So you want to be a photographer but you’re struggling with figuring out how exactly to get there. Welcome to the club, my friend. It’s a club we’ve all been a part of at one point or another. It’s a club filled with mixed emotions. Fear, excitement and uncertainty among many other things are all common and very normal to feel in this club.
I want to take some of the guess work out of it for you, so here are a few tips for starting your photography business.
1. Buy a camera (your iPhone does NOT count). It doesn’t have to be the best DSLR out there. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be if it’s your first DSLR. I shot on an entry level DSLR for a LONG time before switching over to the full frame camera I shoot on now. It will give you a chance to learn how to use your camera to its fullest capacity (i.e. in manual/not on auto). You can ditch the kit lens when you’re ready and add on other lenses that will then extend your abilities. It’s an inexpensive way to get things started, and it can take you pretty far if you learn how to use it!
2. Shoot for free. What did I just say?! Yes, I told you to work for free. This gives you a chance to build your portfolio so that you can actually charge in the future. Don’t shoot for anyone and everyone, though. Carefully select people, wardrobes and locations that match the ideal client you’re wanting to reach. Think about it this way: the clients that you eventually want to charge need to be able to see themselves in your photos. If you’re not charging, then you have the freedom to select outfits and things of that nature. So don’t shoot a family session for free with everyone wearing khakis and white polos if you want to reach the kind of family that wears beautifully coordinated (but not matching) outfits in the future. Be strategic!
3. Put yourself out there! Once you’ve built that portfolio up a little bit, spread the word! I know it’s scary to put that out into the universe. You’re thinking, “What if no one likes my work? What if people don’t think I’m experienced enough? What if I fail?”. You MUST set these thoughts aside if you want to move forward. Tell your friends and family. Start a Facebook page for your business and post your work to Instagram. If you can swing it, build a website. There are plenty of platforms out there these days that are inexpensive and absolutely worth the small investment in order to make your business appear more trustworthy and legitimate!
4. Be confident. No one else is going to believe in you or trust your abilities if you don’t do it first. No, you’re not going to be the best photographer out there when you first start. But you do have something special and unique that no one else can offer the world. Stand firm in that belief. I shot a free engagement session several years ago, and the couple was super happy with their photos. They had a friend looking for a wedding photographer to which they were going to refer me. I told them that I would love that! I was honest and let them know that I had never shot a wedding before, and then I went on to say this: “I mean, I would never have me shoot my wedding, because I don’t have the experience.” HUGE mistake. These words should have never slipped out of my mouth. I basically just said, “I have ZERO confidence in what I’m doing”. Needless to say, that bride never contacted me. Even if you don’t feel incredibly sure of yourself, fake it ‘til ya make it.
5. Educate yourself. The number of free resources out there for photography and running creative businesses is actually astounding. It literally overwhelms me to think about it. Doing something as simple as joining private Facebook groups like The Rising Tide Society, Photography – Education – Heck Yeah!, or the Mastin Labs User Group can open up so many avenues for you to explore and learn from. Once you’re at a point where you can afford it, investing in your business through education is SO important. I’ve never made an educational investment that I didn’t see a substantial return on.
Remember that your business isn’t going to take off overnight. You’re not going to have a full calendar the minute you put yourself out there. [And if you do, you’re probably not charging enough.] Good things take time. So be ok with starting slow. Let those roots grow down deep, so that you’ll be able to grow steadily in the long term. And kick that fear to the curb. If photography is what you love, you have so much more to be excited about in the days to come than you have to fear.