I often times look back and see how far I’ve truly come in such a short amount of time. This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a few weeks now and now I have the kahunas to finally write it. If I were to turn back time… this would be some of the things I would want to tell myself.
I started taking photos of friends and family on October 11, 2014. At this time, I only collected “donations.” Some would donate and others weren’t as keen to donating, but it was about growing, learning and building a portfolio. The whole experience! In February of this year, I started out legally, incorporated my business, insurance, sales tax.. the whole nine. I am really new to this game… However, I have grown tremendously and am now 68 sessions in!
Most folks hire me for my unique locations and style here in South Jersey… They like my customer service and how I make this process… easy peasy..
I have learned a lot and have gained a ton of knowledge in a short time… and I look forward to learning and growing more! However, here is a letter that some new folks in the game may find useful!
These were my first “portraits” in regards to photography.. Go ahead and laugh! Remember, we all have to start somewhere! I thought I could share with you!
Dear Starting Out Photographer,
Wow, you have a long road ahead of you. You really have no clue what lies ahead of you, do you? You think you do… but you don’t. You have a passion for this, but have so much you need to learn. You think you are the bomb dot com right now, but as you get further in this game you finally wake up like a brick smacked you right in the face and realize… you have so much to learn. This takes you back and at this time… you’ll want to give up. Sell your equipment and just give all your hard work up.
You are probably confused on what to charge right now as you’re trying to get your name out there. You’ll hear from other photographers that you’ll need to go over your cost of doing business, but you can’t get one client through the door… whether you charge a lot or charge very little. You’re going to want to pull your hair out at this time, as this is the most frustrating aspect to the game.
You are going to start to realize, at this time, that this is a very cutthroat industry. It’s very dog eat dog. There are HUGE EGOS. You’ll learn you’re all alone in this and that’s okay… after all, it is your business after all. You’ll get messages that your work sucks, you’re going to be laughed at by other photographers in regards to your work, and these folks will be very mean. You may cry, get defensive, and get angry. I’m just telling you it’s going to be okay. You’re going to learn to develop a tough skin. Trust me. I’ve been there. Some of their advice you will learn from, others you won’t… and that’s again.. Please take it with a grain of salt.
You will second guess your own style.. as others will not agree with it.. and it will put you on a tale spin further down the rabbit hole and you’ll be lost even further.
You’ll be ridiculed by others about your equipment and that it “isn’t good enough” I started out with a NEX-6 and then an A6000, since then I have upgraded to a full frame “professional camera”, but that’s what I had to work with at the time… They’ll tell you this equipment won’t do the job. You’ll see all the latest and greatest gear out there… and want it all.. New actions and presets (which you’ll soon realize are a waste of money), new lenses, a new camera body, off camera flash, studio equipment and backdrops, floordrops, reflectors.. and you will think to yourself… oh, I got to have those. But guess what? You really don’t need most of these. You’ll soon learn it’s about using what you’ve got and using it to the max. Learning your equipment as if it is an extension of yourself.
Guess what? No matter how far you’ll MAKE IT… even the big names get ridiculed! Just suck it up and develop your tough guy/gal skin! You will need it new photographer!
You’ll learn that it isn’t just a click of the shutter… You’ll be thrown into marketing and the business side of things. There will be contracts and following up and designing sets… learning customer service. Creating, designing and maintaining your website for SEO purposes.. (that’s cutthroat in itself), facebook, client calls and consults, buying props.. maintaining equipment, purchasing equipment, editing software, backing up, online galleries.. deciding where you want to order your prints from… Yes, it starts to get overwhelming! You’ll soon realize that this little part time gig you have going for yourself, is more a full-time gig and it can start to take up a majority of your day!
You’ll see other new folks soaring and their business just taking flight. This will upset you because you know you can create just as good of work and you’ll see others who have been in the business for years and still have a lot of improving to do. It doesn’t matter!!!! You’ll learn it doesn’t matter and just focus on yourself!
Eventually, you are going to realize… none of the above matters and to do your own thing. You’ll realize that everyone has a style… some folks love clean edits.. some folks like crazy edits and colors… As you continue and push ahead, you will see folks are now hiring you and respect you for your work.. Your creativity will start to come back and you will find your passion again.
This is the time you will start to flourish. I promise! This is when you will know your true worth and what to price yourself at. This is when you will build your confidence and you’ll learn to tune out most other photographers. You’ll be doing you.. the way it was suppose to be all along! Get out there and do you! It’s time! You CAN do this! Trust me!
My moment was a few months back, I stopped listening to what others told me.. I continued on to learn and educate myself. I started to surround myself with local photographers who have the same values and hold the same values. This is when I found my happiness in this again. After I started doing me, is when other photographers would email or message me in regards to locations, lenses, my editing process, and started to admire my work.
I have a long way to go, but I finally feel happy on the path to which I am going in. I will always continue to learn and grow as an artist, but there was a time I wanted to give it all up! I’ve learned to not let anyone rain on my parade and neither should you! Keep doing what you love to do… regardless of equipment.. regardless of what others say. Remember, it’s not the camera that takes a great photo.. It is you after all. People will hire you based on your art. Find you. Find your style and be you.. the sky is the limit after that… I promise!
Remember and say this to yourself……. EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER OUT THERE STARTED SOMEWHERE! They didn’t just start clicking and become pros.. It took them a lot of time (sometimes decades) and effort to get to where they are today.
I, myself, have a long road to go.. LONG LONG JOURNEY… but I’m finally liking and enjoying the road to get there! However, check out this work and what is in my portfolio currently.. it is a night and day difference in less than a year’s time!
Happy Shooting, my friends!