Lessons I've Learned in my First Year of Running a Photography Business

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1. You can actually do this.

Photography came to me at the perfect time. I almost had my degree, but had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I always say photography snuck up on me. I had no intention of starting a business, but have been so grateful for the opportunity to turn this hobby into a career. A year ago, I didn't think I'd be able to actually make money from something like this and be good enough for people to want to work with me. (shoutout to everyone who supported me in my first year!)

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2. Photography is more about hard work than talent.

It's no secret that the photography industry is a saturated market. I am blown away by how much talent exists just within the Bay Area, and that can be very intimidating. While having talent and having a good eye can definitely get you farther, running a successful photography business is more about how hard you work and how well you can run a business. (I'm still learning how to do the latter.)

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3. Consequently, 90% of Being a Photographer is not Actually taking photos. 

It's easy to be skeptical about photographers - seeing as many make a few hundred dollars for an hour long shoot. What I didn't know when I started out was that this is in no way an hourly rate. So much goes into the back-end of running a business, that such a small portion of being a photographer is actually taking photos. For every hour I spend shooting, I spend at least 4-6 hours on a computer editing, emailing, marketing, you name it. 

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4. Don't take work you don't care about. It's bad for your clients & bad for you.

While it can be hard to turn down any work when you're starting out, it's important to recognize what you like and what you're best at early on. I did a lot of different jobs in the first few months of my photography career and learned that some types of photography felt like a lot more like work than others. With how much work it can be to run a photography business, it's important to do work you're passionate about. Not only will the client come out with much better photos, but you will be much happier doing it.

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5. Confidence is key.

If you don't believe that you are worth it, no-one else will either. Find what sets you apart and highlight that. Just don't ever be too confident that you stop learning. 

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6. Back up your photos to more than one hard drive.

Yes, good ones are expensive, but it's way more expensive to get data recovered. I had two harddrives crash on me in the last year (luckily at different times so I didn't lose everything). But, it happens. Back things up everywhere.

*I have the rugged Lacie Harddrives, Seagate corrupted on me twice :(

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7. Presets are great learning tools. If you're trying to figure out how to edit better, Invest in good ones.

There can be a weird attitude towards presets in our community, but honestly, I think they are the coolest things. You can pay to see how your favorite photographers achieve their editing look. I learned so much about Lightroom from purchasing a few packs of presets before finding the style I liked. I learned what certain parts of Lightroom do & how to get my photos to look how I want to. It's a great tool to improve and educate yourself on different ways to edit.

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8. Don't try to sound like a professional. Honestly, just be a person.

Photography is personable. Don't act like some weird corporate cog. Just be yourself. This makes clients feel way more comfortable and is way more fun. I love making friends with clients by just talking about what we have in common and by making too many terrible jokes. Yes, I use smiley faces and exclamation marks in emails - just like I do everywhere else. I hated trying to figure out how to sound professional, and honestly, I'm way happier just being myself.

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9. You can't learn everything in a day. Crafts take years, give yourself time.

This is something I struggle with daily. I see all this amazing talent out there & beat myself up because my work isn't where I want to be. I still have a lot of equipment and knowledge to master. & that's okay. Those people I admire, they've been doing this for years and years. I can't pack all that knowledge into a few months. Plus, I can't get worse (right?!). 

10. Locations are cool, but light is key.

I know, I'm a big location photographer, but honestly good light is way more important than a pretty backdrop. Photography is all about light. Look for light and you'll get way more interesting photos. Don't rely on a pretty landscape. (though they are fun!)


Thanks for reading!