I started this whole photography journey back in 2009 and then in 2011 I went full time. Up and quit my job and literally it scared the bejesus out of me. Ohh the things I wish I knew back then that I know now. This industry is weird. There are times that I hate it but more times that I love it. Before I go on about that, let me make sure you understand the different between loving what I do and loving the industry.
I love my clients. I love what I do and not to sound cliche’, I’m really am blessed with the clients that I have. I posted on my personal Facebook yesterday that if you would of told me 3 years ago that I would be shooting weddings full time, I would of told you that you were full of shit. No way did I think I would be where I am today, let alone when I first started. But there’s a difference between loving my clients and loving the industry. There is a lot of stuff that I don’t like about the industry and I sat down to make a list of things I wish I knew before I started shooting. I started at 5 things, then became 10 but I cut it back to 8 because the other 2 things were quite petty lol
1. You have to specialize in what you shoot!
Eh, this is a double sided question. If you heard my talk on Photography Awesomesauce Live yesterday, I touched on this a little bit. While yes, you should specialize in what you do because you can’t be the best at everything, when you’re first starting out, you’re hungry, you’ll shoot everything. I did it. For 3-4 years, I shot it all; maternity, newborns, families, kids…you get the point but it wasn’t until last year that I decided that weddings is where I wanted to be and started focusing directly on those. That’s where all my marketing and strength went to. It took me 5 years to figure this out. Don’t think that with that first shutter click you’re going to know what you want to do without doing anything else.
2. Do what you feel is right?
Oh boy, this one! I did everything but this. I was doing what everyone else was doing and it wasn’t my business, it wasn’t what I wanted to accomplish and I really think this held me back…a lot! You have to be yourself and not try to be everyone else. The way I run my business is not the way some rock star photographer runs theirs. Some people are very straight and forward, business like with their clients and while yes, things on the business side on my business is strictly business but when it comes to my clients, I’m laughing, joking, going out and having drinks with them and so on. I’m friends with my clients but that’s me.
3. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you!
I did this on numerous occasions! Yes, we’re all human but the industry can be assholes and if you don’t have thick skin, you’ll end up in the corner, rocking back and forth telling yourself you’re quitting. *raises hand* I’ve been there numerous times. Tell them all to bite it and plow through!
4. But with that, don’t think you know it all…
You don’t and you never will. Every once in a while, I still get that attitude and then reality hits. You are constantly learning and there is always someone with a little more knowledge than you.
5. Choose who you learn from.
There are TONS of workshops, “teachers” and such out there and I mean TONS. But here’s the thing, who are you learning from? I was talking to Carrie Swails of Photography Awesomesauce last night and she made a perfect point; I want to learn blogging from a blogger, social media from someone who rocks out social media and wedding photography from a wedding photographer (a still shooting wedding photographer). This couldn’t be so true! Just because a photographer has 20k likes on their Facebook page doesn’t make them a rock star on social media.
6. If you shoot for free, this gives you tons of exposure.
WRONG!!! Totally freaking wrong! Exposure doesn’t pay my bills. Exposure doesn’t feed my kids, so here’s what I say about this. If you’re just building your portfolio, then yes you’re probably going to do some free sessions to get something on your website but once you start getting established, so many will come to you and say “If you shoot for free, the exposure I can give you is astronomical!” Umm move on please. I pick and choose who I shoot for free and I do it because I want to, not for exposure.
7. The industry is going to welcome you with open arms!
Umm nope! And it’s okay, get over it right now. You will be called newbie, fauxtographer and “OMG look, it’s another photographer”. It sucks and quite frankly, I wish I had the gonads to go back to the ones that said things like that to me and give them a big ole eff you but I’m not and I won’t because you know what? I don’t care anymore. I’m rocking out my business more and more every single day but 5-6 years ago? It sucked. The clique’s are ridiculous and I just sit in my corner and worry about my clients and me.
8. Everyone will love you!
Bull shit. No they won’t, especially your local “competition”. Just when you think your competition likes you, they don’t and something happens. Could be that you raised your prices and still booking and they aren’t, a client booked with you and not with them, you travel and they don’t…who knows and it really doesn’t matter. Well let me take that back. Yes, it’s nice to have that few local photographers to bounce ideas off of, to get drinks with and to vent to because really they are the only ones that understand this business BUT there are also those that just don’t like you. *raises hand* I have plenty of them and you know what…I’m okay with that
When I first started, I wanted everyone to like me, I wanted to fit in and I finally realized, no I don’t. I was trying to fit in with people that weren’t like me. Just like we want to click with our clients, you have to click with friends. I was clicking, I was basically trying to damn hard.
My advice is my advice and you can take it or leave it. It’s things that I wish I would of known and mistakes that I’ve made.