I first picked up my camera in 2020...
The picture above is one of the first photos I took on a professional level camera. I originally bought my camera to capture photos of my growing baby. I wanted to have high quality images of her to cherish for years and years, but that turned into a fiery passion of capturing special moments for special people and since doing my first family session in 2021, I'm totally hooked!
I was so naïve when I started out, and if I knew back then what I know now, things would have been so much different. Nobody likes to talk about their mistakes, but let me tell you... I made many during those first few sessions. I learnt a lot of lessons the hard way, but hopefully by me sharing these lessons, you won't have to make the same mistakes I did.
You need to be patient with yourself. Learning a new craft is a huge undertaking. During your first year of business there is going to be a lot of up's and down's. Giving yourself grace while you learn and grow is a must!
Your Time Is Worth Something:
If you're just starting out, you're going to be tempted to offer sessions free of cost just to build your portfolio. I myself did this, and while it worked... let me tell you why it was a bad idea. People aren't going to respect you or your time, if there's nothing holding them to their obligation. I had countless people no show to sessions, which could of been totally avoidable if I required a retainer. I don't care if you charge $50 or $100.. just charge something!
Figure out who you are as a brand, and what that looks like. What are your brand colors? what do you want your logo to look like? what are you going to specialize in? Having a solid foundation, and creating your business and brand will help you stand out to potential clients. Not only does it look more professional, it will draw in clients who are like minded.
Your Client's Are The Most Important Thing:
We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for our clients. Remember that you are working for them, not the other way around. The better you take care of your client's, the more successful you will become. Repeat clients, and client's who are loyal to you and your art are a crucial part to your business.
Don't Be Afraid To Stand Out:
Photography trends come and go, and so many photographers change their whole style to jump on the popular bandwagon. There are countless photographers offering the same thing, and catering to the trends they believe their clients want. Staying true to who you are, and your style will attract more people than you think. Don't lose yourself in a sea of copycats. Standing out isn't a bad thing. When I first started my photography journey I followed popular photographers and tried to mimic their style because I thought it was popular. But, the difference I can see in my work from then till now, you can see a timeline of when my passion started to come back. When I started producing images that were from my heart and were completely my vision, my whole outlook changed.
Ask Questions, Get To Know Your Peers:
Don't be afraid to reach out to other photographers in your area. Most established photographers would happily answer a question or two, or even sit down with you and chat over coffee. Photographers aren't in direct competition with one another, we all offer something unique and different. Offering support to one another is how we will all grow and learn.
Educate Yourself On The Legal Aspect:
Yes, there is some legal aspects to photography. Do you know which kind of business you want? LLC, Sole Proprietorship? Do you know what are business expenses are and if they can be written off? Do you have a solid contract to not only protect you, but protect your client as well. The legal side of things can be daunting, especially when you're first starting out and have no idea what the heck you're doing. Luckily, with programs like Pixieset and Honeybook there are basic contracts that will work for photographers like you who are just starting out. But, I would suggest getting a lawyer to help create a contract tailored to you and your business.
Slow And Steady Wins The Race:
When you're just starting out, don't expect to see huge growth in the first year. It's just not going to happen. Growing a business takes time, it doesn't happen overnight. There are definitely things you can do to help your business grow, but there isn't a magic wand you can wave to get to where you want to go by skipping all the hard work in the middle. And always remember, the amount of social media followers you have doesn't determine your worth as a photographer.
Imposter Syndrome, You Will Experience It At Some Point:
Sometimes it's hard for us to see our own progress and see our work through others eyes. I have definitely had moments where I questioned myself and questioned whether I was talented enough to keep going. Those moments of self doubt happen to even the more established photographers. Just know it's normal, but also know not to let those feelings take over. If you need to, post some photos to a local photography group and get opinions from unbiased peers. You may be shocked at what they have to say.
Photography is the simplest thing in the world, but it is incredibly complicated to make it really work - Martin Parr
It took me a while to realize, I wasn't just a photographer. I was now a business manager, a marketing manager, a graphic designer, a customer service expert, a social media manager, a website designer and so many more things. If you're going to start a business, you're going to have to wear all these different hats. While you will make countless mistakes, those mistakes will only make you stronger and help your business grow. And like I said... I'm here to share my mistakes with you to hopefully prevent you from making the same ones.
I have so much to share on this topic, so stay tuned next week for part 2 where I'll go over the more technical side of things I wish I knew before picking up my camera and starting a business in this industry. There's some good things in there, so you don't want to miss it!