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david manning misconceptions of being a photographer

Let's talk about the misconceptions of being a photographer. Ever have someone say something like,

"Wow, what's it like to work only one day a week???"

Or how about:

"What a nice camera! It must take great photos!"

This following is a conversion with a San Diego photographer, David Manning. Our topic of the day is misconceptions of being a photographer. In this episode, we talk about the backhanded compliments and snide remarks that people make about our profession as photographers. We also dive into the business of photography.

David Manning Instagram

david manning instagram

David Manning Vlog

david manning vlog


Tell us about yourself, what you do for work, for fun, where you live, all the good stuff. [00:00:36]

  • San Diego based, born in Ohio.
  • Moved to San Diego when I was 12 years old.
  • Started photography about 10 years ago. March 15 of 2017 was 10 years since I first second shot a wedding.
  • Before then, I had a coffee shop then I dabbled in photography.
  • I met Sara France who was a Pictage User Group (PUG) leader and she invited me to second shoot a wedding.

How did you make that jump from coffee shop to whatever was going on in between to shooting in weddings and be part of this community? [00:03:15]

  • I was working in the church as the media guy and my buddy Ryan Ross was the middle school pastor. One day he said, “You've got to check out this guy, David Jay.”
  • My dad had been pushing to love what I do.
  • Ryan got the bug in my ear about shooting weddings which got me to sign up for Pictage before I heard of the Pictage User Groups.

Let's talk about two types of misconceptions about being a photographer:

  1. Are there things that people say to you (clients or friends) that indicate that they have no idea what it's like to be a photographer?
  2. What are some observations that you’ve discovered after being in business for a while? What were the things that you thought wedding photographers did and then realized was different later on? [00:05:32]
  • Most of my friends are not photographers. They felt that I didn’t have much of a job. Some of them would ask me,
“How many weddings do you really shoot? 25 weddings a year? So, you work like 25 days in a year?”

That’s the most common one I hear from the outside looking in. This is what I tell people coming into- that photography is maybe 10% of my job.

  • I tell kids who want to be photographers and want to go to photography school to go to business school. If you want to get a degree in something, get your degree in business.
  • Photography is something that if you have an eye for it, you’ve got a wealth of free resources out there.
  • LEON: I advise photographers who like the artistic side of photography and don’t like the business side of it to educate themselves and find their strengths. Then build their business around their strengths and hire people to help them in those areas that they are not so strong.

What are some of the things that you do throughout the week that has nothing to do with putting your camera in your hand? [00:08:55]

  • Being an entrepreneur is one thing and that’s the business side; the accounting, emails, follow ups, websites, social media, tracking your projects during the year.
  • If you're passionate about photography, reach out to someone who's already a photographer and apply to be their associate.
  • On a good day, you'll have a ton of emails. Sometimes it takes 15-20 mins to respond. That takes a lot of time.

What are some other comments that indicate someone really just doesn't get it? [00:11:19]

  • Some people look at the picture and they just say, “Dude, that’s a sweet camera.” They don’t know that a nice camera doesn’t make a photographer.
  • In the past, if you wanted to be a wedding photographer, you would be blowing about $20,000 to buy your kit and it was insanely expensive and was a huge barrier to wedding photographers. Now, you can walk to any shop and get a pretty decent DSLR for a few hundred bucks and take great photos with it.
  • That barrier has come down but has created this misperception of being a photographer that all you need is a good camera to win.
  • Some people are of the opinion that if I get that good camera, then I can be a good photographer. But it takes a lot more than the camera. There is the business side of things, which is crucial.
  • You can take great photographs but if your business is not on point, then you're not going to last.

Have you had a client say something during a shoot or after a shoot like “We can just fix that in Photoshop, right?” How did you feel about that? [00:15:50]

  • You can fix a lot in Photoshop. People think there is an easy button for Photoshop. We charge $25-$50 per hour for photoshop work to be done. But it still takes real work, you can spend an hour on a photo to make it perfect.
  • One of the best ways to fill that suggestions from clients is a price. Just being honest and providing a value to the client is a great service to them.
  • Even being an editor or Photoshop retoucher, there is this mentality that we have adopted over the years and it is, “Just because we can do it in Photoshop doesn’t mean we should do it in Photoshop.” In my opinion, if it doesn’t look realistic, it's a fail.

What other things have people said to you either friends, clients or family that’s on your mind about misconceptions of being a photographer? [00:19:10]

  • The big one is why do we charge so much.
  • Also, “Why does it take two or three weeks for me to get my images?”
  • They must have this misconception that because it's digital, there's no effort involved. You're just putting the camera in position and pressing the button. They don’t put into consideration the years of training that you’ve put into this, the experimentation, the cost of the gear.

Are there observations that you’ve discovered after being in the business for a while? Think back to the early days of your photography career. What were some of the things that you thought about wedding photographers that changed later on? [00:21:41]

  • I had lots of weird perceptions mainly because my initial perception was David Jay.

Using David Jay as a case study: he's driving fast cars, has a big house on the hill in Santa Barbara. A lot of people probably look at that and see that it's possible as a wedding photographer. But I don’t think most wedding photographers roll like that. Would you agree? [00:22:28]

  • Yes. The big thing about that is that lots of us get into it thinking we can make easy money.
  • When you look at David Jay, you realize he was smart in business and that got him there.
  • As a new photographer, I thought this is easy money.
  • Lots of people who do regular jobs earn hourly or a salary and that means a steady income thus you can calculate your finances but as a photographer, you have no idea how many weddings you're going to book next year.

Sometimes you’ve got a couple of months of bookings and things feel really good. Then you have the slow season where it just feels depressing. That’s one of the things a lot of people aren’t prepared for when they become a wedding photographer. Would you agree? [00:25:00]

  • Yes. A lot of that is about financial awareness and knowing that you need to prepare for it and run proper budgets.
  • Knowing your numbers is so important. Why are you charging what you're charging?
  • Know how much you would spend on gear and when it would start depreciating. You need to know those numbers.
  • You need to know how many hours it takes for each job.
  • The reason why people come and go out of wedding photography is they don’t know their numbers and they don’t realize how little they're making.
  • [00:30:16] If you want to figure out how to negotiate, the most successful people I've seen in photography don’t negotiate to get a lower price, they start creating more value to the client. They actually find a way to make them spend more money by finding ways to provide more value to the client and it's not unethical.
  • [00:31:04] There are a lot of ways to add value. For me, I negotiate price. There should be room for a discount. Sometimes I give my clients gifts.
  • [00:33:54] Photographers shouldn’t run their business with emotions. Make business decisions on whether it's a good idea or not. Have a plan and set your business in a way that if a client asks for a discount, you’ll be prepared for it and know how to navigate that conversation than being emotional about it.