If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent an embarrassing amount of time on social media over the past 6 months. Quarantine and the pandemic have really made it difficult to do much else. All of this downtime has given me the opportunity to analyze social media with a more critical eye.
Within the wedding photography industry, we have this vision of “success” in our minds. If we get our work published on Style Me Pretty or Martha Stewart Weddings, we’ve “made it”. Or if we book a destination wedding in a beautiful location, then we are LEGIT. We see the picture perfect feeds of others and immediately assume that they have it all together. We strive to book weddings in the luxury wedding market, we desire to work with specific wedding planners, we think we have to offer education for other photographers, we have to have a YouTube channel, we have to shoot at a specific venue, we have to book X amount of clients per year… but is that really success?
We have these very specific ideas about what we need to do in order to be “successful” because we see other people achieving these things all the time on social media. But here’s the thing… social media is just an illusion and those “successes” you envy or strive to achieve just may not be what they seem.
Some photographers look like they are booking a ton of new clients. They post it all over social media and it’s easy to think “I must suck because so-and-so keeps booking so many new clients and I can’t seem to do the same”. But you know what? They could be achieving this by offering discounts and not sticking to their pricing. Is booking a ton of clients at a discount really a success? I personally don’t think so! If you’re not booking clients at your full pricing and needing to offer discounts just to book someone? That’s not ideal at all. I would rather be booking less clients at my full rates, thankyouverymuch.
Some photographers look like they are shooting destination weddings in beautiful locations. But are they actually getting paid to do this? Most of the time, they are not… or they are getting paid very little to do so. Why? Because there is ALWAYS someone who is willing to shoot a destination wedding for free! Is shooting a destination wedding for free really a success? HECK NO!!! Destination weddings have so many costs involved and require so much time away from the office that shooting them for free is an absolutely ridiculous business decision. Definitely not a win.
See someone shooting a ton of proposals or elopements? They are probably doing them really cheap and undercutting the other photographers in the industry. That is not success.
See someone shooting a ton of perfect couples who look like models? They are probably doing model calls and photographing these couples for free. They might not be real clients. So this is not necessarily success.
See someone posting over-the-top detail images or couples in dream locations and think to yourself “why can’t I be shooting high-end weddings like this”? These images could be from styled shoots or workshops they have attended, not necessarily real weddings. Photographers post images from styled shoots/workshops and pretend they are real weddings and real clients ALL THE TIME. It’s complete smoke and mirrors!
See someone posting a ton of educational content and gaining a ton of new followers? Those followers could be from overseas or they could mainly be other photographers that are following them. Followers do not correlate to success – and you shouldn’t feel bad if your follower count isn’t large.
Success, to me, is actually paying your bills with your business. Success is being able to do something you love and actually make a CAREER out of it. Success is charging what you’re worth and not ever having to discount just to book a new client. Success is being PAID to shoot a destination wedding! Success is getting to a place where you could survive off of your income alone because you may not always have a partner to share the financial burden with… and financial independence is the ultimate form of success! Success is running a profitable business past year 5 in the industry. Success is being a price leader in the industry and paving the way for other photographers to charge legitimate prices. Success is raising the bar and increasing the perceived value of our industry. And all of these real successes are not going to be projected on social media for you to see.
Now I’m not saying that everything you see on social media is fake – but I think we often see these “successes” and immediately assume that people are doing these things AND being paid to do them. That’s not necessarily true. Especially now with COVID, people are creating and posting new content on their own dime, offering steep discounts to book new clients, and leading others to believe that they aren’t struggling. I can’t help but roll my eyes sometimes because every single person I’ve spoken to in-person admits that they are struggling… yet no one talks about it on social media. This is just a reminder that we shouldn’t be taking everything we see on social media at face value and that even the people we think are “crushing it” might not actually be crushing it as well as it seems. Social media allows people to project an illusion of success – but next time you’re scrolling through social media, remember that not everything may be what it seems.