This is the first in a series of posts for anyone interested in starting their own photography business. I know that the market seems over saturated with self proclaimed “professionals” since the boom of digital photography, but if there is one thing that I have noticed, it is the gap between “mediocrity” and “great”. This of course helps the “great” photographers look even better, but how can you target yourself for the “great” category to help you be more successful?
Having a successful photography business involves many facets. Everything from camera knowledge and personality, to simple business savvy sense.
Like taking pictures? Have a nice camera? Have you been asked by some family or friends to take their images after they see you shooting your SLR or post your images on your blog? Love this new hobby? When do you start charging? Are you ready to go into business?
What would be the first step in these lofty goals?
STEP #1. KNOW YOUR STUFF.
Sounds basic. Sounds obvious. Sounds too simple to even mention it! But is there more to shooting than putting your camera in any of the auto modes and taking some pics and becoming best friends with Photoshop?
There is oh so much more.
I love the advice given recently by one of my favorite fabulous photographers, Rebekah Westover ,on the I Heart Faces blog (comment section). Rebekah states: “I DO think there needs to be a solid understanding of how to work your camera and how to properly expose photos. There REALLY needs to be a good understanding about the basics before you should be charging for your work. It’s like any other job really. I wouldn’t want to pay a mechanic to work on my car if he was just tinkering around and playing just to figure things out. I’d want him to know what he was doing of course. I think it should be the same with photography. You really shouldn’t charge if you don’t know what you are doing and are just playing around and snapping away on auto modes on your camera without regards to composition, lighting, exposure, posing, etc.
The best things to do to learn how to make beautiful photos are one PRACTICE on your own time…not on a client’s photo shoot. Take courses or workshops. Shoot for fun. Read books. Get involved in forums. There are so many inexpensive ways to learn more about photography.”
I love that she compared going into business without having the knowledge of how to work your camera, to other jobs, like being a mechanic. Any one of us would likely discredit someone immediately if they didn’t have some sort of training or thorough understanding of what they were doing. And just like she mentioned, there are lots of ways to learn the technical side of photography. Learning how to shoot in manual mode and exposing your images properly, truly is absolutely essential.
My mantra? Take it right the first time! Photoshop is a great tool used to enhance photos, but should not be used to regularly fix photos.
When there is a solid understanding of the technical side of the camera some beautiful things happen:
Indeed! When there is solid understanding of camera mechanics, you will have confidence in shooting in any situation. All different kinds of light. You’ll know exactly how to achieve certain artistic effects with depth of field, how to make sure your images are focused properly instead of being blurry, OR, how to achieve the blurry effect intentionally… how to freeze action with moving subjects, how to imply motion, how to have the proper amount of light for your desired exposure…
There is nothing quite like the feeling of being paid to shoot for a client and have the back of the LCD screen show you images that you know full well are not working out, but you aren’t sure how to fix it… most of the time, its not a “camera problem” its an “photographer problem”. KNOW YOUR STUFF.
2. Saves Time!!!
Remember my mantra? Take it right the first time! I admit that I LOVE to edit photos. But I do not love it when it takes over my life for hours and hours on end and takes me away from my family and other important responsibilities.
When there is a solid understanding of how to work your camera and you are shooting in manual, I gaurentee you that you will save on editing time. The only thing your photos will need is likely a slight enhancement of whatever you produced straight out of the camera.
My typical editing time for a 2 hour session (400-500 images) is around 1-2 hours. And most of that “editing” time, is actually me narrowing down the images to the very best ones to work with.
***If you go into business, your time management will become very important. Any area that you can streamline the time you put in will greatly help you (and increase your hourly earnings). Knowing your stuff will help you achieve this!
If you know what all your options are in creating an image, and you know how to achieve it… you experience a brilliant sense of freedom in the creative world! You are not limited by the default choices of a camera in auto modes, because you are in charge and manipulating all the settings to achieve your own vision. Photography is a creative art form! Live it to its fullest!
How do you learn the basics for using your camera?
There are so many options! Find what works best for you and your learning type. There are fabulous books, forums, online tutorials, workshops, and classes. I was blessed to be able to have the opportunity to take weekly private photography lessons for 8 months from the fabulous Dustin Fife! (Sorry Utah, he now teaches in Oklahoma!) For me, I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn hands on. I’ve also taken classes as well as attended a few workshops, read several books and spent too much time online as well! When paired with LOTS of practice, the knowledge becomes cemented into active skills that will prove to be a huge asset to any business venture.
I teach monthly classes in Northern Utah for those wanting a hands on experience. Feel free to browse my photog FAQs as well for great books that I recommend for learning the basics as well! Any readers with other great learning suggestions for the basics, please leave your thoughts and your recommendations in the comment section!
Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah. Brooke specializes as a Utah Senior photographer, Logan Senior photographer, Utah Family Photographer, Logan Family Photographer, Logan childrens photographer , Utah Childrens Photographer and is a photography teacher who enjoys teaching private photography lessons as well as monthly photography classes in Logan, Utah.
Great article Brooke, I really appreciate the combination of honesty and optimism. Can’t wait for more.
Loooove your creative work! It’s an inspiration. Thanks for sharing. Love your thoughts and advise…couldn’t agree with you more! Thanks for sharing. Came across you from Show-it. I am looking forward to my own new blog/website!:) Looking forward to following your work.
Thanks Brooke! You are very generous with your knowledge – I am excited to see the rest, also!
Just realized that the Fife’s lived in our Provo ward back before they moved to Oklahoma. Small world isn’t it? Dustin took the photos for the ward directory (I’m guessing he was a little overqualified).
Thanks so much for this article. I found it really insightful!