I was reflecting lately on some of the lessons learned (sometimes the hard way) during this journey as a photographer. Some of these are also the things you may not find in 'tips and tricks', 'how to's' etc. so I thought I'd share...
1. Most people start out trying to be everything to everyone...I know I did. I didn't want to miss out on a client no matter what they wanted me to shoot and whether I liked to shoot that subject or if I was any good at shooting that subject...newborns, seniors, weddings, cars. I'd shoot it all. Today I am in a position where I refer out lots of sessions...parties/events, newborns, toddlers...even sessions that just don't interest or inspire me. Let someone else who likes doing those sessions take that piece of the business. I'm grateful to be in such a position and it took a long time to get here. It's important to find out as early as you can what you are good at when it comes to photography, what you love spending your time shooting AND editing and then focus all your energy on those clients/shoots. You'll be glad you did as you will get much better faster to become the go-to person for those types of shoots.
2. Just go out and get a full frame camera and a 70-200mm F/2.8L ;-) (or whatever the best lens is for your type of work). Not sure if I had the money to buy that in the beginning but it really seems everyone ends up at the same or similar place so might as well just get it as soon as you can instead of buying a bunch of lenses and cameras over the years you think will get you close to that. I have some great prime lenses and some nice tele lenses but since I bought my 70-200mm L , it really hasn't left my camera. Sure I made many really nice images with a T2i and my primes but doing it over, I would have just splurged in the beginning instead of having a shelf full of gear I never use anymore.
3. You will get stood up and you will get burned. Unfortunately, both happen and more than any of us would like. It's part of the business I guess. I think getting stood up speaks for itself. Yes, clients will just not call or write on the day you agreed to put on your calendar and some you'll get a lame excuse later about having to go into work -when you saw them post photos on FB with pics from the beach that afternoon. :-) The other thing is getting burned when it comes to payment. I don't bother with deposits (which is a whole other blog since there are issues with that I wouldn't want to deal with...so I picked the lesser of the two issues and don't). There have only been 3 times I've not been paid and the ironic thing about it is that all 3 were very well off clients.
4. Unless you're just about the dollar...don't pay too much attention to the local 'competition'. Which is really hard to do...especially when it's in your face all over social media every day. Even through 6 degrees of separation we see photos from other photographers or posts about some special they are offering. If you're comparing your work to the other locals, than that is the level your work will be. Personally, it's not my goal to be the best in my area...I just want to be the best. What's the saying, if you reach for the moon you might get above the tree but if you reach for the stars...well, it's something like that. I am always looking for the best in my field and then at my work and trying to figure out what it is about theirs that stands out...or what separates mine from looking like that. If you are the absolute best, your work will speak for itself, word will spread and the money will follow.
5. The camera is only a small part of the final image. That said, there's a whole lot to learn that has nothing to do with the camera or settings. You can take an amazing image with an iPhone or polaroid camera. Great example...a pose can make or break a photo. I see it all the time, very talented photographer with great gear, model and location and then there's that dumb pose that just ruins the entire image. And then those photographers wonder why Ford aren't calling them to shoot their models. It can be as slight as the placement of the hand, the bend of a wrist etc. So remember to study everything else about making up an image as much as you do about the settings.
6. Be super clear...and then reiterate. Just as an example, it never fails customers will ask for all the unedited originals if you don't specify that you don't give those or they will ask for more edits if you don't tell them how many you provide.
7. Don't work harder than you have to or overextend yourself for the same amount of money. Two things that come to mind...why send out photos on a USB or almost laughable, a CD in 2014 when you can just upload to dropbox or google drive? It's SO much quicker, easier and saves money. I don't have the time or want to deal with a USB drive, getting their address, packaging, postage etc. etc. Also, in reference of time...if a session is more than 30 minutes away...I add another $100 for the extra hour roundtrip and gas -remember, ALL your time is worth the same.
8. Free, tests, TF etc. - this may work for some people but I've found that I've had many more referrals from my paid sessions than from my free ones. I'm sure it's been helpful in regards to practice and improving my skills working so much and it's gotten my name out and work seen by others who may not have seen it. But at the end of the day, hardly any of those have brought me new business. Again, this might be different for others but it was not my experience. The other unexpected result was that all their friends wanted free shoots -ugh.
9. Don't be shady and outdated. I'm thinking of those photographers who offer super low costs sessions and then gouge their clients with overpriced prints...or the who 'senior rep' scam. And yes, I said 'scam' because they give the senior a free session but when they make them pay for those overpriced prints, I just think it's shady. There was a time where photographer's had to print the photos or could provide access to better quality....but it's 2014, amazing quality printing is super cheap and accessible by everyone. The customers know this and are starting to see this as being 'taken' when it comes to prints. The younger and 'hipper' photographers are charging one price for the session and so many edits and they are changing the business. I've had clients go to another company, pay for the session and when they find out how much the prints are and are shocked, they come to me for the whole session and edits (chalking up their previous session with the other as a loss) and still come out less overall than if they had to pay for those overpriced prints. And guess who gets a bad name...yup. Be current and don't be shady.
10. work isn't work unless you'd rather be doing something else.