and give yourself the right to turn off your phone and step away from the computer. There is always something that needs to be done but just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should work around the clock. I love my job, I mean I really LOVE my job. I want you to love your job too.
* Please inquire for photographer’s pricing if you’d like to book a session for your baby or family with Laurie Sachs Photography.
I love your style in photography and your set up in your home studio. I’m seriously working at setting my own home studio. You are a great find for research. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks so much Aline.
I would truely love to learn more about natural light photography and post processing from someone like yourself. I am looking for someone affordable to mentor with via phone or the web. Would you be available to offer that service to me?
Hi Laurie!! I was so worried about having a small place to do photography ´till I discovered u! I´m from Argentina but a cousin who is American told me about Pinterest, then I saw your pics there.
I wondering what lens you recommend me to take studio photos.
About the lights… you have a window and what else?? Thank you some much!! Your became my teacher or example, whatever you prefer… :)
Awesome post Laurie!!! Thank you for it. So happy we got to meet at WPPI!!!
Well said Laurie!!! I love the photo of your family!
Oh Laurie. I knew I already loved you from but my goodness… this post. Thank you. I needed to hear this! I’m only 9 months into a full-time career in photography after 5+ years of doing it on the side while I had a day job. I feel myself burning out & I fear for the days I have kids of my own how I will handle it all. So yeah… I definitely need to hire someone, outsource, create hours for myself… thanks for all the reminders! You’re such an inspiration!! xoxo! :)
Perfectly written, I could not agree more! I hope many people find this and heed your advice, friend!!
You are awesome!
I hope this reaches many aspiring photographers and makes them think long and hard. You are very wise my friend.
What a wonderfully inspiring read! Thank you Laurie for reminding me just how important it is that we take time out for the little things in life. <3
Great points! I hope I can continue to do this when/if I become established…
My name is Meggan Harrison and I’m an aspiring photographer. This post helped me a lot. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience.
I have little to no experience in photography. I have been self teaching and looking up many tutorials online. I’m looking for a photographer that is willing to help feed me some knowledge and possibly work with me. I love your work! It is exactly what I am wanting to go into. I was wondering if you do any mentoring? I know your a very busy women (from what you wrote in your blog) but even little tips and tricks would be helpful.
I have started a blog with some of my work, just to try to get my name out there. If there is any way you could give me some feedback that would be amazing! megharrisonphoto.blogspot.com
You are spot on regarding defining who you are in your business and what you shoot. Life Work Balance is crucial when running your own business, that’s why we do it in the first place. I have worked for some of the most prestigious photography studios and some of the large retail chains and you are so right about price point. The cheaper the price point the cheaper the client. I hope to get to the point on my own to have an assistant edit my photos and have someone else clean my toilets, but luckily I was blessed with marrying a husband who loves to cook and is really good at it. Thanks for sharing the tips and tricks of the trade, it helps to share.
I just wanted to say how much I loved reading your blog and site. I found your writing so honest and comforting. I am a wife, mother of two (under 2), and photography instructor. I have always gone back and fourth on ‘should I open a studio, etc.’ but I have so much in my life right now that I don’t think I could handle it. I recently read an article that was about ‘having it all, but not at the same time’, which was enlightening. Your words have inspired me greatly, and I just wanted to say ‘thank you’. I haven’t met many women professional photographers who I can relate to, and it is nice to know I am not the only one who outsources so I can ‘have it all’. :) Take care.
I loved reading this and seeing that I’m not the only photographer who feels this way about certain things… pricing, choosing your specialties and knowing you can’t take on everything :)
I admire your work tremendously and strive to be THAT good someday! Currently this is a budding hobby and I do some work on the side. I really love the look of your website and was wondering how is was built. What platform do you use? Thanks so much and continue the fabulous work.
Thanks so much for the lovely compliment Ilene. My website is a Showit site.
FANTASTIC! Thank you so much for this article. You totally get it. Now to set it to practice myself. Thanks again!
I loved this. I felt like you were speaking directly me, exactly the realization I needed. I’m currently looking for an affordable way to create a backdrop and ran across your site on Pinterest. I have to ask do you have a specific lens that you prefer for your portrait shots? I have a cannon and there are so many possibilities out there. Those crisp and clear baby eyes is exactly what I’m looking for. Of course I know that the quality of the picture doesn’t just come from the lens, you have a lot to do with it! Thanks so much and keep up the good work momma!
In studio I use a 50mm 1.4 and a 24-70 :)
i am a big fan of your work. I am a Louisville photographer specializing in senior portraits. I would like to find a good balance and don’t want to spend too much time on photoshop. Do you outsource post processing? What album company would you recommend? Thank you for inspiring me.
I do outsource my post processing and for albums I have several vendors I like, Asuka, WHCC, ProDPI…
I want to jump in the screen and kiss you! this totally spoke to me right now and wish I had it four years ago! hey new peeps she is not kidding when she says it takes your soul, I will sadly admit to missing almost 2 years of my kids life and it is not worth it, I am burnt out and having to restart it all and gain trust and confidence back from my family
hum so you dont waste time on FB or pint rest, you are perfect miss lol
Thanks sweetie for posting! It’s so true! You are a rockstar mommy n photog- luv ya! Cheers!
Are you willing to share what actions you do on your photos?
They are stunning ~
Thank you for sharing!
Most of my workflow I create myself Linda.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your work. I appreciate the naturalness of it; you don’t use a lot of glitzy backdrops, props, etc. You concentrate on the subject which is the most beautiful part of the photograph. I do have a question: do you use any lights at all in your studio? The catchlights are amazing! Is that all window light? For example the recent shoot of your daughter & niece when they are back-lit by the window, how are you getting those catchlights? Reflector or lights? Thank you for inspiring me!!! I admire your photography so much!
Wow, I realize I must let go of weddings after 13 years, and shift my focus back where I started: portraits. Full circle. I have 4 kids – they’re almost ready to leave the nest and I feel like I’ve wasted all my time on editing/clients/business. I’ve been digital since 2002…so much lost time. Sad.
Just want to say “Wow” Very inspiring.
Just stumbled upon your site and blog via pinterest and I have to say, your work is inspiring! I agree with the others, beautiful and honest blog post. Thank you for sharing your advice on this subject (I’m a photographer as well). Thank you!
Your work is great. I to came from a teaching background in History :) I would like to know how do you get your clients? I am trying to start a photography as a side buisness but dont know how to advertise myself? I have tried posting ads on craigslist and also handing my cards out but to no calls back. Most mother to be or mothers that I come across just want there pictures taken at PICTURE PEOPLE at the mall. How can i generate a buzz for my hobby/business? Also how much will it be if i can be mentored by you via skye or face time?
When I started out I practiced a ton on friends and family for free. Once I had a very strong portfolio and got legal to start accepting money for my services I networked a lot with local businesses and worked a lot on my online presence. If the work is strong clients will pay for it.
I found out about you on pintrest and I have been going through your pictures since yesterday….THEY R FAB! I loved photography but I only realized that I have a passion for maternity and newborn when I had my first baby 4months ago. I cant stop looking for moments and taking all sorts of pictures. Luckily my husband owns a studio, so I will take your advice on outsourcing. How much would you charge for mentoring me in terms of taking better shots. as you said no one knows everything.
PS. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, bless you because there are very few generous people like you. Thanks again.
Hi there, thank you for the compliments. Unfortunately I do not have room in my schedule right now to offer mentoring.
Best post ever! I don’t have the kiddos, but I do have two kitties, the handsome husband, watch trashy TV with him and enjoy that glass of wine. Sending hugs to you from the IE! xoxo
Hello, your work is amazing. i strive to make photos like you. I dont know if you are willing to answer these questions but, where do you print from and who do you hire to make your albums. Thanks so much, i am having trouble finding a place.
My favorite lab is ProDPI, though I do use WHCC, McKenna, Asuka, Simply Color, and a few other vendors for various products.
Laura, I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed “The Art of Balancing Business and Life.” I have always been a hobbyist and just recently decided to dive head first. I stumbled across your site, I have no idea how I got here, but I am so grateful I did. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Thanks for your advice, Laurie. This was just what I needed to read today. Thank you for inspiring me!
You took thoughts right out of my head and wrote them beautifully! I think this post is so full of wisdom.
That is like one of my favorite quotes of all time. LOVE John Cusack. Total side note..but totally agree…I am cutting down on what I agree to shoot and trying to shoot only things I want to shoot. My family means much more to me than all of this. I LOVE photography, but 10 years down the road I don’t want to regret not spending that time with my loved ones.
I am not familiar with your work but came across this on a facebook link. Say Anything is one of my all-time favorite movies and I agree with everything you had to say except the part about if you want an easy overnight job you should become a yoga instructor or sell Tupperware? What makes you think being a yoga instructor is an easy mommy job? As an accomplished hobbyist in both photography and yoga, I quite think that the yoga instructor might be the more difficult route to the easy overnight mommy job. I don’t know much about Tupperware, but that can’t be easy either. Just saying.
Hi there, sorry no offense was intended. I just picked another popular mommy job, it wasn’t about yoga or tupperware specifically. I’ll consider revising it, though my sneaking suspicion is that if I’d said barista or Skinny wraps salesperson I’d be hearing from them too. It was an off the cuff remark and not intended to demean yoga, I love yoga! and… tupperware :)
Loved reading this Laurie. We need more voices like yours in this industry. No sugar coating the hard work that it takes, no promises of stardom (that only happens for a very fortunate .5 percent). Just a healthy dose of reality wrapped in love and care. Encouraging people to pursue this craft because they love it. Thank you!
You hit the nail on the head. I’m reading this at 10pm, while my husband is in bed watching reality TV, laughing, and dishes are piled high in the sink. What am I doing? Waiting for the photos I just edited to upload for my clients to view their online gallery and I’m killing time. I AM doing too much. I work FT, am a mommy to a wonderful little boy who will be 4 on Saturday, and OMG a wife too, I think. I don’t know. I’m always here editing while he’s always there enjoying life. I feel guilty. I just wanted to share that you are forcing me to take a step back and prioritize. I need this. THanks!
Love your work! I am also a full time mother to four busy kiddos. I love everything you wrote here. SO TRUE!!! I’m in the process of building a natural night studio (YAY!) & am wondering where you purchase your natural backdrops/paper. I love the clean look of your photos….totally my style.
I order most of my seamless from B and H.
[…] Well I guess this will be more like words of wisdoms. I have found a resources that have stuck with me every time I am feel down about my photography. Here is a photographer who takes very beautiful pictures of newborns, kids, and families. She took time to write to other photographers (I am guessing that she was getting bombarded with emails). As a beginner I just love how blunt and honest she is in this post. http://lauriesachs.wpengine.com/for-photographers […]
[…] Laurie Sachs […]
Thank you Laurie for writing this honest advise for Photographers, as an adult student photography ( mother of 3, serial expat that couldn’t do HR in the 5 countries we lived in over the past 12 yrs) it is great to hear your point of view on making sure you balance it all. So true and so easy to forget.
One of our lecturers said there are great portraitists that nobody knows and mediocre portraitists that are well known because of who they shoot, celebrities etc. And of course there are great photographers shooting stars. For me you are the latter, to make families shine, children glow and babies look as incredibly miraculous as they are, that is an amazing skill. Kindest Regards from South Africa
Thank you so much for your lovely words!
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