This blog post is a little more serious than usual and a lot more informative. I get questions a lot, and requests from individuals who are looking to open their own Photography businesses. Some are people who have been shooting very creative images with a couple hundred dollar camera, some with their cell phones, some have DSLR’s already, etc. Over the course of owning my own business I have seen some very creative stuff from people who would never even consider opening their own businesses, it’s just a hobby for them. That said, photography is a very over-saturated market. It’s very easy getting a decent camera these days, nearly everyone has one. For the interested person, it is incredibly easy to get information and to teach yourself without ever having to step foot into a classroom. If you’re motivated, interested, and a self starter you can go a long way, and not even need a 4 year degree to have a rewarding and lucrative business.
However, what many people do not stop to consider, is the amount of money that goes into owning and operating your own business. We have well over $12,000 invested in camera gear and equipment. It seems everyday we are adding something new, and that dollar amount doesn’t come close to counting all of the books, editing and software programs, and travel costs we’ve accrued over time. There is also constantly something new coming out that you just have to have, and let’s face it: If you want to be a Pro, you cannot shoot with a $200 camera. I mean, you can. You will probably get some amazing images too, but the quality of those images will not be worthy of the price your clients are paying for their photos. I initially started out with a Canon XT, and it was incredibly good to me. I got some phenomenal images, but I constantly heard people with the same exact camera complain that they couldn’t get good images from the same camera I was shooting with and loving. To that I say, you have to know how your camera works. You are not going to maximize your camera’s capabilities by shooting on Automatic. You have to step into the scary world of Manual mode and take responsibility for your creativity, don’t let the camera do the work. Is it hard? You bet it is! Are you going to make mistakes? Darn right! But are you going to learn from them? Are you going to grow as a photographer, and professional? Absolutely!
When I started out, I asked a couple local photographers for help hoping that they would recognize a new budding photographer who was serious about the industry and serious about learning and growing and I did not get a very positive response. The answers I received were far from helpful, and almost leveling on condescending and secretive. This is the last thing I want to be! If someone is serious about putting out quality work, I want to help them! Am I perfect? Ummm, no. Far from it, actually. I learn something new, every.single.day. From one shoot to the next, I am not the same photographer. You can ask anyone who has followed my business from it’s conception. I hope I am not the same photographer in 5 years. I hope I am continuing to grow, and that I can look back on work I am doing today and say “WOW! I have come a long way!” Does that mean the work I am doing today is any less than it will be in 5 years? Absolutely not. Does it mean YOUR work is any less. ABSOLUTELY NOT. It means you are growing as a person, and a professional. But you cannot get stuck in a rut! You need to continue to learn, continue to try new things, pick up that book. Hold yourself accountable, give yourself assignments. Never, ever think that you are the best you can be, or that your work is the best. Because I am here to tell you you are wrong.
In this industry, you are constantly going to be humbled by someone else’s work, by someone else’s creativity. You can underestimate no one, because just when you think you have that photographer figured out, they throw you a curve ball. And when you think about it, the same goes for life in general. I started out with an XT and a kit lens. I now shoot with a Canon 5D, along with a variety of different lenses including a 50mm, 24-70, and a 70-200. Completely different ball game now. Do I still use my XT? You bet! That camera is indispensable, and I will never get rid of it. For a beginner, it is perfect.
Last of all, when starting your own business you cannot just one day say I think I am going to start my own business today. That goes with ANY business. You have to think about the pros & cons, the expenses, customer service, your personal motto and outlook, the list goes on and on. I thought about a lot of this for myself before opening my doors and I STILL get surprises to this day. I do not think they will ever stop coming. I run into Customer Service issues all the time that I never thought I would. I guess that’s the main thing I would focus on, because that is what is going to grow your business. Always be thorough, always always always, have a contract. No exceptions. Even if it’s family. You need everything in black & white to cover your butt. I’ve done some trade/barter deals, and didn’t think I needed a contract. Wrong. Wrong in super giant 10 foot tall capital letters. Just wrong. You need a contract even if you’re giving your services away for free, and you always need to know your rights as a photographer. You would be surprised what people will throw at you if they think you don’t know better. Make it your business to Know Better.
I want to end this by saying that yes there are a lot of hurdles and obstacles in today’s world as a photographer. Yes, the market is oversaturated. Yes it is difficult, and there are days I want to beat my head against a wall in frustration. But there is not a day that goes by that I am not proud of what I am doing. Not a day goes by that I think it isn’t worth it. I love the fact that I do what I do. I am so proud. Ultimately all of this pride comes from the satisfaction of watching myself grow, of the recognition I get from friends, family, and yes-perfect strangers; saying that they see how far I’ve come. You will feel the same way, but I repeat again…don’t get stuck in a rut. Never think that what you’re doing right now is the best you can do. It’s not, it never will be. The best you can do will always be changing. Be prepared for that. When things get frustrating, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Talk with fellow photographers, get lots and lots of feedback and critiques. If you have any questions, I am always willing to answer them. Feel free to use the comment box below to ask any questions you may have, or find me on Facebook: Bobbie Sue Baker Violet-Photography or Violet Photography & Design. I hope I gave you some helpful information today, come back soon. If you have any questions related to this subject and would like another blog dedicated to it, I would be glad to do special requests. Just ask!