I sporadically receive emails from aspiring photographers asking many of the same questions for starting up their photography business, and they are great ones that deserve answering! It dawned on me that maybe sharing a blog post answering some questions would be more efficient for everyone! We all start from the very bottom and need advice through the beginning stages, and let’s be real, even years and years into it as well 🙂
I make no promises that my answers are “correct”. Everyone has their own way of doing things in their business that works for them, so take this all with a grain of salt.
1. How did you get your start in photography and what influenced your decision to pursue it as a full-time career?
I got started in photography when I realized I no longer wanted to be a Criminal Justice major my first year into college. I never said I wanted to grow up and be a photographer, it just randomly fell into my life in a stage of career choice crisis. I watched a lot of America’s Next Top Model in my dorm room, and I became very interested in the creative concepts of photoshoots and the images that were possible to create. I was shy then, still can be, but I knew I wanted to interact and photograph people immediately. I can waver in my decisions sometimes, but that sudden choice was something that consumed me, and I never questioned my passion. Since I was quite young, 19 actually, I was not trying to manage growing a business with the risk of also having to support myself full time. I was still living at home and relying on my parents for things like, oh I dunno, food and shelter 🙂 I know many photographers have to work other jobs and then come home and work at trying to build up a business. This is where you should take note that everyone’s photography journey is different. I was able to slowing build a business in school without the pressures of having to worry if I could pay for a roof over my head. For this very reason, knowing the work it takes now, I have incredible respect for people who work other jobs and also try to pursue their photography passions.
2. What strengths / character traits do you possess that you believe helped you succeed?
Passion: You’ll see the word “passion” a lot in relation to photography. I think that may because this is a field of highs and lows, and your passion is what keeps you getting back out there and taking pictures. Passion is what shines through in your images and allows a genuine connections with your viewer. People can absolutely sense your passion through your images, so don’t forget that!
Discipline: Being self employed sounds so luxurious, doesn’t it? You call the shots with how your time is used and answer to yourself. It’s the best, but it is also really challenging. Without setting hours for when you will work and deadlines to accomplish tasks, being self employed can soon feel incredibly overwhelming when things pile up. Discipline is a key component to running a business that is successful in creating a great experience for your clients from start to finish.
People skills: This is a no brainer. Running a business well means great customer care, absolutely!
3. Was anything discouraging to you when you were first starting?
Of course. This is a field where people play the comparison game all the time. Why do their images look like that and mine don’t? Why are they getting so much business and I can hardly get anyone to book with me? How come I can’t edit like them? This goes on and on and on …
Something I have tried when I play the comparison game is to eliminate distractions. Now a days, this means turing off the phone and getting to work. While you’re working or out photographing, you’re getting better and achieving something that can lead to many great rewards within your business.
4. What are the biggest challenges and the biggest rewards of being a photographer and owning your own business?
I would say the biggest challenges is learning that you are running a business and not just taking pretty pictures in a field all day 🙂 It is a huge responsibility to run a business, so the challenge is learning all of these things from scratch (taxes, insurance, editing, contracts, pricing, etc. )
The rewards are the PEOPLE! This is my instant thought when I think of photography. I know couples hire me to photograph their weddings, but I know that I have walked away with images that are memories for myself, too. I have witnessed things in my lifetime that I never would have if I was not a wedding photographer. You have the ability to get to know your clients and build friendships, and that has turned out to be the most rewarding part of the job without question.
5. What would you recommend an aspiring photographer do to gain experience? What is the best way to pursue being a second shooter for an already established photographer?
When I first started I photographed anyone I could. My sisters were my test subjects all the time! Whomever was willing, I photographed them! When it comes to weddings and second photographing, I would first offer the possibility of assisting first because it allows you to be able to observe the lead at work with your full attention.
Get to know other photographers in your area, too! You can connect with other artists easily through social media these days, so take the time to build relationships. I also would recommend workshops over paying for photography schooling. By doing that you are able to learn hands on, and you can also walk away with portfolio images!