I started my photography business much like other moms. I had a baby and was obsessively taking photos of her so I could freeze every moment. I had taken photography classes in high school but when my first was born I only had a film camera. I was forced to be conscious of light and settings and not rely on actions to fix issues later. As a single mom, the cost of film forced me to shoot intentionally.
Years later I met my husband and got pregnant with twins. At 24 weeks I was forced on bedrest and bored out of my ever-loving mind! I used that time to learn photoshop and digital photography. I soaked up as much info I could find on the internet for free, back then there weren’t online classes and a lot of forums. I watched Youtube tutorials like it was my job. And I practiced A LOT.
Once my girls were born I photographed them nearly every day. I would pull the images (jpeg of course) into photoshop and edit the crap out of them because I could. Somehow even some of those horrible images (remember the glow filter?) still had people wanting me to take photos of their kids. I began shooting for other people for free and my business just grew organically.
I started charging and kept learning and soaking up as much as I could find. I never stopped learning and still try to soak up new techniques and knowledge! I made a lot of mistakes along the way but I learned from those mistakes to grow my business and create images I could be proud of! I still mentor other photographers from time to time and there are a few things I always tell them.
Never be ashamed of where you are and don’t let anyone make you feel like you aren’t good enough.
We ALL start somewhere. So many times I see photographers shaming the newbies. They make jokes around tax time about all the new photographers who bought a camera with their refund check. Guess what….many of you were that new excited photographer too! Its so easy to forget where you came from and I think a lot of it comes from the constant worry of competition but there is room for everyone.
You don’t have to over edit your photos.
Take them time to learn how to get your images right in camera so you have less work later. This is super important when your business grows and you are busy. I love editing photos but I love spending time with my family more. There was a time when I would spend hours editing sessions every night and spent zero time with my family. Its NOT worth it. Find a good workflow, be consistent, and spend less time at your computer.
You are not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok!
Figure out who your target market is and write it out. Remind yourself of this every time you get an inquiry, shoot a session, and post on social media. Its ok to say no! For example, I hate shooting seniors. In the beginning, I would take any and all work that would come my way but the truth is there are some things I rock at and some things I fail miserably. Senior photography for me is an epic fail. So when someone emails me wanting senior photos I refer them to someone else. Do more of what you love!
You are not in this alone. Its ok to make friends with photographers in your area.
Think peers, not competition. I get the frustration when you are competing for the same market but trust me when I say its so nice to have someone who gets you and someone you can trust to refer clients to when you are too busy! My biggest thing is this, make it a real friendship. Talk about life and “normal” things don’t talk about photography all the time. In truth, most of my photography friends and I rarely talk business and I think that’s what has helped me most. No one wants to feel used! I’ve had it happen to me and its just gross. If you want business/technical advice just be up front from the beginning. That way they have the opportunity to say no.
Take the time to learn your craft.
Trust me when I say no one knows everything and if they tell you they do they are lying. You should always be learning and growing! Never stop soaking in as much as you can.
Never feel like you have to justify your worth to someone.
I don’t bargain with clients. I’ve learned they will just want more and more. You know the whole “give them an inch they will take a mile”? Occasionally I get a reply back with “that’s more than we can afford” and I never explain my pricing. Clients don’t care that we spend thousands on equipment or hours editing and I’m not a flea market. I kindly let them know that I may not be the photographer for them and move on. I’m a push over and people pleaser so this one was a hard lesson for me to learn!
Remember to always do what you love and make your business something you want to do! “I am not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”
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Thank you to Jessica Vaughn for contributing this article.