Why I Started PhotoMint

Why I Started PhotomintAfter yesterday’s twittersphere blowup I decided today would be a good day to reflect on and share why I started PhotoMint. I never really intended to share this with you, because I prefer to be a positive person and not get caught up in negativity. But I feel compelled to share.

I’ve been a wedding photographer for 10 years. I don’t know everything about wedding photography and I probably never will-but I do know a lot of things that can be helpful to people just starting out. My passion is business and marketing. I have always loved that side of the business, more than the photography.

I found that this passion and excitement for business and marketing within the world of photography was quite uncommon. Most photographers are artists first and foremost, and they spend years struggling with the business side of things. Slowly, over time, I realized I could help people with that side of their business. In fact, it hurts not to. It hurts me to see young, passionate people blindly pursuing a hobby as a business with no business skills whatsoever.

I was actually resistant to the idea of teaching and educating about photography business for a long time.

I have concerns about the viability of our industry and the direction it is going in. I also happen to be in the minority opinion that passion alone does not pay the bills.

But I was also more and more concerned about the type of advice and leadership I saw out there from so called “educators” who were on stage talking about “how awesome it is to make $10,000 per wedding and you could do it too if you just believe in yourself!!!!”

I saw more and more incidents of hyped up workshops taught by photographers in business a year or so, ready to share all their “Insider tips for making it big” with the world for $1,500 a pop. What were they going to teach???? Did they really feel qualified to lead others at this point in their career? I’m not sure what their motivation was, but it seems that the photography industry itself has taken a nasty turn towards Kardashian-like celebrity, and that in some ways our industry supports the idea that being a famous photographer is the goal itself.

When you first start out in wedding photography, you may have a lot of mis-conceptions about the earning power of a wedding photographer. With so many people on stage at WPPI in their Louboutins and Versace jeans sharing with hundreds or thousands about their success in just a few years (or one year!) and having a party/workshop in their penthouse suite it is easy to get false impressions. And when those people on stage are telling you that “You are Amazing!!!” it is easy to believe that all you have to do is slap together a website, start charging $10,000 per wedding and you will soon be on your way to wealth and riches, following your passion and living a glamorous lifestyle.
I have seen it so many times. In fact, I fell for it myself. I remember being in a workshop at WPPI being taught by the rockstar photographer of the moment that everyone said was so inspiring. He shared about his amazing success and how he was able to keep raising his prices to $10,000 per wedding and was now charging even more than that. He highlighted the glamour and made it look easy. I never thought to ask how many weddings he actually, regularly shoots at that rate. I was too impressed. I assumed he meant he got that for every wedding and probably shot 30-40 weddings at that rate. I should have asked.
I remember sitting there actually thinking-“OK, so $10,000 times 30 weddings- this sounds like an awesome career, I’m in!!!”

Of course, as I got older and wiser in this industry, I began to realize there was a lot of B.S. being shared. False information, inflated facts and figures. Nowadays, I recognize them all the time. When you have 10 years perspective as a high end photographer, you know what’s real and what’s fake.

I remember years back reading this magazine article in Rangefinder or Professional Photographer featuring a destination photographer I know. In the interview, he said his destination fees began at $20,000 per wedding. I was infuriated to see that in print when I knew it was an outright lie. Those that knew him knew he was approaching local industry pros getting married in exotic locations and offering to shoot their weddings free. Just to build his portfolio. Which is fine-if he loves to travel the world and live frugally, then more power to him. But to flat out lie and claim that every wedding he was charging $20,000 was gross negligence. It absolutely disgusted me. I wondered how many people reading that article would be inspired to quit their day jobs and “follow their dreams” right into bankruptcy. It’s like lemmings going over a cliff; they don’t know what’s coming, they just blindly follow.

It’s really sad and deeply disturbing to see how prevalent this trend is in our industry. Even vendors such as print labs and album makers happily jump on board to sponsor a newbie photographer’s workshop on their “amazing success.” Newbie photographers thought that someone was vetted because an industry leader backed them. Makes sense, right? I can imagine the heartbreak and disgust of wasting your entire years’ worth of educational budget on a total crock of sh*t from someone who’s only real goal is to “get famous” and get on the speaking circuit as soon as possible.

Advice such as “you can make it happen!!!!” and just “go for your dreams” without a solid understanding of what you are doing is irresponsible. But the truth is, that’s what gets people clapping. That’s what people want to hear. Do you see the accounting classes at PPA filled with thousands of eager young photographers? No, they’d rather get inspired by how “Amazing!!!!” they can be, and how next year, they too could be rolling up to WPPI in a limo, staying in a suite and “rocking it” on stage with their new found success. So in that respect, it’s kind of a catch twenty-two.

What people don’t seem to understand is that what you earn as a photographer is not what your studio earns or grosses. If your studio earns $100,000 you are lucky if 35% of that goes into your pocket. This is the truth. It’s not glamorous, and it doesn’t afford you Versace jeans, limos to the hotel and a penthouse suite. But you can put it on your credit card, along with all the other expenses of running a business.

It’s not very sexy to say you earn $35,000, so instead, people twist the truth and say they earned 6 figures-in their first year, wow! It’s so amazing! And here’s my course/workshop/guide to how you can do it too! They hype it up. Because honestly, would you be as interested in the $900 workshop taught by the guy/gal who wants to share their secrets for earning $35,000 a year and works 60-80 hours a week to do it? Not so much.

After hearing these workshop disasters more and more, I realized that I could do something. I could make a stand for real business education. It was time to put up or shut up. So I started PhotoMint. At first I was skeptical that anyone wanted real business advice. Business advice is not very sexy and it certainly isn’t glamorous. I’m personally not a fan of the “follow your passion and it will happen because YOU are amazing!!” type of cheerleading. I think that’s false and misleading. “Yes, follow your passion, but let’s figure out how you can feed your family while doing so” is more my motto. Would anyone care to read what I had to say if it wasn’t hyped up and full of false hope, excitement and cheerleading?

I thought long and hard about the type of advice I would be sharing on PhotoMint. By putting myself out there as a leader and an educator, I feel a tremendous responsibility to give honest and real advice about the highs and lows of being a professional photographer. This industry is not for everyone. I believe that if someone is properly educated they can make a decision for themselves if it is right for them.

To me, that means having an understanding of the financial possibilities and realities as well as the deeper purpose and fulfillment that comes from doing something you love.

I don’t believe in the “all you need is love” mentality. I believe that being a professional photographer is typically hard work and long hours for minimal pay. So yeah, you better love it. But learn how to run a solid business, learn marketing skills, learn how to sell and earn a profit. That way you can do what you love AND earn a living, even if it is a modest one.

I have been incredibly surprised by the tremendously positive response from PhotoMint-started just over six months ago. I am delighted and encouraged that people are interested to receive hype-free advice and education about how to build a solid business based on smart business and marketing.

One thing I promise you is that I will never exaggerate or inflate numbers. I believe in honesty, openness and sharing, and I’m proud of what I have accomplished without inflating the truth. I believe that people need to hear the good and the bad about working in a field so they can decide for themselves if it is right.

So what are the future plans for PhotoMint? To continue providing quality education and rock-solid advice for photographers about running a business. Much of that advice will be shared freely on the blog; some of it will be available for a fee such as ebooks and webinars that go deeper into a subject.

I started PhotoMint because I felt a responsibility and a calling to provide solid, hype-free education for photographers who want to pursue their passion AND earn a living at the same time.

The goal of PhotoMint is to educate photographers about how to run their businesses. That is the reason I started PhotoMint, and that is what I will continue to do. Here are the promises I make to you, today:

1. I promise to never lie to you.
2. I promise not to lead you astray with hyped up claims and exaggerations of success.
3. I promise to provide honest feedback and gentle guidance, even if it isn’t what you want to hear.
4. I promise to act responsibility as a leader and to take your trust seriously.

So, if your goal is to become one of these so called rockstar photographers or to get rich quick, then PhotoMint is not for you. But if your goal is to turn your passion for photography into a viable long term business, or to improve your existing business, then you’re in the right place. I can’t promise you success, but chances are, if you consistently work at improving your business, applying my advice when appropriate to your business, you will see consistent improvement, and in a matter of months and years (sorry, not hours or days), you will wake up one day to a business you can be proud of, that feeds your family consistently and maybe even gives you a vacation or two.

Are you with me?


Facebook comments:

{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

Dewan Demmer November 27, 2012 at 7:11 am

Hard work and not a lot of play, its very true. So many sites and voices seem to work on the hype, but a growing number of people are standing up and telling it the way it is, plain and simple. There is no get rich quick scheme as a photographer, I do not think there is even a get rich scheme, there is one if you have your head screwed on right and work hard.

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Nathan Petty September 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Thanks for making an attempt at de-mystifying the wedding photography industry. It is a lot of long hours and a lot of work. But it does have it’s upsides.

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Chris Aram May 30, 2012 at 5:55 am

I’ve stumbled across your website before but I can’t believe I missed this – I’ll be coming back a lot more. Thanks for taking the time to share, the industry needs more voices like yours. 🙂

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Lara White May 30, 2012 at 7:59 am

welcome Chris!

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rob dodsworth November 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm

As someone who has been on a course of training I can relate to much of this. I never believed the sales spiel that I’d be giving up my other job by “this time next year” but the course I did had a good business focus and helped develop my technical skills. I think that celebrity culture has had an impact upon the industry that sees many people come into it hoping to earn mega-bucks and quickly. I for one expect to have to work incredibly hard and potentially at two jobs for a good time to come. But my passion for the “art” of photography and signing up to this blog to help with the “business” side of things should go someway to helping me realising my dream!

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rob dodsworth November 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm

As someone who has been on a course of training I can relate to much of this. I never believed the sales spiel that I’d be giving up my other job by “this time next year” but the course I did had a good business focus and helped develop my technical skills. I think that celebrity culture has had an impact upon the industry that sees many people come into it hoping to earn mega-bucks and quickly. I for one expect to have to work incredibly hard and potentially at two jobs for a good time to come. But my passion for the “art” of photography and signing up to this blog to help with the “business” side of things should go someway to helping me realising my dream!

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Jason April 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm

To be honest, this is the first email of yours I have opened. And I agree with most of what you said. But there is no question that while many will read and comment on this blog- others will be calling prospects and booking shoots.

You CAN accomplish anything you want to, but very few people rarely do. It’s not the fault of the speaker- it is the fault of the photographer buying what he is selling.

When I started my photography business I made great money my first year. But that is because while others were signing leases and building studios – I was booking gigs and getting paid. I paid my dues charging very little and building a portfolio- but then I booke paying jobs and operated out of my home with nearly zero overhead.

Will many do what I did? Probably not. I had a full time job as a pilot – flying around the country. And it was very hard to get my ass out of bed on my days off and do shoots for 150-2500 bucks. Yes even the 2500 dollar ones were a pain because I knew I would be on my feet for 12 or more hours right after flying. But when I deposited those checks it felt great. My friend, who was shooting longer than me – kept calling in with excuses – but the truth was she was scared. Afraid to work a wedding she kept her 9 dollar an hour job doing portaits in a mall. She’s really good – but shhh don’t tell her!!! She won’t believe you anyway.

I just had surgery so I have time for this nonsense. You CAN do anything you want to. And by want to, I mean the effort part as well, not just the dreaming part. And many photographers dream a lot, but don’t actually want it. Prove me wrong folks. Prove me wrong 😉

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Lara White April 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm

You know Jason, you have a lot of perspective and insight on this. You’ve got experience in other fields, and can quickly see what’s worthwhile and what’s not, in terms of both your time and your investments. I think many new photographers are at a disadvantage of not having that perspective, and that’s what leads to trouble. I feel exactly the way you do in terms of what kind of money is worthwhile to get me out of bed and give up a Saturday with my family, a birthday, a holiday. And that will impact the way you perform as well, so it is important to feel that you are being fairly compensated, respected, valued. There are no easy answers on this one. My approach is going to be to try to provide more real numbers and education around salary versus studio earnings, as there seems to be a real need for that. This can be a very rewarding profession, but you need to understand the financial side. The industry has been supporting some false ideas for a number of years about the potential wealth available and it’s just not true. $100,000 in bookings does not equal $100,000 in your pocket.

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Rey April 5, 2012 at 7:41 am

Reading at you and looking into what´s happening in Cuba this days put me in perspective, as in here there is an increasing number of private photography schools, with earlier photographers with a respect within the society, they started looking at the attractive ways to get audience.

Two years ago a training course was almost cheap, please remember Cuba economical conditions, so a lot of people are waiting to quit their current job and get into photography. Now the trend is increasing the prices of teaching and even more expensive photowalks or excursions.

There is also a strong minimal sector who earns a lot with photography an they turn their passion into an industry. Finding your blog and understanding the truth by your words and advice means truly a significant difference, so from Cuba I want to thank you for it.

Best

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Lara White April 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

thank you Rey, your words are appreciated.

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donna April 5, 2012 at 4:39 am

Hi Lara,

After all of this and a post about how mentors couldn’t be found, a few other professionals and I started a facebook group where new/experienced photographers can work together. So far, I’m so pleased!!! It’s a very positive environment and any negativity is scolded. It gives new photographers a place to ask questions without getting turned away. If anyone is interested, the group name is Photographic Mentoring. Hope to see everyone there.

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Ian Vickery April 5, 2012 at 4:22 am

Well done Lara – this topic has been a bug bear on this side of the Atlantic for a while – yes, there are some very good teachers around – but, only some. In fact I would go so far as to say less than ten. The rest are after a quick return and are very disrespectful to newbies and older hands pursuing a little more knowledge. Remember you are not alone voicing these concerns.

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Erika Szostak April 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Thank you for putting words to something I suspected fairly quickly into my first year in business, and which was then cemented when I heard a photographer to whom I really looked up discussing their next workshop make a disparaging remark about how all the money was to be made from “mums with cameras”. This in addition to another photographer modeling herself after a “you’re amazing” rockstar photographer couple charging huge fees to teach workshops when she had absolutely no idea what she was doing – openly shooting only on auto because she didn’t know how to use the other settings on her camera in addition to not even knowing how to change the ISO on her camera.

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Debbie Schwab March 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I love your thoughts and where your heart is. As somewhat of a newbie who has has tried and is tired of pushing through all the muck out there I’m comforted by the possibility that someone might actually want to help me be a better business person. I’ve wasted so much money on hype and crap (especially in the first couple years) and find myself somewhat jaded now. I almost don’t want to hear any photographer speak on “photography” again. Thanks for providing a safe place. And good luck to you in your endeavors:)

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Lara White March 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

There are so many great teachers out there, so don’t give up hope! I think it’s really more a matter of really understanding if the subject matter/teacher is a good fit for you. And look for feedback/ask for recommendations.

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Olga Rook |Rotterdam portrait photographer March 26, 2012 at 5:00 am

Thank you for this post, Lara!
Photography has become the most popular hobby nowadays, so it is no wonder there emerged a whole new industry selling “dreams” to newbe and less experienced photographers. It is important that there is enough sound advice in the photographers community to oppose poor “business” practices. On the one side of the spectrum there are these unrealistic rockstar expectiations and on the other side it is giving one’s work away for free. Both are, in fact, no “business” ways.

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Lara White March 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

Olga, you are so right about that. The ultimate problem with this rockstar syndrome selling pipe dreams and fantasies about this industry is that it is causing a flodd of newbies joining the ranks because they want to “make it big” but the reality is that even most of the so called rock stars are not making it big. Living comfortably perhaps, but making it big on wedding photography? not likely.

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Harrogate Wedding Photographer Chris Turner March 26, 2012 at 1:48 am

Awesome post, and very true. It is rather disturbing to see the amount of people/photographers running workshops with a year or two’s experience behind them.

Consider me subscribed to your website!! 😀

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Andy Marcus March 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I just want to compliment you on a great piece. Your words are the truth. Unfortunately many new photographers are caught up in these seminars promising instant success and only wind up disappointed and a little poorer. It’s amazing the number of photographers that claim to be super successful are on multi-month tours. Don’t these students of photography do their homework before giving their hard earned money away?

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Lara White March 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

You know, I think that students are at a disadvantage in figuring out what’s what. When you go to an industry conference, there is an assumed level of trust in the people selected to be on stage as teachers, and/or when teachers have trusted industry sources as their sponsors. Years ago I was on the phone with Ann Monteith (president of PPA at the time) and she was congratulating us on reaching the top percentage of home studio performers. But I was upset at the time to learn that we had “peaked” financially so to speak. That was the point where I began to realize the level of exaggeration and inflating that was going on within the industry. Although, it seems very much like the old school of educators (Monte, Ann Monteith, the Waldens, etc.) there didn’t seem to be this same problem going on. Do you agree with that?

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mark omohundro March 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm

This is a great post and it’s clear that many of your followers agree with me. I just want to say that I really enjoy what you write because it’s authentic and practical for more than just wedding photography. I have found myself practicing many of the fundamentals you talk about in my design & t-shirt printing business.

Keep writing and keep being real with your posts. It’s really great!

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Jason Cowell March 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Lara, on behalf of the people who are following a dream….I thank you! I never wanted to be famous when it came to photography, I just wanted to be able to provide the best services to my clients that create repeat business and increase word of mouth. While I have yet to do a full-on wedding shoot, I can see why the promise of untold wealth can be quite alluring. I haven’t fallen prey to these “scam artists” but thanks to folks like yourself who “keep it real”, I never will. You have a huge fan right here and I look forward to your guidance on the business aspect of photography. In the meantime, I’m going to continue honing my skills and with the belief that hard work, sound business counsel and passion, I’ll be able to say….”It was all worth it!”. God bless you Lara! Thanks!!

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Andy John March 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Very well said! Which I made it a point not to mince words on my
FB page. Ive been doing this for over 20 years and Im still here.
I have made plenty of friends via WPPI, Partner Con ect.
I watched them drink the kolaide and sink. Now allot of them are
Not even shooting and running of to the next money making scheme after
being screwed and going broke. This ego BS needs to stop.
Very well said!

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Ann DeRosa March 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Love your honesty! Thank you

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Lisa R. March 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Thanks so much for writing this – it’s refreshing to read/hear someone who’s keeping it real!

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Yusuf Gunawan March 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Lara,
I am with you. I have been following you for 4 months now. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

Photography business is not for everyone. It needs dedication and dedication to what you love to do.

Keep up the great works you are doing!

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carlos March 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm

What’s this? A voice of reason among the tumultuous adulation of the throngs following the celebrity photographers (not photographers who photograph celebrities, but photographers who want to be celebrities)?

Thanks for steppin’ up to the plate.

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Elaine Bylos March 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I both value and appreciate your honesty and passion Lara. Focus on what you love doing and those that resonate with your message will hear it loud and clear. The rest will continue to be famous in their own minds… c’est la vie.

Elaine

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Bobbee Broderick March 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

Lara, Lara, Lara
Why do you listen to others. I have found that in my 57 years on this planet that if someone has something important and worth while to share you have to have a big hammer and crowbar to get it out of them. What was the saying, “beware of strangers bearing gifts'” If you listen to the “Sunscreen Song”, reflect on his line about advice. I have been in sessions with you and read your posts, rants today, I love your mesage and your delivery. Keep it up, As for all the other self proclaimed Moses’ out there. Let them get lost in the desert for 800 years like we all have and then come back and give us some advice after some down to earth experience. (Bobbee)

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Libby March 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm

“beware of strangers bearing gifts’”

Very true. Some ambitious photogs hungry for popularity who don’t figure out the game early on are going to “overshare” themselves right into bankruptcy and then say “WTF just happened?” The others have a different agenda and it isn’t teaching you about photography or business. The agenda is sucking cash out of you.

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Lisa Russo March 24, 2012 at 11:27 am

I had a thought about this whole issue today – while cleaning the bathroom (irony not unnoticed) 😉

People are commenting about how DJ is hurting the wedding industry, etc. But that’s not his concern because that isn’t HIS industry. His industry is photographers – selling to them. Those are his clients.

And what if you start to run out of clients? You drum up more clients. And how do you create more photographer clients? By telling them it’s easy and glamorous. Do that, create more, sell them a bunch of stuff (sites, webinars, seminars, etc.) and by the time they realize it isn’t ‘easy’ or ‘glamorous,’ it’s too late because their money’s already in his pocket.

You have to admit that he knows his business…and he does it very well. That business just isn’t photography.

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Podge Kelly March 24, 2012 at 10:34 am

Thank you…Podge…

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Stephanie/AKA Photography March 24, 2012 at 8:51 am

I wonder if all these “superstar” photographers are finding it hard to make ends meet with only photography and have discovered a possibly lucrative sideline of selling the dream to all the unsuspecting hopefuls. On the outside photography appears to be very glamorous but as many of you know the reality is quite different. I have co-owned a commercial photography business with my partner for 10 years and we are just now seeing a little more money coming in than just getting by. I have no regrets and love what we do but it is hard going and demands lots of perseverance. Thank you for bringing a little reality to the pipe dream….

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Lara White March 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

you know Stephanie, I think the phenomenon is more about people who actually want to be famous, they crave a spotlight, so that’s kind of their goal all along. I can think of someone who was absolutely desperate to be on stage at wppi-he regularly said it was his dream. And he worked for that dream, meeting the right people and promoting himself left and right-it was all he wanted. he inflated his career, exaggerating highlights, and just doing and saying things in order to reach that goal.

And I think people see someone like Jasmine, and they are inspired to “be like her” instead of inspired to be a photographer, you know? They are seeing the fame and the lights and the adoration, and they want that for themselves.

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Larry Mofield March 24, 2012 at 6:45 am

I have been saying this fo
r years.The sad thing is because so many people have bought into these articles in our industry leading magazines and supported by PPA and WPPI seminars that our industry is overrun by get rich ametures. You think that if it is supported by our industry then it has to be true.
The stuff some people wear to a shoot or wedding surprises the
rises the day lights out if me. I mean you nailed it girl right on the head

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Paul Cornish March 24, 2012 at 3:51 am

Hey,

I do run a relatively successful wedding photography business, it’s my full time occupation and it’s crazy how many people think they can do it too. What bugs me is the people who don’t charge a reasonable rate for the service, then provide less that a good product and bring the industry down. It’s refreshing when someone says that the industry is tough but you need to be good. Just for once, let’s make it our aim to bring GOOD photographers in and improve the quality of our industry, not just our own businesses.

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Libby March 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Yeah there’s more snake oil out there than water in the Pacific and a lot are very eager to jump om that bandwagon. And frankly it’s getting pretty sickening. On my Google + there is one guy in there who I call “the Head”. Every time I look in (om it’s only twice a week) there’s his head pitching his latest and greatest. And there is another guy I used to respect who every day slams you with the latest filter, action, app, promo code, referral link, blah blah blah. The noise is deafening. I’ve come to realize he’s got a few good photos which he keeps recycling, that his work in general sucks, and now I just look at the blog post itles to see what kind of black magic he’s pitching on the particular day. He no longer has an original thought in his head. It’s too bad that it’s come down to this. I’m waiting for a Paypal Donate button to appear on the site.

Weddings are a tough gig. I stopped doing them in 2005 when I got elbowed by a gigantic woman with her point & shoot who battled me for the cake eating shot. I suffered two fractured ribs. The action was deliberate and I would have like to have punched that cow right on the spot. The guests, brides, and MOBs had become crass and rude, and I simply didn’t want anything to do them with them any more. Went back to shooting all commercial and lately have been doing more personal work because I manage my time much better than before. Couldn’t be happier.

Thing is, I still like wedding work, but will only do second shoot duty for a few friends in the biz and will do the occasional small party if the bride is over 50. I can’t take the trauma and drama anymore.

Twitterdom – well I don’t know what went on there but take it with a grain of salt. Those with a brain have better things to do than rant all day on there about bullshit.

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Tanja March 23, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Thank you for this post! We only started our business 1 month ago (so far just doing couple shoots) and we have to start from scratch, but we would never start taking pictures of weddings without enough experience and knowledge. (I consider this to be a huge responsibility)
Neither would we just stop our jobs and take a ridiculous risk.
We dream of slowly growing together and following our dream, guided by fantastic advise of people like you. 🙂

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Tom March 23, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Lara,

I applaud your honesty and courage to stand on what you believe. I am grateful that you have devoted your time and talent to PhotoMint and truly appreciate your principled stand. I have learned from you in many ways, and will continue to support your efforts by being a loyal customer of your informative publications.

Thank you.

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Nic Skerten March 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Lara – good on you for telling it how it really is.

I think over here in the UK we don’t get so much of the “follow your dreams” and “you can be what you want to be” in the workshops – it’s our British reserve. But there are one hell of a lot of “celebrity photographers” who “love shooting weddings” but can’t wait to start running workshops and stop shooting weddings!

I think that a lot of the influx of would-be wedding photographers into the market with neither the technical or people skills (let alone business skills) is down to this constant stream of workshops aimed at the would-be/newbie end of the profession. Over here we call it “blowing smoke up people’s a***s”.

There are probably only a handful of top pros in the UK that I would now consider going on a workshop with – constant learning is critical in our business to succeed but there is so much dross out there workshop-wise, that it’s too easy to get misled and end up doing one that is an absolute waste of time. I’ve done it myself in the past.

Keep up the good work.

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Ian C Ware March 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Outstanding!! I know there are many out there just as you Laura who stand on true values and honestly educating the newcomers. Here is a free tip for any newcomer. This photo business is H-A-R-D work. You have to love it. Either love the business side, or have a passion for creating stunning images, and let someone else guide you through the business. I have been a photographer since 87. Not full time sadly, but my business has gone through multiple incarnations. Each one building on the hardest $@&& lessons. You rarely learn from success, but failure … that’s an education.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 8:26 pm

absolutely right Ian, it is hard work indeed.

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Jocelyn March 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Thank you kindly for your honesty and passion! Your post was much appreciated. I absolutely love your site and I greatly value your expertise and knowledge. I look forward to future PhotoMint education!

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Cynthi March 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Thank you so much for your honesty!
I just recently found your website and have been loving all your great articles! I’m in my second year of my photography business, and I made a promise to myself and my husband that I would NOT go into debt for this business. Of course I want all the latest cameras, lenses, bags, the list goes on and on. I’m lucky enough to be supported by my husband so I don’t feel the need to be an overnight success. If it takes several years to get the equipment and client base, that’s okay because I’ll be continuing to learn and grow in the art as well. And as I feel comfortable enough with my skill, I will raise my prices accordingly.
I don’t make three figures and I’ll probably never be famous, but I LOVE what I do and I’m proud of my business.
I love your site, keep the good stuff comin’!

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Brooke March 23, 2012 at 6:13 pm

It’s funny that all of this is happening right now – I’ve received several emails in the past couple of weeks of people who want to “get into photography” and they want to know “what’s the secret.” I haven’t responded, because I don’t think they will like my answer. The truth is, yes, you CAN do whatever you want if you believe in yourself… AND WORK YOUR ASS OFF. That’s the secret people – as it is with ANYTHING else. People forget to mention that. 😉

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John Snowden March 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Having read your words I do like what you say, realism is always bad news to some, but great news to the masses. I have been a photographer for over 35 years now, and in the 70s/80 attended many weddings, those days compaired were hard work and on doing a wedding mid 80 for a friend we working with three cameras 2 35mm 1 med format the grooms father handed me a cine camera with sound just before the ceromony and asked if I could film it, that was my last wedding. Until 3 years ago I got remarried and needed a wedding photographer I was not going to ask friends in the game so I went out to employ someone, the costs went from £600 to just under £2000 we plumped for £900 and the pics were OK. As I have my own studio I reviewed weddings after the long break and decided that I would embark on that road again, Portrait and other work was ticking over so started my advertising capaign. I have done and do have a few weddings under my new belt, but I must say in the 21st century it is a difficult business to get rolling, 2012 has currently 9 weddings booked but that is mainly from W.O.M. but what has helped is the fresh approach from Photomint, and me being an ex sales mananger and operations director having those skills Lara talks about. Things are difficult but if you love your trade and produce the satisfactory goods your business will build, not as quick as they would have done years ago, but there is still room for quality and sound business accumen in this trade. Am I a Professional Photographer, No I am a Photographer.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm

thanks for sharing your story John. My dad was a wedding photographer in the 70’s, I remember all these photos of strangers in our living room growing up.

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Kat March 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Oh thank goodness – finally somebody who tells it like it is. I was so utterly disgusted by the so-called rock star photographers sharing their “how to make 6 figures in your 2nd year” at the conventions while at the same time peddling their workshops, lights, posing cards and what not. It’s bunch of fluff and bs.

Between that and the bunch of fauxtographers building their business on “passion” while claiming “expensive photographers are a rip-off” our industry is going down the drain fast.

So rock on and keep it up!

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charles j. rametta March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

lara, i agree with you, when i started doing weddings about 1982 i went to a lot of wedding seminars and some photographers charged a lot more then i did for weddings but when i got back home to my small town i quickly reliazed that you could not charge those prices here people would just laugh at you, it seemed they had mostly upper income clients that could afford it, today photography is so competitive, even in my small town that most everybody is price shopping and it seems that the wedding photographers that are tops in there field teach more then doing photography, so it makes you wonder if they are making a lot of money doing weddings then why don’t they just do more. you hit a hot topic for much debate, thanks again for your comments.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I have always hated the assumption that your rates define your value-one has nothing to do with the other. Rates are a business decision based on many things, including what the market will bear. Yes, I can and do earn $10k on many weddings-but I have also missed holidays, birthdays and important family celebrations to do it. Nothing is without a price.

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Roy Robilliard March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Wow you got a big response to that. Very very well said. I’m only new to the industry, been in it a few years. I still have a part time day job, because in that proffession I can earn six figures. In wedding photography, I find it hard to really see a six figure profit ever being the case but I do it because I can make a difference for someone else and I enjoy the sense of pride I get from that.
Roy

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Susan Eckert March 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Thank you so much! Breath of fresh air!
There are so many who will backstap, trample and sabotage their peers just so that they can claim the fame. I just want to run a good business, deliver a meaningful service by creating an unforgettable experience, and yeah, take care of my family at the same time too.
So I’m willing to wait however long it takes to be comfortably THERE.
Nice to know there are angels in the wings like you.
: )
Susan

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm

thanks Susan-stay the course.

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Mark Emery March 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Yes! Thanks for this post Lara. Some good reading in the post and comments.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I’ve gotten a lot of emails today from people who have attended these types of workshops and just felt really ripped off and disappointed, and ashamed that they had bought into the hype. Hopefully we can start getting more real and honest. it might not make for as exciting an experience, but it will save people from financial ruin.

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Kim Hill March 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Great post! As a working pro for over 20 years and seeing the rise in these so-called rockstars, it is refreshing to hear some real honest business suggestions. I think too many newbie photographers are seeing the glamour and not realizing that only comprises 10% of a pros time. The other 90% is real work. Keep on posting Laura. This industry needs to hear it.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 4:50 pm

will do!

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Wendi Solari March 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I have to be completely honest. I’ve always been skeptical of photographers who seem to make a lot of their income by selling something. That makes me think they aren’t really “making it” as a photographer with their photography. I mentioned this to someone at WPPI this year and she replied, “everyone has a right to make money.” I agree that is true but it saddens me that there are photographers doing so by making empty promises, as you mentioned, to other photographers. It makes me skeptical of every professional photographer offering advice and it has really left me wondering who to trust and feeling like I have to chart the course on my own. I have had the worst year of my business and the crap that is going down (twitter debate) is just one more thing that has me a scratching my head and wondering, WTF? I’m not in a market, currently, that supports me charging $750+ for portrait sessions and $5000+ for basic wedding packages…no matter how AMAZING I may be as a person. ;). Anyway, I’m slightly discouraged at the state of things but I hope I/we/the community can come to its senses.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Wendi-there is a lot of truth to those concerns, and I honestly wish that someone had been honest enough to tell me the truth-I point blank asked people, “hey, I make 90K and I’m thinking of quitting my job so I can be full time in wedding photography” and no one had the guts to say, “well, listen, if that’s what you want, go for it, but here’s what you need to know…” I tell people all the time that if you leave a high paying job to go into photography, you can expect to earn half as much and work twice as many hours. So go into it with your eyes open, and that way you know what to expect. It’s a tough road, no doubt about it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t “make it” -but you are not going to “make it” to the point where you can afford limos, suites and $400 jeans and handbags. That’s simply not going to be. Can you be happy? Yes. Can you love what you do? Yes-without a doubt. Can you personally earn 6 figures? I’d say that’s unlikely-not impossible, but unrealistic, unless you are prepared to make major investments of time and money into the business, and keep doing it hard for several more years.

I do agree that everyone has a right to make money-but I don’t agree that they have a right to put themselves up in front of an audience as a leader, as an educator if they have nothing but a slideshow of their awesome work, some feel good statements and a 10 point list of how you too can living the rock star lifestyle. If someone wants to put out a blatantly obvious sales pitch hardcore pushing their products, all power to them-but disguise it as “education?” That’s crossing the line, big time.

Do I plan to make money at PhotoMint? Yes-but in a way that is ethical, responsible and honest. I could not devote the months it took to write “get published” or “get connected” and not recoup the costs in expenses or time. I’m all about freely sharing and providing as much as I can share with people who want to and need to learn. Offering material for a fee is an option for those that want to go deeper on a particular subject. But you absolutely do have to be very careful and guard your educational time and money. I would recommend to you that you very carefully select who’s advice you choose to take. A lot of people will share their awesome-ness hype, but when it comes to the actual step-by-step process, there’s not much there. That’s where I try to be different. I need the “meat and potatoes” how to guide, the facts, the figures, the reference points to my own experiences.

I always say that running a photography business is 80% sales and marketing and 20% photography. So keep learning, and look for others who provide real facts and figures for you to compare to. Don’t give up; your work is very strong and I think you’ll do OK if you hang in there.

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Lori Paladino March 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Hi Lara! I so agree with you, and I am so glad to hear you say, “I tell people all the time that if you leave a high paying job to go into photography, you can expect to earn half as much and work twice as many hours.” It’s spot on, and I have said the same thing to my newer photographer friends as well. And they are shocked to hear it, and I fear I look negative saying it, as it’s the exactly the opposite of what they hear in workshops (especially it seems, if they are paying to hear it). And I don’t mean to discourage them, as there are so many fulfilling parts to this career choice & business, but oodles of money (as many are led to believe), from my experience, isn’t part of it. I say that as someone whose prices are not low, yet after many years of building my business, I am busy & fully booked each year. I am convinced that the only way to get to where you aren’t just breaking even, or losing money (and I did both for the first 2-3 years after I made the switch to full-time) is to serve your client, be kind & fair to them & your vendor partners & fellow photographers, keep pushing yourself to be better, and put in the time. And I will repeat: you have to put in the time. Building a successful business does not happen overnight, no matter what any workshop will tell you, and is not for the faint of heart. I think you can find this truth in any type of business. But if you do commit, and put in the time and investment, it will happen… but you have to be committed & willing to steadily build & and you’ve got to be willing to risk some losses at first, and be able to afford to invest in the time it takes to become solvent. We all know the low cost of entry can be deceptive (got camera will shoot) vs. say the costs of starting a restaurant. But the inescapable truth is that whether it’s $10k in gear or $100k in starting a restaurant, it does take time to build a business that is busy & profitable enough to sustain itself. That all said, I’ve been shooting weddings for 9 years, and full time for 6. Last year was my best, but still I made only 60% of my top salary from the career I left in 2006. The reality is that this is an incredibly expensive business to run (especially if you want to deliver a high quality product), and I truly believe it takes more of a desire to bring beautiful images to clients & a desire to be a good business owner, than a desire for income, to be a successful photographer. I could go on… but suffice it to say, thank you Lara for being real!!!

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Wendi March 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm

It’s so interesting you mention some photographers doing a hard core sales pitch and disguising it as education. I personally attended one WPPI marketing class that was one big sales pitch and I left feeling seriously cheated and like the person on stage was so slimey for doing that. I know each of the platform classes at WPPI is sponsored but I had no real idea of just how much that played a part. I actually looked for all the speakers you recommended to me but none were on the schedule, unfortunately. I do respect your opinion, as you’ve been a real friend to me with your honesty. I totally get the fact that you need to recoup your costs/time invested in Photomint, but I believe that is on a different moral level than some of the other junk I was referring to in my first response above. I’ve shared Photomint with many friends and I’ll continue to do so because it is a REAL resource full of info that doesn’t actually contain a pitch with every link. I appreciate that. :). Thanks for bringing it up. I wasn’t really going to get into this on Twitter because it started to look bad for everyone who posted some kind of negative comment.

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michelle March 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Hi Laura,
This was SO well written. I didn’t catch the “blow up” but I got your emailed “getting published” ebook a month ago and loved what you have to offer. YOU are a resource that’s priceless. Thank you. I too was raised in teaching, but teaching quality… interns have come and go and only a few, that listen, have stuck around or done more with photography. It’s not an easy job but if you love it then it’s worth it. I’m so glad you’re out there. I’ve been needing “True” advice to improve my business for years and now i feel like… FINALLY! THANK YOU!

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Jofoto March 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Wow, stands up and applause, Welcome to REALITY Right Here…
Everything I have read so far is rock solid information even if I already knew some of it, reading your latest book rejuvenated everything i should have done through the slow season, i will now do it more pro-activily. You have been transparent throughout the short time I have followed your site, all the elements needed for a successful business are within everyone’s reach, provided you put your back into it. No magic bullet, just rewarding hard work and a good feeling when you’ve made a happy client. Thank you giving, thanks for your transparency and thanks for rejuvenating my brain cells 🙂

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I will always be transparent, and sometimes I’ll say things that people don’t love to hear. I feel a sense of responsibility to provide quality honest advice and guidance.

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Kat Forsyth March 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Brilliant! Thanks for sharing! I’m all for having talent, acquiring skills, and then running a business properly. Not making friends in high places, dressing cute, and hoping for the best.

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Lucia March 23, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I’m in 100%! Thank you!

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Ray Pryor March 23, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Lara, thanks for your straight-forward, no-nonsense approach; I really appreciate it. The caliber of the free training on your site consistently impresses. Good stuff! Keep up the fantastic work, and thanks again.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm

thanks Ray, will do!

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Rab Cummings March 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Thank you for your honesty. There are no shortcuts to success.

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Diane Darlow March 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Thanks for your genuineness and for your caring attitude. Its refreshing.

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Megan Clouse March 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Love this!!

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Kris March 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm

You know it has only been about a year or so since I came to the same realization as you on this subject. For the last year, we have been on a business education path. We decided that unless our business fundamentals are in order, we will most likely not last very long. We have grown our business slowly and purposefully while avoiding debt. I really don’t want to be one of those “rockstars.” I also want to thank-you for the resources you have provided.

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T.J. March 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Lara, Thank you for all of your insights into this crazy business. I always find valuable information in your posts. Not sure what happened on twitter, but you should know that you have made a positive impact with me as I start and grow my business. I and many others appreciate what you have to offer.

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Becky March 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Lara, I’m standing up and applauding you.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 4:50 pm

thank you SO much. I take your trust very seriously.

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Dina Balatti March 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Lara: Chiming in from the wedding planner/designer’s perspective, the same applies to our segment of the industry. As you know, I feel that so much of what you have to share applies to so many of us and we love you for your candidness and thoughtful perspective.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Yeah, I’ve seen some really questionable, shall we say “gurus” in your industry as well. You read their advice, and you just have to wonder if they EVER ran a real business in the wedding industry. I keep running into advice from planning gurus that claim the secret to success is having an email newsletter and getting hundreds and thousands of brides on this email list? huh? Just makes no sense at all!

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Kerry Beer March 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Congratulations on an amazing, encouraging article! It sure gives a small operator like me, the courage to move forward when you think every other wedding photographer out there is way more profitable than me.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 4:55 pm

I’m not sure what you mean Kerry?

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Colin March 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I have often reflected on the comments of “high fashion” wedding photographers and their actual images and have had great pleasure in saying I and my brides like my images better… my catch phrase is “I make brides happy” … selfish I know becasue it makes me happy… So now to properly understand the mechanics of business…. I rest waiting on more of your excellent comms. … Please please continue 🙂

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Cathy March 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I must admit, although I’m on your mailing list, I haven’t read much of what you’ve written or posted. I’m inundated daily with “advice”, “offers”, “educational opportunities” and the like. I’ve tuned out to most of it, and sorry to say, yours included. Because of this post, I’ll now be on the lookout for your stuff. Appreciate your candor and honesty. Don’t let the buggers get you down…have a super day!

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Ed White March 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm

What twitter do I need to be following so I can understand this response? I just recently got on your mailing list. I do appreciate the honesty in this response though. Some harsh reality well outed!

Ed

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 4:55 pm

if you search for terms like “spray and pray” you’ll find it.

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Ken Glass March 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Thank you for sharing Lara. I really haven’t made any money yet because I just enjoy taking pictures. Maybe one day someone will offer to pay me be I am not in a hurry… Just having fun.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

nothing wrong with that Ken! Glad you’re here!

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Danny March 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I am 100% with you!!!! You are da bomb!!!!! I follow you and you are my main business resource!! I ALWAYS repost your tweets!!!! Keep up the good work!!!!! (And where can I get some of those speakers you have, lol!)

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm

ha ha, those speakers are my pride and joy! You know, we actually got them after being in an engagement ring store. While looking at rings, I nervously admitted to my (now) husband that I secreted hated diamonds and would just prefer if I could have speakers for my engagement present. I think he feel deeply in love with me at that moment.

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Leigh Madeleine Miller March 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Lara, this post is everything that I love about you and Photo Mint. You tell it like it is and you don’t sugar coat anything, so photographers have all the facts and can make informed decisions about the direction of their business. Furthermore, your articles, tips, and advice are spot on, and can only come from someone like you who has the experience and the track record — someone who had to go out and learn things their own, the hard way. Thank you for helping young photographers so they can learn from your experiences and not have to reinvent the wheel. Don’t ever change. Just keep being you. You are genuine, you are real, and you really do rock!

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Bob Mackowski March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Thank you for sharing!

PhotoMint has resonated with me since I found your site and I wasn’t exactly sure why. Now I recognize that it’s the lack of a “rah rah, go get ’em” tone and a focus on pure business fundamentals. I was searching for that for a while and I found it here.

Keep up the good work! I plan to keep coming back to read it.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

thanks Val, it really helps me to know I am on the right path and that people want more than just hyped up glamour talk.

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Val March 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Don’t ever stop being honest- don’t get the impression you could. What you give to people like me who lack any sort of natural business sense is invaluable. Not negative- just the truth. Some people don’t want to hear it but that’s not on you:)

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Seshu March 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm

You bet I am with you. A refreshingly honest take on what one needs to succeed and perhaps more importantly survive in this business. Thank you for what you bring to our table.

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Tammy Willaimson March 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm

thank you for sharing your heart.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm

This time, I couldn’t not do it.

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Nicole March 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Thank you for writing this and thank you for your honesty. I’ve enjoyed reading your advice, and knowing that you’re in this for the right reasons makes me an even bigger fan!

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

you are welcome Nicole. thanks for standing with me on this.

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John Mathis March 23, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I’m with you, and it needed to be said! There are so many joining the ranks to fleece photographers of their “investment” money and they will tell you whatever you want to hear. I’ve been shooting weddings (and other types of jobs) for over eight years and I recognize this baloney when I see and hear it now.

Please keep up the good work. Your words aren’t negative…they are reality in this industry.

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

it’s really heart breaking to witness it. But hopefully we can turn the tide in the other direction…

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Lara White March 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm

thanks John, you are right-it’s reality, and that’s a better way to say it. I will continue to share reality so people can get where they want to go.

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