It’s been so fun launching this section of the blog! I hope these posts really do help you – and feel free to comment anytime for future posts you’d love me to write about! I was asked this question a few times, and couldn’t wait to answer it.
How did you start your photography business? and…
I think I want to try this…now how do I begin?
I’m going to answer these questions in two separate posts. I’d really love to give you all of my best advice for starting a business from my own experience, and next week I’ll be happy to go more into the story of how I started mine!
This post might come as a disappointment to everyone out there who loves step by step absolutes. Now, I love to measure, I love absolutes. Any bakers out there? I put in this much flour, I get a cookie that looks like that. I realized early on in starting my business, that there is no “right” way to do it. Some ideas and strategies work for some people, and others just don’t. And even as a photographer, I realized early on that there is no “right” or absolute way to photograph any situation. Photographers light differently – and that’s what makes it an art. And here I was, having jumped two feet right into something that required creativity and strategy and pushing beyond my boundaries and sheer perseverance.
My business found me, I didn’t really find it. (Will share more next week!) I was a landscape and fine art photographer who was just asked to shoot one of my friend’s weddings. And it turned out I loved it. Yes, when I realized this is what I wanted to do, I worked really hard to make it happen. But I didn’t sit back and think about becoming a photographer. I just was one.
But if I were in that place, sitting back thinking about being a photographer, this is the advice I’d give myself. I hope it helps you today!!
(Me shooting one of my first weddings. This expression of joy is what it’s always been about for me!)
1. Start with Why
Think about what motivates you to get into the photography business in the first place. What do you love? What lights your soul on fire? What makes you want to get up and what makes documenting so important? A lot of people love capturing moments that are fleeting. Being creative. Slowing down time. But why do YOU? Connecting with your own story is an important first step, that really helps you down the road when you start working on authentic branding. It’s always good to do a self-check in and ask why?
2. Practice all the time
A photographer is a photographer, whether they are doing dishes or going on a walk and noticing the way the leaves fell off the trees, the way the dew collects on flowers, the way that people smile only sometimes, show their dimples. Keep noticing. Bring your camera with you everywhere, and just keep practicing. Some of my favorite moments are the everyday ones, the ones that don’t go up on my blog or Facebook – but the ones that keep my eyes looking for beauty in small details.
3. Look at lots of images
Saturate yourself with images that inspire you. In today’s day and age, that’s super easy. You can just go on Instagram. But take it a step further – go find some fine art books and flip through the pages. Go onto other photographer’s blogs. Don’t just look at the images – notice what inspires you about them. Is it the way it was lit? Is it joy? Is soft moments? Is it the landscape and setting? What kind of moments are your favorite?
And then, look at your images as you make them. Notice when you take one you love, and that giddy feeling wells up inside you. Why? And then look at the other images you made. Evaluate – what can you do better?
4. Invest in your education
If you have never taken a basic Digital SLR Photography course, go learn! Find one at a nearby college or through camera stores such as Adorama or B&H Photo. Starting at the foundation is so important – learning basic camera settings, composition, techniques and lighting.
Then, something SO encouraging in our industry that there are many artists out there who want to help mentor and equip you! Find workshops specific to the type of photography you are exploring. Weddings are a niche all on their own, as are families, newborns, high school seniors, and of course landscape. I was educated in fine art darkroom photography, but after I started my wedding business, I was blessed to be mentored by Katelyn James and Justin and Mary. I chose to pursue private mentoring sessions, lighting courses and just recently, a walk through a wedding. Find industry leaders whose work you love, and then take gradually take courses from them that would best help you!
5. Don’t worry so much about having the best equipment
I’m sure you already know this, but photography equipment is SO expensive!! Oh my goodness! One thing that I learned in college darkroom photography, is that all artists work within some sort of limitation. The best art is created when you stretch your equipment as far as it can go. I have done that since the beginning. Trust me, you’ll know when you really do need a better camera body or a better lens – and then you can calculate what you’re able to invest at that time. As more people trust you to take their pictures, you will earn the better equipment. But for now, start with a good entry level DSLR for what you need it for, and stretch it as far as you can!
6. Diversify your Income
Phew, I can’t tell you enough how important this is!! If you’re single, or in a household where your income is important, don’t quit everything to be a full time photographer! Wait until if and when you’re ready. I worked 3 jobs when I graduated college, then 2 jobs. I don’t know how I did it! It was hard, and I hustled to make my business happen. But I waited until I booked a full time photographer’s amount of weddings to quit my other job. This saves you, in so many ways! It keeps the stress off of your photography business for being the means for you to have dinner on the table. Your first clients don’t need that pressure, and neither do you!
7. Take a deep breath, and enjoy the journey!
A photography business isn’t a get rich quick scheme, not at all. Being creative and starting a business is a journey. And having any kind of business isn’t just about making great art and feeling satisfied, but it’s about serving other people and being satisfied that you’re giving them something beautiful to always treasure. For me, this journey has always been a journey of the heart. Of staying true to myself, stretching who I thought I was to becoming more, and bringing more beauty and joy into the world.
Stay true to you throughout the process. Stay grounded in your story. Savor time as you grow – it really is your friend. Love people with the gifts you’ve been given. And keep yourself rooted in the WHY and in the JOY. For me, my WHY has always been deeply connected to my joy. I know if I ever lose the joy, something is off and the journey needs to be re-routed. So stay joy-full, and enjoy the journey, friend.
I’m excited for the possibilities before you!
Feel free to comment or ask any follow up questions below