You are NOT a Second Class Photographer: Guest post by Zach and Jody Gray

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I’ve been following Zach and Jody Gray for a couple of years now. Over and over again their focus on the challenges in photography, both real and self-inflicted, have been incredibly insightful. As we started to put together this year’s summer session of SCU, I was determined to sit down and talk to them at WPPI.

Since then Zach, Jody and I have had a few conversations and I’m delighted they’re as excited about teaching at SCU this summer as I am to have them join the “family”. This is a couple with message after message to help us all raise the bar on our thought process about business, our technique and in short, realize more of our goals.

This post started out as their contribution for their faculty gallery when answering the question, “What advice would you give a new photographer just starting out?” Well, it was so good, it needed to be a blog post.

In the third paragraph there’s a line that deserves to be re-stated, “The only person that matters when it comes to approval in a business is the client you are serving.”  Or as my old buddy Dean Collins used to say, and I’ve quoted before, “Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!”

Zach and Jody need to be on your radar. Check out their site, sign up for their free newsletter and then follow them everywhere! They’ve already helped to change my life a little – I can promise they’ll change yours too!  Skip Cohen


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Image copyright Zack and Jody Gray. All Rights Reserved

When you get into any new pursuit, there is usually the feeling when you first start that you are second class and not as good as someone else. In the art world, that feeling can stick around longer than it should, and if it goes unchecked, can cripple your chance of succeeding.

Do you feel your images are not good enough to charge what you need to charge to survive? Do you feel like other photographers can’t see you as a first shooter and always see you as a “second shooter?” Do you wish your clients valued your work as much as you do?

There is a stigma in this industry that you need to “pay your dues” and if you haven’t been shooting for 5 or 10 years you can’t possibly know what your doing or have a real business. That is simply not true! When we started out, we wanted to get praised by other photographers and feel the art we were creating and the business we were running was “approved” by those who were in our city shooting longer than we had. That was a major mistake. The only person that matters when it comes to approval in a business is the client you are serving. Your job is to give them an amazing experience and make their dreams come true, and not make other photographers think you are awesome and look to them for validation. 

If you wanted to open your own Starbucks store, because you were passionate about coffee, you would buy into the franchise (Starbucks does not actually franchise, but that’s not relevant to this story), take the management training courses, hire a staff who would go through the training courses, purchase the store and coffee materials, then open the store on opening day and start running your business at full steam ahead. 

Now imagine on opening day, as the first customer came in, you told them, “Since we are brand new, all lattes are $1 instead of $4 because we are new and don’t really know what we are doing.” What do you think the customer response would be? They would wonder what’s wrong with this Starbucks since they don’t charge what all the other ones charge! 

But the reality is, most of us start our photography businesses the same way and wonder why we never get ahead. What we should do, is get training from the best in the industry and learn the systems that make an efficient business function at a high level, decide what “franchise model” we want to have (volume based or boutique based), position and brand the business, open the doors and start charging our $4 for a latte. 
But somehow, somewhere someONE has convinced us we are second class photographers. Let us assure you that we are not!

Jack Trout, writer of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, says that “Perception is not reality, it is the ONLY reality.” Meaning, once we have the skills to do the job, we need to act like any other successful business acts and come out charging! Be a force to be reckoned with, don’t be afraid to compete right at the top and never let ANYONE tell you that you can’t! 

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