I talk regularly with people who are at various places in their journey of owning a photography business. I see the ups and downs with them, and within my own business.
Yesterday, while talking to one about those ups and downs, I started thinking back on where I was in June/July 2012 and wrote down 10 things I wish I would’ve known when I started my business, and the current advice I believe in giving now.
1. There are lots of really great photographers out there.
It’s the truth. You can either accept that and put your thinking cap on and brainstorm what makes you different and how you want to be different. And befriend other photographers.. OR you can be bitter, sulk and get no where and make no industry friends.
2. People will copy you and you will copy them, and also people will seem to copy you and you will seem to copy them.
I know I’m not the first to shoot a session at a fair, put a couch in a field or throw confetti during a shoot, trends come and go and your fellow photographers are staying on top of them just like you are!
Now if someone is intentionally copying you, that will show to others eventually, so just worry about yourself and do you!
3. Master your camera + simple lighting situations before spending money on props, lenses, websites, and major editing software.
You know that it’s NOT the camera, it’s the photographer that makes a photo happen. So you should be able to make a subject “pop without props” before worrying about adding any extra clutter/distractions in. This is advice from the lens queen (me) that has bought and sold many lenses that didn’t suit my needs. Props are the same way! Take your time and discover what your “voice” really is, and what tools you need to speak.
4. This may be a personal preference, but I’ll touch on it anyway.
Lose the Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets when you are starting out.
I know the before and after transformation looks appealing and you want to buy them, but really it’s all about your subject and the original image that was shot. Putting a filter over a poorly lit or out of focus images isn’t helpful to mastering certain situations! If you are interested in using them, then get some free ones and just use those to help you learn how to play around with various settings that the action you like uses! I have paid for various presets and actions over the years and the only ones I use anymore (and the only ones I’m ever happy with) are the ones I made myself, based on my own vision for my images.
5. Don’t be afraid of your flash.
I was so afraid of using anything but natural lighting at the start, but learning about using other light sources has really made all the difference in my work AND my confidence level for shooting– especially with weddings. (Note: not talking about the pop-up flash haha!)
6. Don’t be afraid of branching out.
This year I attended the amazing ImagingUSA Conference. Something I KNOW I wouldn’t have done earlier in my career because I would’ve been intimidated by all the professionals and probably just wanted to quit. However, I was blown away by what I was taught, and I met some great people (from right around this area and afar) that all had the same goal: providing amazing photos for all our clients!
7. Never give up!
People can really stink sometimes and some days you’ll be stood up or passed over, but you are going to meet some incredible, amazing, wonderful, lovely clients and photographers that make up for whatever hurt you feel, a million times over.
8. Never stop pursuing additional education.
Read books, ask questions, study light, find a mentor who is the real deal and even take workshops eventually if that’s your “learning language”. Just PLEASE make sure you are learning from someone who is not stealing someone else’s hard work and passing it off as their own. (I HATE that I even have to say that, but it DOES happen. Trust.)
9. Make friends with local photographers.
It’s so valuable to have a network in your hometown of people you can trust and refer clients too! Because hey, they are referring people to you too. More on this topic later. #sharethelove
10. Dude, You are so worth it! Keep at it!
Bonus Tip: A random lesson I learned is to not buy into the pocketbook, camera bag trend unless you really find it functional and know it will work for your needs. For me, I want and need something to protect my big investments on-location AND during transport. I feel much safer with my gear in a hard case like a Pelican case vs. a bag with minimal padding that cost an arm and a leg lol. Maybe I could use one in certain situations, but not all or even most!