This spring will mark three years since I began my journey as a photographer. I’ll be honest, it’s gone really fast. But as we created this website and I made decisions about my message or “brand”, and my business in general, I realized how much I’ve learned.
1. Your “Brand” is your own, only you can define it. I read this exact piece of advice many times, but it never really sunk in until recently. Why? Because I didn’t know myself well-enough as a photographer to articulate it. So if you don’t know what your brand is, just keeping shooting and reading and learning until you do. Which leads to my next point.
2. Experience is KING. Dustin and Amber Fife of Fife Photography (they’re awesome FYI) shot something like 50 weddings their first year as wedding photographers. (I can’t find the blog post anymore, but I remember it being roughly a wedding a week for a year!) And guess what, they’re awesome at wedding photography because they did TONS of it (and they’re talented). If you want to be good at something, do it, do it, do it, and then do it again.
3. Gear doesn’t matter, except when it DOES. Being limited by your gear is a blessing and curse, it forces you to work with what you’ve got and to rely on creativity and skill instead of gimmicks and trends. But let’s be honest, you cannot learn how use gear that you do not have access to (yes you can rent, but there are limits). Ask yourself, did I miss that shot because I made a mistake? Or was it literally impossible without the right gear? If you regularly find yourself in the latter category, plan on buying new gear. If you’re unsure, keep learning the gear you have, until you know.
4. Be decisive when the choice is obvious. I cringe to think about how much time I’ve spent toying with different website templates, blogging platforms, and layout ideas. In the end, I built a website with a fairly standard layout using an off-the-shelf theme built on a reliable platform (wordpress). This is exactly what I knew I would do from the very beginning. Don’t torture yourself or waste time trying to be different with things that do not matter. If the choice is obvious, make it. Spend your time on the important things, like planning your next session, booking a new client, or whatever it is you know you should be doing.
5. BE a photographer, cherish those unique experiences. Driving home from a shoot with that amazing feeling, knowing that you nailed it. Seeing your photos in print and realizing how much they mean to your clients. Shooting a session for free because the person honestly needs it and cannot afford it. Looking back at your old work and marveling at how bad it looks to you now, but being grateful that it got better. Those moments make everything else worthwhile. Hold on to them and remember them, for those days when seemingly everything goes wrong.
I’m certainly no expert on photography or starting your own business, but I’m still learning these things for myself, and it felt good to write them down. Who knows, maybe it’ll help someone else on their journey.