Over the last few years, I’ve watched photography businesses come and go. I’ve seen some incredible photographers take things to entirely new, amazing levels and blown me away at their business prowess and talents … and I’ve seen some incredible photographers end up quitting, hating life, and closing up shop.
The number one reason most photographers have ended up closing their businesses? They lost the passion.
Passion drives everything we do; it is the absolute cornerstone of our business.
- Passion for education: investing in business, marketing and other related fields to further our business. Tackling on new techniques (like when we pretty much self-taught ourselves how to use off camera flash, for better reception photos), watching webinars, reading articles, even watching how-to videos on YouTube or tuning into Facebook Live. Every week we’re passionate about education, one way or another.
- Passion for being our own boss. Look, being in business for yourself is HARD WORK. I work harder for myself than I ever did working for another company … and it brings me such joy. Unimaginable, unadulterated joy.
- Passion for charging what we’re worth, but being flexible in our market. Notice that it’s a two part sentence! You can’t charge LA prices in a small town where the median home sale price is the annual income of someone in Los Angeles. It’s just not feasible - even if people can afford it, you’re less likely to get bookings if someone has to go into debt for some photos. Let’s have an honest moment with ourselves about that thought!
I could probably crank out another 10-15 reasons where passion is our motivating force between decisions we make … and it’s the number one reason we likely won’t ever, ever open an associate photographer program.
I’ve seen some big name celebrities in our photography world hire on associate photographers, and it’s been wildly successful for them. And I give them kudos for running their businesses that way.
But to us? It’s just not our jam, and here’s why:
It’s the passion of being friends with our clients that won’t allow us to ever feel good about an associate photographer program.
If a couple is on a lower budget and wants us to shoot their wedding, they have three choices:
- Find wiggle room in their budget for photography for full day, two-photographer coverage.
- Have only one of us there or have us for less amount of hours.
- Hire someone else.
No matter if they have one photographer or two, we’re going to give them an incredible experience. They’re going to be welcomed into our #RADweddings family with open arms, they’ll be welcomed into our private community of couples going back the last 7 years, they’ll meet our kids and our dogs, they’ll receive the same attention and they will always, always be on our Christmas card list. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
With an associate photographer program - at least the ones I have seen … it feels like a bait and switch tactic to make a quick buck. Sure! You get the _____ name, but you don’t actually get to work with _____. I actually had this happen to me a few years ago, when I hired someone to take photos for me for a personal project. I thought I was going to get the name brand I paid damn good money for, and I didn’t; I got an associate and didn’t even get to meet or talk to the brand name (not unless I wanted to spend a boat load more than I anticipated). Granted, my pictures were beautiful and I had a good time - but the experience of the bait-and-switch left a bitter taste in my mouth.
An Associate Photographer Program would work
well for you IF and ONLY IF:
- If the foundation of someone’s business is not providing a personal, intimate experience (basically just showing up and shooting), that’s great - an associate program would work well for them.
- If being a wedding corporation is where someone wants to take their business, that’s great - an associate program would work well for them.
- If you’re more interested in being a business owner than an artist, that’s also great - an associate program would work well for them.
- If you’re absolutely up front with couples that they don’t get the face of the business when hiring the company, that’s great - an associate program would work well for them.
And these types of businesses have a demand in our career field - there are some couples who simply don’t care who photographs their wedding, they just want pictures. There are some couples who don’t want to know anything about their photographer, they just want photos from their wedding day. There are some couples who don’t want or need the kind of experience we provide - and that’s totally fine.
But as someone who gets highly invested into the friendships we build with our couples and clients - I can’t bring myself to even consider an associate photographer program.
So what do we offer, instead of an associate photographer program?
- Flexible pricing: we have pricing across the board and different options to meet most budgets.
- Payment plans: simple, easy to use online payment plans with no interest, no fees and no stress.
- Trusted referrals: if we simply aren’t able to make the stars align, we have a network of trusted photographers across the country who we can refer couples to. We don’t get kick backs or referral bonuses - it’s more important to us that couples have the experience they want for their wedding day, with the perfect photographer for them.
And that, my friends, is how the cookie crumbles! 😉