My good friends (and very talented photographers), Tina, April, and I were chatting last month about ways to grow our blogs. Things we wanted to do with the future of our careers and whatnot, and we realized we shared a mutual desire to help other people who want to be photographers. Not in a train-your-own-competitors kind of way, but more in a we’re-all-in-this-together fashion.
You see, starting any kind of business is simultaneously scary, exciting, stressful, and overwhelming. But, I strongly feel that starting a photography business may be the best case example for that. Back when I started, I remember I would get queasy when I’d consider all the things I needed to think about: photo gear/equipment, continuing education, using/knowing the best software, establishing pricing, finding second shooters, equipment insurance, liability insurance, back-up equipment, having an emergency plan, meeting spaces, developing a portfolio, sample albums, developing a product offering, figuring out what companies to order products from, where to order prints, how to deliver prints, how to proof images with your client, the best way to host a consult…. seriously, this list could drag on foreverrrrrrr. And, while I by no means think that my way of doing things is better than any other photographer’s, I do think it is a way, and a way that works for me – which is, at the very least, something I would love to share with others considering a career path in photography.
We have aptly named this series “Hindsight is 20/20” – a clever phrase I learned during college from one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, my dear friend Jackie. And if you think about it for just one second you’ll realize it’s true – in hindsight everything is so much clearer. All the answers seem obvious. And so this series is born… all the things about owning a photography business I wish I had known.
But! All my readers aren’t photographers – or aspiring photographers – and I know that. So, these posts will only be once a month, or once every few weeks at most. They’ll be a short little tidbit…. just one thing that I wish I had known back when I started. Sometimes they’ll be business-related, other times they may be gear-inspired. And, of course, if there is something you’d like to know, feel free to email me.
Tip #1: People are (usually) nicer than you think.
When I first started photography, I remember being excited and completely elated at the prospect of having my own business – and in doing something I love, no less! But, every time I let this excitement get a little too far, I would rein it back in by thinking of all those things I needed to consider just to get this little business off the ground. Things like all of those I listed above (and so many more). As soon as these thoughts came rushing to my mind, my heart would sink. How does someone figure all this out? How do you learn the best album companies? Or how to price your work?
Of course, I searched the more obvious places – photographer resources like Professional Photographers of America (PPA.com) and online photography forums like Open Source Photo (http://opensourcephoto.net), and, while those were considerably helpful, sometimes also the rush of opinions – or geographically-specific issues – prevented them from being perfect resources. As I gained confidence, I eventually reached out to some fellow photographers, local people – people I could meet up with, offer free services for (second shooting? help around the office? carry your bags? no problem!). In a day and age where most people prefer an e-mail or text over a phone call or physical visit, I know that this idea seems daunting to some. But really, what do you have to lose? Worst case scenario? They don’t respond. And then what? You reach out to other people!
Not every photographer has the time or energy to respond to every question or offer to help. But, one of the most valuable things I learned was that there are plenty of people out there JUST LIKE YOU and they are perfectly willing to trade knowledge with you. When I moved to Philadelphia a few years ago I was particularly nervous because not only did I not know the city, I didn’t even know a soul in it. Who would second shoot for me? How would I learn about venues? How would I figure out the best locations for engagements, etc.? Fortunately, I had a couple awesome photographers reach out to me when I got here, and then I fell into a group like Philly Photo Betties – which is all about sharing knowledge and helping each other. Eventually, I even met friends who have become some of my closest friends in the area – and yes, they are technically my competitors. But it doesn’t matter because we are far stronger as a team than we ever would be individually. This open-book policy is something I’ve been pleased to find actually quite frequently throughout the photography industry and it is, perhaps, one of the things I love the most.
So, stop wondering and start asking! You might just be surprised to find how many people are ready to help.
Also, please note that Tina of Tina Jay Photography and April of April Ziegler Photography will also have their own takes on this same series on their blogs every month. Be sure to check it them out here and here.