MacBook photo booth kind of day.
I don’t think that people accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. — David Lynch (via llendaria)
(Source: 009821, via atraverssiamo)
You CAN buy happiness.. It’s called heroin.
I’ll be my OWN damn valentine!!
I started my photography business in 2006. That’s only 6/7 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime, especially when I look back on all that’s happened. And when I think about all the mistakes i’ve made, well, it feels more like two lifetimes!
But mistakes are just wonderful little learning opportunities in disguise. And while i’ve had my fair share of screw-ups, i’ve been able to learn and improve as a result.
So we’re going to pull the curtains back, share a ton of my mistakes, and the things I wish Ibhad known when I were just getting started. I learned these lessons the hard way. Hopefully by sharing them with you, you’ll be able to avoid these mistakes, and have a smoother ride to success!
1. Learn To Shoot In Manual Mode Right Away
I shot my first year of weddings in Aperture Priority Mode. At the time, it seemed like the easier option. But i’ve since realized that it was actually making things harder on myself!
See, the importance of learning to shoot in manual mode isn’t because modes like Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority are useless. They can be a solid choices in certain situations.
The real value of manual mode shooting is in how it forces you to understand what’s going on with your camera, and the light around you. Learning this early on will help you get more control over your images, and improve your shooting skills quickly.
Another bonus is that manual mode also lets you be more consistent in your exposures, which helps you save time with your editing!
So this isn’t some photography snobbery here. Learning how to shoot in manual mode is going to help you in a ton of ways, and the sooner you can learn how to do it, the more benefit you’ll see!
(If you need some help learning how to shoot in manual, hit me up, and I’ll do my best to school you on some basics ;)
2. You Are Not Just A Photographer
When I got started I thought that if I had great photography skills, i’d have a successful business. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re starting and running your own business, you need to wear a baker’s dozen of hats. You are a photographer/customer service expert/book keeper/marketing director/social media whiz/branding dude/website creation person/secretary/treasurer/CEO/CFO/ and pretty much any other title you can think of.
The sooner you realize that you’re going to need to become good at a LOT of different things, the sooner you can start improving at them all. Great photography skills are important, don’t get me wrong. But you need to have a LOT of other ones if you’re going to make a business out of it!
3. Be Patient
This is a lesson we still have to remind ourselves of constantly. When I first got started, I figured i’d have a wildly successful business rolling within a year. Fast forward 6 years, and I’m now barely reaching the exposure for my name and work.
It takes time to get good at photography. It takes time to get good at marketing. It takes time to get good at customer service. It takes time to get good at business organization. Basically, it takes time to get good at the dozens of things you need to be good at to run a wildly successful photography business.
So don’t beat yourself up if things aren’t happening as fast as you expected. If you stick with it, and keep improving, you’ll get there.
4. People Skills Are The Most Important Skills
Photography is a people business. Even if you’re a landscape shooter, your clients are people. And the better you can work with, and take care of, the people you do business with, the more success you’ll see.
I didn’t understand just how important this was until Ibread the book How To Win Friends & Influence People. From that point on, l saw that the more effort we put into being great with people, the more success we had. That book changed my business, and my life. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I promise it’s not.
5. Unnecessary Gear and Business Purchases Can Be Crippling
It’s very easy to get caught in the never-ending cycle of buying things to “help your business”. With photography, it’s even more dangerous because the purchases are fun and exciting! It’s not hard to convince yourself that if I can just have that lens, or that strobe.. My pictures would look 10x better! WRONG! My gear might not get many jealous stares from other photographers, but as long as it’s creating the images I’m known for, that’s all that matters.
I shoot with my simple SLR, I don’t bring any kind of flash, strobes, or reflectors with me on set, first, it’s easier to move around with the model (since my work is based on a lifestyle vibe) Second, I don’t need any other equipment then just that for the style of my shooting.
6. Get Outside Inspiration
When I first got into professional photography, I would spend countless hours browsing other photography sites to see what everyone else was doing. I basically immersed myself completely in that world.
Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely learn a ton from the people who share the same profession as you. But if you don’t look for inspiration outside of that realm, you will find yourself just doing the same as everyone else. Great businesses and photographers don’t just do the same. They find ways to stand out!
As a photographer, the sources of inspiration are nearly endless, so don’t limit yourself to looking at photographers who do the same work as you. Study the work of the great photographers who inspire YOU! After 3 years of shooting I realized I knew enough to call my self professional but there was something missing.. I still needed to find my ‘nitch’ in the photography world. I had a style but I wanted to learn more about this particular natural light, soft, lifestyle vibe.
I already looked up to Damon Loble (BDL) even before moving to LA, so when I made my move there I got some balls and offered myself up to shadow him/assist/almost like intern for him at his studio. This was the best thing I had ever done for my photography career because I learned what I wanted to know, from the person I admired. Every photography should find their source of inspiration and go on that. If you find a photographer you look up to, don’t be shy to ask them for pointers!
The same goes for business inspiration. You can learn tons from internet marketers, copywriters, and pretty much anyone in business. After all, it’s all about helping your customers get value out of what you do. The end results differ, but the fundamental concepts are more similar that you might realize!
8. Referrals Are Essential
Word of mouth referrals are the most powerful sources of bookings for photographers. People are way more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend than an ad in a magazine. You need to be working hard to get referrals.
At first, I didn’t realize that I actually had to encourage referrals. Sure, you’ll get some just because folks like to talk about great companies. But many clients probably have no idea just how valuable their referrals are to you!
There are lots of ways to encourage referrals. You can set up a formal referral program that rewards clients for sending new business your way. Or you can simply give them a stack of business cards along with their photos, and let them know just how much you appreciate them telling their friends about you. Or do both!!
However you do it, just don’t neglect those referrals. They will be the backbone of your business!
9. Market Or Die
Does this sound familiar? You start something up. A blog. A website. A business. You’re sure you have a brilliant idea, and that it will be wildly successful. You make a gorgeous logo. You create a stunning online presence, filled with witty writing and enticing images. You press publish, sit back, and wait for the inquiries and comments to pour in.
And then nothing happens.
It took me a loooong time to realize that, in general, no one cares about what you’re doing. Unless you make them care about it.
And that, quite simply is what marketing is all about. Showing people that what you’re doing is interesting and valuable. You could have the most amazing photography in the world, but unless people know about it, you will not see any success.
So look at this way. Getting your business all set up with a website and name and logo and all that stuff — that’s what gets you to the starting point. Then the real work begins. You need to get out there and tell people about it, and market yourself!
10. Your List Is Crazy Valuable
One of the most valuable marketing assets you can create is a newsletter list. These days it’s really ridiculously easy to send out updates with emails, giving you a direct link to your best customers!
I still never put enough effort into building a newsletter list for my photography business, and have always regretted it. I just didn’t realize how important it was.
There it is. My advice to photographers and those FAQ answered. Remember, never forget what/who inspired you to start this in in first place.
I sleep opposite of sprawled out.
blk on blk on blk..