We recently have had the pleasure of getting to better know Ann Monteith who has so many wonderful accolades behind her name including being a past president of PPA, owning three successful photography studios and running workshops where she teaches fellow photographers the many ins and outs of successfully running a photography business.
Ann is truly an industry leader and we hope you enjoy getting to know Ann and pick up some great business wisdom like we did during our interview with her!
“Once upon time there was time.” Ann said when I asked her why it was so important that a photographer outsources to be able to grow as a business. She explained that a photographer traditionally thinks that because they work for them self they often think they need to do all the work by themselves and that there is just not enough time to do that. “Well, there is enough time…” She continued, “But if you do use your time like that, your photography business will simply not be profitable.”
Ann then filled me on her experience, where she started, how she struggled, and how she gained control of her photography business. In the 1980’s her and her husband started a portrait photography studio and enjoyed it very much. Soon they realized however that they were in debt, bills were piling up, and even though they had business coming in they were losing money. Ann and her husband didn’t understand how that could be, being that they were working so hard and her husband even had an MBA. “We soon realized that even though he had an MBA it was structured to support a person working for somebody else, not yourself.”
Ann began to search out for others in the photography world who could help, give advice and teach more about how to run your photography business as… a business. Learning from the greats like Bud Haines and Ken Whitemire, Ann could see how much other photographers would benefit from having more business education. After becoming president of PPA, Professional Photographers of America, Ann was really able to focus on providing all the business and financial management skills she had learned to others on a large scale, really turning around how studios viewed their profit making ability.
We then discussed how the film to digital change has impacted how studios thought of outsourcing all over again. She explained how back in the day a photographer only took 20 – 30 photos during a session, (another word of advice to being profitable these days says Ann, “Stop shooting so much!”) then they went back to their darkroom, developed the images, made prints, and then delivered them to the client.
From shooting to showing, the photographer had about 2 weeks to work, edit, create and learn. But photographers soon realized that being stuck in a darkroom, processing and printing themselves was not profitable at all. They learned that the better solution was for them to keep shooting and outsource their darkroom work to photo labs. “You can’t be doing what someone else can do better and certainly more efficient if you intend to make money in this business.” Being stuck in a darkroom 20 years ago is now the equivalent of being stuck behind your computer. Then Ann commented, “It has the same outcome – you are losing aspects of success when you don’t outsource.”
We also discussed why some photographers are reluctant to outsource. As Ann travels across the country offering Business and Financial Management Workshops for photographers that very subject often comes up. Ann talked about how 95% of those that don’t think they should outsource are clinging to controlling everything in regards to their photographs. In reality, she concluded, they are controlling nothing. Others say why they don’t want a retouching service is because they don’t like “the photoshop” look. Ann learned what they really mean is they want a “natural, polished look” and they are afraid others won’t have the same eye or understanding.
Ann said, “It’s really important to understand when you are outsourcing your work to another in the industry, it’s not about you just giving them work, but you are now working with them.” She talked about how important it is to keep communicating instructions, ideas, and opinions as you work with one another to keep business moving forward and successful. Some photographers get hung up on outsourcing because they feel their clients expect them to handle everything from start to finish. “Clients should expect an excellent finished product, how we as photographers get there is unimportant. What is important is that our time needs to be used wisely. And wisely means it needs to be profitable.”
At the end of our conversation Ann said something that really stood out to us, “We call ourselves professional photographers not because it sounds great to the ears, but because this is a business. A professional business.” If you’re not profitable that doesn’t make your photography a hobby, but it does mean that with the right business and financial management along with outsourcing, you can be!
Thank you for your time Ann! We really appreciate all your insight on the photography business!
For more information on Ann Monteith and her “Get Down to Business” workshops click here!