Photography became a part of my life almost seven years ago and January 1 will be the beginning of my fifth year in business (Where does the time ago?). In that time, there’s been a lot of joy and more good things than I can count but there’s also been a lot of struggle and a lot of mistakes. Here are a few things that I wish I’d realized from the start. I hope that they help someone.
Being in business is a lot of work. Don’t rush in. Find Balance.
I’ll be the first to admit that I probably went into business before I should have. I got caught up. Everyone seemed to be getting a logo, a website, portfolio building and it seemed like the logical next step. I wanted to be in the same place and to stay at the same level as my peers. I was a stay home mom and photography seemed like a good way to help support my family and fund my photography addiction. What I didn’t think about was the fact that I knew nothing about running a business and couldn’t begin to imagine what would actually be involved and the stress it would cause. My life swung out of balance and it wasn’t something I was easily able to fix. Today, I know that the most important things in my life are my faith, marriage, family, friends and then my photography business. When photography starts to come before any of those other things, I may make more money (or not) but I also start to lose the joy and if you’re not happy, what’s the point?
These are the most important people in my world.
There’s no magic bullet. More stuff won’t make you a better photographer.
When I think about the money that I spent on actions, digital products, books, props, gear and other “stuff” that I never used, I have a lot of regret. I purchased things that other people raved about thinking it would make my work look like theirs. It never did. Rather than buying actions, learn how to get correct white balance and do a clean edit on your own, then develop your processing style. Actions can be wonderful tools, but you don’t need every set that is out there. The same can be said for just about everything else out there. Don’t take a workshop with the goal of learning to shoot like the instructor, chances are you’ll be disappointed. If you don’t know why you need a new camera, you probably don’t need a new camera. Buying an entire store of digital products for $100 is only a good deal if you use them.
Learn how to use your speedlight. Now.
I thought being able to say that I shot only with natural light was some sort of a badge of honor. That was foolish. I missed a lot of everyday moments and have a lot of blurry images b/c maxing out my camera’s ISO capabilities and shooting wide open didn’t get me to a high enough shutter speed. My speedlight allows me to create a window wherever I want and I can emulate natural light with it. I love natural light and shoot with it most of the time, but I can’t tell you how freeing it is to know that I can shoot anywhere, at anytime of the day and get a beautifully lit shot. It took a lot of practice, but it’s easier than you may think.
It’s not a race. Don’t compare your journey to others.
A few years ago, I stopped following other people’s blogs because too often, I found myself feeling jealous rather than inspired. I’m not a jealous person and it was a new and unwelcome feeling for me. Focus on yourself. Work hard. Figure out what you love. Worrying about what other people are doing will only slow you down.
You can’t be anyone but you very well.
Be you. Shoot what’s in your heart. The best personal story I can share with you is that four or five years ago, everyone was shooting faux studio. I bought a piece of plexi glass, fake wood floor and a background stand so that I could take similar pictures. I’d show you some examples, but I don’t actually have any. Nothing could be further from who I am and last year, I sold that background stand (that had been under my couch for three years) for half of what I paid for it. If you don’t like hats on babies, you don’t have to shoot them (and if you love hats on babies, put hats on babies). While I think it’s very important to know how to shoot in all kinds of light, if you love bright and airy, you don’t have to shoot moody and dark or backlit images. Shoot posed. Shoot lifestyle. Be you, you’re awesome at it.
(Image Courtesy of Kristina Young)