I like blogging because I enjoy being completely open and honest. I enjoy sharing details of our latest projects, and what struggles we are working through at the moment. I don’t get too concerned about how many people read my blog or not since it is mostly just for my own personal enjoyment. When it comes to my photography business however, I take everything very seriously. This post is about to get very open, honest and raw. I apologize in advance because it will probably not be my happiest post.
I have been really struggling lately with our photography business, trying to build some momentum after having taken so much time off shooting with my pregnancy bed rest and long postpartum recovery. Now that I am starting to regain some mobility, I have been working hard to do as many photoshoots as I can, and working until very late each night on editing images and creating marketing materials to go along with our relaunch and rebranding for the company. It is pretty disheartening when you are working so hard at something and feel very little support from those around you.
There are certain select few people in my life who are endlessly supportive of me and my photography, and I am grateful beyond words for their support. My husband and my mom are always my constant cheerleaders, although neither of them goes online so they do not have much reach to help support me in a digital manner. There are a few other select friends and family members who are always extremely supportive, but in general, the majority of people I have known for years tend to not show any interest or support.
I have been working so hard to try to spread the word about our business relaunch, and yet I never really see much increase in our number of Facebook fans (or followers, or likers, or whatever you want to call it). When I log into Facebook, it tells me how many of my friends have “liked” our business page. Compared to the number of friends I have on my personal page, that number is extremely low. In fact, I have calculated it out that only 20% of my “friends” have taken the effort to click a button to support the business that I started two and a half years ago.
I do not embarrass easily, but my most embarrassing moment ever happened a number of years ago when an art gallery launch party was thrown in my honor. When I was asked to speak about my work that was featured on display that night, I was asked who had come to support me that night. I looked around at a sea of strangers and had to admit that no one that I had invited had shown up. (this was before I met my husband…I know he would have been there.) Now, every day when I log into Facebook and check our photography business page, I feel a tiny stab of that same embarrassment when I see that only 20% of my Facebook “friends” have clicked “like” to be a “fan” of our photography business page.
I know that life (and business) is not a popularity contest, and many aspects of Facebook are much like a high school popularity contest. I try to keep that in mind, but it is still hard to not let it get to me. I recently read an article for photographers about watching for digital photo theft. The author mentioned keeping an eye out for photography pages that show high quality work, but have a low number of fans (less than 500). That stung so bad…I am not the sort of person that likes to brag, but I know that I produce high quality imagery. I also know that at around 200 fans, our fan page does not measure up with the quality of my work. After I read that article, I literally cried from embarrassment. The thought that people might look at our page and think that I had stolen images from elsewhere just because I have a lack of support from those around me broke my heart. Best case scenario, someone may look at our Facebook page and think that I am a new photographer who just recently started a photography business once I became a mom (and that has been a common assumption unfortunately). It is sad that my photography journey of many years feels as though it did not exist thanks to that stupid low number.
When I was in fashion school, I took many marketing, business and entrepreneurial classes. I know there are things that I could be doing to help improve our following, but I am not a pushy salesperson. I kind of had the sad hope that my work would speak for itself, and people I know would be supportive enough to help spread the word about my work. Sadly, this has not been the case. If someone ever wanted to give me a gift, the thing that makes me happiest is when someone takes an image I have shot of them (or their child), and makes it their profile picture on Facebook and/or Instagram. Little things like that make me happy for days (actually much longer because I grin from ear to ear every time I see it!).
Social media can be a great tool for many business owners, but particularly for photographers since your work is out there for the whole world to see. It is frustrating though when you post something that you have spent hours of your time on and poured your soul into artistically, and feel like you can hear crickets chirping after you post it. I decided that I am going to change my game plan for marketing our business, and start trying some new things, even if that pushes me outside my comfort zone.
I also have been getting discouraged when I try to work with people close to me on creating an elaborate session that speaks to a particular theme or style that I have been envisioning. I have a sketchbook full of ideas that I have been waiting to execute on a willing model. After much discussion, my husband and I have decided that I am going to stop asking others for help with my more creative ideas (with the exception of my wonderfully cooperative cousin), and instead translate them into a series of fine art self-portraits. I am getting a little excited about the idea of working on some of those sessions.
To be honest, if it were not for my husband’s support and my desire to make sure that I capture tons of images of our baby, I would have given up on the photography business by now and just sold all of my equipment. The past few years have been so difficult for us in so many ways, and I would have never expected that it would be this difficult for me with starting this business. My husband and our baby keep me going, and give me hope that things will improve. My husband has taken the week off work to finish up the construction projects so I can finally open my studio, and I am looking forward to that tremendously. I am trying to focus on all of the aspects of the business that I am looking forward to, stay positive, and keep working on this. I feel strongly that my place in the world is as a wife, mother and photographer. I did not let multiple diagnosis of infertility make me give up on the idea of becoming a mom, and I am trying to keep myself in that same determined mindset when it comes to my photography. I keep trying to repeat this to myself over and over: my value and talent as an artist is not determined by a number on a social media outlet.
Oh and just in case you’re curious, our Facebook page can be found here.