Hello Loves! I'm excited to share with you some things I learned as a photographer since I started my photography business. Photography has absolutely become so popular that it can be very hard to stand out (for tips on how to be unique read our blog "Too Many Photographers - What to do in an over-saturated market".
I want to help you get the jump start you need to stand out in the crowd.
1. ESTABLISH WHY YOU ARE DOING IT
This is so important! Guys, your dedication to a project will be reflected in your photos. Your viewers will either be able to see that you love what you do or that you're just making the due date because there is a paycheck involved. I recommend finding something else to do if you are in it for the money. If you are into photography because you love it, than stick around, you can go places.
2. ESTABLISHING A FOUNDATION
Ok now that we have (hopefully) established you are passionate about photography, lets take some time to get practical. First of all MENTORS ARE EVERYTHING. Find a mentor who has a style to the one you envision become and as much as they will let you, glean all the wisdom they have. Follow their platforms, maybe even ask for a shadow session or ten lol. In addition to that, trade education can go a long way. I didn't take a photography class until two or three years after I started my freelance business. I'm not saying every aspiring photographer needs formal education but I encourage you to look into it if you can, even Youtube can go a long way. My first photography class started out super easy, and I was pretty sure I could have even taught it myself. But the more I took classes the more it began to stretch my technical and artistic skill. Even if it isn't a class, look up some tips, articles, and maybe even some graphs to help you get a better understanding of photography and your camera. Practice, practice, and practice some more.
3. ESTABLISH YOUR IDENTITY
Based on the last two tips we have a basis for starting your business so now its time to take action. I'm about to shamelessly promote my other half of the business. Branding, ladies and gents, is where things start to become a bit more real. Beginning photographers struggle as it is to be seen among all the other photographers who have been at the game awhile longer. Making sure people recognize your work and your style is the best way to boost your reputation. We do this with logos, tag lines, color schemes, presets, and moods (the edit style of your photos). Having a place to post and share your work is important too. You always want to make it as easy as possible for someone to pass on your work to another person and a great place to showcase your best pieces. Now I realize that it's hard to brand when you are first starting because you aren't really sure what your style or niche really is yet. Brand anyway (check out our tips on interim branding here). Even if you change it further down the line, you will see the advantage to have visual queues back to your business.
4. ESTABLISH YOUR VALUE
This is somewhat of a pet-peeve for me and my photography buddies. Just because you have a professional camera does not make you a professional (Check in later for an entire blog post on this). You are still a beginner whether your camera costs $4,000 or $400. The reason it is important for you to understand this is because you are going to charge your clients based on your experience, skills, your competitions rates, and then (a tiny portion of that) your equipment. Got that? Here is my point. Experience and skill are what a photographer sells, not just their equipment. If you are just starting out, don't charge your clients what you see that local photography shop charging. Odds are they have been at it a few decades more than you. When deciding what your rates are going to be, be truthful about your qualifications to yourself and your clients. In my first photo-shoot I charged $15. Sounds funny? It was totally realistic. I didn't have a nice camera, tons of skill, or much experience. That $15 basically covered gas. In order to figure out what a starting photographer should charge I, 1. Looked at my amateur competition, 2. Looked at my qualifications, 3. Looked at professional rates so I knew how unqualified I was, and 4. Looked at how much I loved the photos over the money. Again, be truthful to yourself and your clients about your value.
5. ESTABLISHING A FOOT-HOLD: PRO BONO (FREEBIES)
When I was first starting out in college I was absolutely amazed that my peers thought Pro-Bono (Free) work was too low for them. Yes we are talking about students with little to no experience. You would think they would jump at the opportunity to practice their skills for a cause. My tip to you is, DON'T BE AFRAID TO DO SOME WORK FOR FREE. I'm not talking about never getting paid as you get better, or letting people take advantage of you because you're not an experienced professional. I'm talking about taking advantage of expanding your portfolio. Freebies can help you get your name out there, 1. Because everyone talks about when they get something for free, and 2. Because you can get your foot in the door almost anywhere you want to. Trust me, getting your name out there is more rewarding than one paycheck. I recommend at 15 to 20 constructed photo-shoots to the photographers I mentor who are starting out. Use your judgement and decide what you need to learn, after that don't be afraid to start getting compensation for your time.
6. ESTABLISH A FOCAL POINT
I was one of those people, in and out of my business, that wanted to do literally everything. I would read articles where the photographer would say "Pick a session you want to focus on and only do that". Now I actually used this tip in reverse. Instead of picking what I wanted to do (which seemed impossible), I narrowed down what I wasn't really passionate about. It turns out landscape, merchandise, and various other sessions didn't really bother me but I didn't love to do them. Narrowing down your focal point allows you to
Get really good at the sessions you love,
Helps you appeal to that particular market as your business expands, and
Allows you the physical and mental stamina to do your job. When you create too many options for you and your clients, you end up spreading yourself thin and your client doesn't trust you to be the professional.
7. ESTABLISH A PATTERN
Alrighty! Now that you have some of the things I would tell a younger me, you need to implement them. Find ways to start working on them now, and the tips that you can repeat, please do. Fine tune your process and your skill. The more you establish a pattern for yourself the more your clients will be able to see a mature level of professionalism in your service to them verses your competitors.
All in all, you've got this love, I know you do. Best wishes getting your new business going.