CHAPTER 13-: This is the thirteenth chapter of “The Complete Guide to Starting a Photography Business.” – Entrepreneurs are so engrossed with the idea of broadening their channels of revenue generation and increasing the portfolio of their clients, that they fail to realize that the only way they can yield substantial success for their business is by focusing on streamlining their business operations. When it comes to optimizing the business activities of a photography business, nothing holds more importance that incentivizing the employees to perform to the best of their abilities and potential. If the photographers in your business are not pulling their weight, then your business operations are bound to be flushed down the gutter.

Increasing Work Efficiency of Photographers is Not Easy

Getting your photographers to work hard and be fully dedicated to their job descriptions is much more difficult than planning an effective marketing strategy. Your marketing plans and your cost shedding endeavours are all based on your creativity and are pretty much in your hands. However, when it comes to inspiring your photographers to put on their best performance, you will find yourself in a position where you no longer exercise the same authority that you do in other areas of your business.

If your photographer is simply not willing to provide the best photographic material, then there is not a lot that you can do about it other than suspend your photographer or sack him or her. However, sacking and suspensions are hardly beneficial for any company, let alone a photography business which operates in an industry that has a sharp demand for talented and experienced photographers.

Instead of asking your photographers to leave when they fail to leave up to their expectations, you need to motivate them and instill the seeds of determination in their hearts to overcome phases of redundancy and inefficiency and prove their worth in your business. Perhaps there is no job more difficult for an entrepreneur than to inspire his or her workers to give it their all and leave nothing behind at home.

  • Losing Passion for the Photography Job

If you truly want to motivate your photographers to become workhorses and dedicated employees, then you need to first figure out the reasons why a photographer may be reluctant to provide your company with the best services he or she possibly can produce. Provided that you have a flawless recruitment program in place and you have hired genuine, talented and credible photographers who are capable of taking on any challenge that your company is faced with, you should have the assurance of knowing that your photographers possess the potential and the credential to showcase unparallel photographic brilliance and magnificence.

In other words, you can be assured that your photographers are passionate enough about photography to carry out some of the most difficult and toughest jobs your clients can assign you. However, passion is something that can quite easily fade away. It is similar to a fire that burns deep within the heart of ever working man or woman. When the working conditions do not complement the ambitions and the inclinations of an employee, that passion for a particular profession that is borne within the heart of the man or the woman begins to die down.

The intensity of their zeal towards their tasks is thus lowered significantly and they slowly begin to lose all motivation to go the extra mile and push the additional obstacle in their way towards achieving success. When your workers are unsatisfied or disgruntled with the working environment in your photography business, you can know for sure that they have become exhausted with your practices and require a new source of inspiration to rekindle the fire of passion that had been burnt out a long time ago.

  • Being Allured By Rivals

You also need to bear in mind the fact that with each new day, the competition in the photography industry is becoming stiffer. When there is fierce competition among ventures, it not only forces them to battle each other out for a greater market share, but it also forces them to engage in a tug of war for the services of the best photographers in town. Remember, no matter how many photography courses and schools are established and developed, the number of excellent photographers in any industry will always remain limited.

Regardless of how many GWCs mushroom in neighbourhoods across the city or how popular photography becomes, the supply of high quality photographers will be restricted to some extent given the amount of practice, patience and skill it requires to gain true proficiency in the field of photography.

This is the reason why other photography companies, especially those that are in direct competition with you, will always be on the lookout to hire some dissatisfied, unhappy and disgruntled workers who are planning to leave your company to graze the greener grass elsewhere. Even if your company’s working conditions are exemplary and your pay is respectable, you will always have employees who will have second thoughts about working for you and those who will be seeking out better employment opportunities in a different photography business or in a different industry.

  • Increasing Expenditure Does Not Aid Employee Retention

Under such circumstances, an amateur entrepreneur will resort to the unpractical solution of spending more on employees to ensure that they do are not tempted away from the organization. However, increasing your expenditure is not the right way of guaranteeing employee retention. When you were out there recruiting photographers for your company, you did not need an incredible amount of money to get hold of the best workers. All you needed to do was simply employ the best recruitment strategies and discover clever ways to filter out the amateur photographers from the genuinely talented ones.

In other words, instead of resorting to go on a spending spree, you relied on your intelligence and wisdom to fetch you photographers who would go on to bring much acclaim and repute to your photography business. In a similar fashion, you need to keep your hands off the wallet when trying to hold on to your best employees. Instead of luring them to stay with offers of more pay, you need to come up with clever ideas that will make them believe and feel that working for your photography business will best serve their career and professional interests.

Photography Employee Engagement Model

If you want your photographers to be mentally, physically and spiritually engaged in their jobs and in their commitments towards providing your company with the very best photographic services that they are capable of then you need to come up with an employee engagement plan or employee engagement model.

If you execute this model to perfection, you will certainly be in a position to demand the best performance from your employees and have them dedicated towards striving to push their limits and cross their boundaries every time they are dealing with a client. This engagement plan must be an integral part of your employee retention plan. The significance of having an employee retention plan cannot be stressed enough.

It may be a little difficult for you to understand the importance of retaining your employees during the initial stages of your business, but as you accumulate experience over the years, you will soon realize that keeping the same employees in your company saves you an incredible amount of money and time. Every time you hire a new employee, you have to invest precious time and money in training them and coaching them to adapt to the style of your business and reach the standards that your business aims to achieve every single time it accepts an assignment from a client.

When you have a fixed team of employees serving you for an extended period of time (preferably 7-10 years), then it will allow the team develop a healthy chemistry, which in turn will develop the hunger to aim higher and be better with their photographic services. Coming back to the employee engagement model, here are the 5 primary components that constitute the model:

5 Training Components of a Photography Employee Engagement Model

  • Alignment
  • Attention
  • Attitude
  • Appreciation
  • Authenticity

1) Alignment

The first component of the employee engagement plan is alignment which addresses the notion of creating a harmony between the strengths of your employees, in this case the photographers, and the requirements of the jobs and tasks that you have assigned them with. In other words, the capabilities of your photographers must be in synchronisation with the demands of the job description. This is something that you are supposed to ensure during the recruitment stage, however, you can never truly understand whether a photographer is up for a job or not unless he or she is involved in it.

For example, if you are hiring photographers for your sports photography agency, then you will most certainly be looking for photographers who have had prior experience in photographing some form of sport or the other. In most cases, you will come across photographers who have worked in minor league sports or lower divisions of sports where the pace of the game is much slower and the pressure of the working environment is a lot lower.

Given the fact that your photography agency is able to land a contract for a major sports team or sports arena, your photographers will have to deal with sporting situations and sporting environments that they are completely unfamiliar with. It is during these times that you will notice whether or not the strengths of your photographer are in alignment with the nature of the job in hand.

If you want to match the strengths of your employees with the requirements of the jobs you have in hand, then you need to first learn more about their strong points. Researching, assessing and analysing the attributes of the employees is one of the features of an extraordinary entrepreneur. You cannot leave any stone unturned in uncovering, articulating and advocating the strengths of your photographers. This means that learning about them is not enough.

You need to figure out exactly how you can use their abilities to benefit your business, or in other words, you need to know how to manipulate their abilities to support your company’s agenda. This sounds like the work of a genius mastermind, but all it really takes is a little bit of planning, a pinch of logical reasoning and a dash of analytical thinking.

Then again, ensuring that your employees are aligned with their jobs is not the simplest job in the world. If you have managers in your company, then you need to train them to figure out exactly what’s lacking in your photographers. Ask them to tap into the skill set or the arsenal of each and every single photographer till they can provide you with a detailed report about kind of applications or assignments that each photographer is suited for.

One of the things that you need to remember when it comes to alignment is that focusing on the weaknesses will not do you any good. Instead of trying to erase or eliminate the weaknesses of your employees, make a genuine effort in harnessing, developing and utilizing the strengths that they possess.

For example, if you have a photographer in your pet photography agency who works well with dogs and has reservations against birds, then do not force him to master the art of photographing birds, even if there is more money in it. Simply ask the photographer to enhance his or her expertise in dog photography, and you will soon mould an incredible photographer who can yield you thousands of dollars a day by picturing dogs.

2) Attention

The physical and non physical ways in which you can increase the focus of your employees is covered by the “Attention” section of the employee engagement model. As an entrepreneur and an acting manager of your photography business, the most valuable resource that you can provide your employees with is not money (although that’s what every employee hopes for), but its attention.

This is even truer for the field of photography businesses since photographers take great pride in their profession and are always craving to be noticed by their superiors. The quality and the nature of the attention that you are paying your employees tells a lot about how you are treating them and how you plan to hold on to them during the bad times.

The general perception about photographers, as mentioned before, is that they are isolated entities who love living and working on their own. This may be true for some photographers, but even then, every photographer in the world would be pleased to receive some degree of heartfelt and sincere attention from their employers. So make sure that you do not miss out on an opportunity to make your photographers feel as if they are under your radar. You do not have to be obsessed with keeping them smiling or laughing. Simply calling them by their name, greeting them in the morning and celebrating their achievements will be enough to make them feel great about working for your organization.

3) Attitude

Its one thing to pay attention to the work of your photographers, but it’s an entirely different dynamic to make them feel that you are maintaining a positive attitude. A positive attitude stems from positive feelings and positive thoughts that you can spread to the minds of your employees. When you insert positivity in the mind of your photographers, you enable them to shoulder any burdens and take on any challenges regardless of the magnitude.

For example, when you have a demanding client who approaches you with an unbelievably difficult assignment, you need to inspire confidence in the hearts of the photographers who will be appointed to complete the assignment. Instead of scaring them and warning them of the repercussions of failure, instil a sense of belief and trust in their minds, so that they can go about their jobs without having to worry about you firing them or fining them if they mess up. You will simply not believe how far positive thinking can contribute in helping a photographer to reach his or her potential and fulfill their professional obligations with flawlessness.

You also need to be careful about keeping the negative emotions away from the working environment. Do not carry the anger and anxiety of your personal life into your work place. These emotions are contagious and can quite easily affect your employees.

4) Appreciation

The need for appreciation and the urge to be complimented is implanted in the heart of every professional. Perhaps, the craving to be appreciated is greater than the financial need for a monetary reimbursement. Even the most arrogant and self obsessed photographers in the world would love to have their employers come to them and personally acknowledge their contributions. Why is this craving so strong? It is because appreciation acts as the single most important incentive for any worker. In the absence of appreciation, your photographers will lose the motivation to trudge through the workload and deliver high quality photographic services.

For example, if your photographer does an incredible job of satisfying a client by taking marvellous and stunning photographs, then the onus is on you to congratulate your photographer on their success and let them know that you have always believed in their capabilities (even if you had not). Your words will be a source of inspiration for your photographer and will drive them to work twice as hard so that they can impress you the next time. Appreciating the efforts of your employees is a very simple way of making them work harder without paying them extra money. It does not get any less complicated than this.

5) Authenticity

Photographers have their faces hidden behind cameras, but that does not stop them from thinking about how their employers are trying to make them work harder. Do you honestly think that your employees cannot see through the various entrepreneurial techniques that you employ to get them churning out work in bucket loads?

If you have been thinking along those lines, then you are sadly mistaken. Being too sweet, caring and affectionate with your employees will get you nowhere. If you try go overboard with your kindness, then your photographers will probably stop appreciating you for who you are. Therefore, it is imperative that you stay true to your character and make reveal a sincere desire to help your photographers out.

For example, if you are the owner of a wedding photography venture and if you need a certain photographer to cover two events on the same day (which is a very hectic endeavour), then you might be tempted into spending a little extra time with that photographer and engaging in gossip to soften him up for the hard task ahead. If you do not have a habit of conversing much with your employees, then the photographer will not be fooled by your technique and will simply refused to give in to your demands.

Thus, it is important that you remain consistent with your communication and do not develop the habit of striking up friendly conversations only when you need your photographs to put in some extra work.