The first three years.

This photography journey has been a crazy one. I know it’s cliche to compare it to a roller coaster but I”m trying to find another comparison and there isn’t one that quite fits as perfect as this does.  I started out loving photography and photographs which morphed into me buying a pretty decent camera and enrolling in some photography courses.  Next thing I knew, my husband (or boyfriend at the time) was convincing me to start a website where I could post my work.  Next came taking photos for friends for free or extremely cheap. Then in 2010,  a friend asked me to photograph her wedding for her.  I loved it and the snowball began.  And here we are!

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think I”m uber successful or anything. In fact I’m nowhere close to where I want to be or wish I was. But I’m also so far away from that first wedding I shot over 3 years ago that I have kind of shocked myself.  I’m proud of how far I’ve come mostly because only I know how hard I’ve worked and how many struggles I’ve gone through to get here.  There have been tears, there has been elation (being asked to shoot my first destination wedding), there has been amazement (published on Style Me Pretty!) and there has been disappointment (not booking weddings I really wished I could have).  And there has been everything in between. I almost quit a couple of times and I’ve wanted to quit my day job numerous times in an optimistic moment thinking I could actually support myself doing photography only. I’m not quite there yet but hopefully some day.

In hopes of helping someone else out there just starting up their own photography business I thought I would share a couple of the most important things I have learned along the way.

1. You need to HUSTLE. Just because you are ready for it to happen doesn’t mean it will.  You can buy an expensive camera, have all the lenses in the world and a beautiful website launched complete with a portfolio and be an AMAZING photographer with great technical skill and think “ok I’m ready to go” and expect your business to thrive. There is so much more to it than you would ever think.  You need to get word out there, create a buzz and MARKET yourself.  You need to do whatever you can to get word out there. Give away free photo shoots, hold a facebook contest, offer discounts – whatever you need to do to get people talking about your business, even if it’s something you don’t necessarily want to do (who wants to work for free?).  Marketing is also extremely important. It’s something I continue to struggle with – spending money to make money. It’s very difficult to be a small business with very little income coming in and yet you have to spend money consistently on marketing. It just has to be done if you want to grow.

2.  You need to wear many hats. You need to be a jack or all trades.  I don’t think many people really realize how many hats a photographer wears. Not only do you have to master the technical aspects of your camera but you need to understand light and how your camera reads it.  You need to know how to capture children’s attention and get them to trust you all while getting your camera exposure correct.  You need to know how to pose people and know flattering angles for all different body types. You need to know how to build up confidence and give pep talks. You are the one that gives fashion advice to families who are going to be in front of your camera.  You need to know the best spots for photo sessions in your city and what times of day are best to shoot there.  More often than not, starting out you will be the wedding co-ordinator during the weddings that don’t have one.  You will need to have the skills to pin a boutonniere and secure a veil in a pinch and even act as a crying shoulder at times.  But most of all you need to know how to really connect with people.  Which brings me to my next point.

3.  You never stop learning. Being in front of a camera is not natural and if you want to get beautiful, natural photos you need people to connect with you and trust you. Bringing out people’s real personalities in front of the lens is a beautiful thing but getting there isn’t always that easy.  It comes with experience but if you want to improve educate yourself.  Take workshops or buy courses (I love Creative Live) and study all of your favorite photographers. Look at their poses and figure out how they got the people into that pose with those expressions.  Live, eat and breathe photography and you will get better. It just takes time.

4. Don’t take it personally.  I used to get upset or insulted when someone would make anything less than a nice remark about any of my photos.  Jasmine Star has been a source of inspiration for me and she is a big advocate for being yourself and in the process either attracting or repelling clients. Obviously you will attract the ones that are a good fit for you and repel the ones that aren’t.  Not everybody is going to like you or your style of work. You just need to get over it and don’t take it personally. Know that who you are attracting is better for you anyways. And those people that don’t like your work?  They aren’t meant to be your client anyways.  That’s all there is to it.

There is so much more advice I could give but this is already a long post 🙂  I definitely don’t have all the answers but if you have any questions for me I would be happy to try to help.  Whew! Thanks for reading 🙂

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