Tips for Photographers in Their First Year of Business

I’m often getting asked the question “How do I get into photography?” or “Where do I start if I want to become a photographer?”. And while it’s a complex topic, I love to offer whatever help I can! So I guess you can say this post has been a long time coming.

I haven’t been in the industry for a decade, but I am proud of where I have gotten in the 3 years I have been in business. I’ve learned some things throughout the first few years of this journey and nothing would make me happier than if it can help someone else just getting beginning theirs.

Tips for getting into photography

Learn your equipment. Before ANYTHING else. Get to know that camera. Get comfortable with shooting in full manual mode. Know what f stops are and what they do to your photo. Know the ins and outs of shutter speed and ISO. Know what factors make up a good lens. Learn the difference between a full frame camera and one with a cropped sensor. This is important stuff you will need to know if you want to become a professional photographer. These manual settings that you control are what’s going to give you the look you want in your photos. (Yep, those “blurred backgrounds” are an in-camera technique….not editing!)

-Think long term with your name. I have been “Kristen Booth Photography” since high school, when I was taking point-and-shoot portraits of my BFF’s. I am so glad that I chose to go that route! I know that my name is the most fitting for what I do and the business I run today. I can’t think of any made-up business name that I could have came up with back then, that I would still be happy with now. And it’s not that business names don’t work….several of my favorite photographers are running amazing businesses under fictitious names. I think it all boils down to your brand and where you want to take your business. If you are considering a made-up business name, make sure it’s something meaningful, unique, and justifies the direction you want to go. Picture yourself in your DREAM job, working with your DREAM client, at the ultimate peak of your career,¬† would you feel proud of the name you are considering right now? And yes…you can always change it later, but you are starting your business NOW and building a following NOW…why divide that later?

Start a Facebook page for your photography. It’s a FREE service….to connect with clients, share your photos and market yourself……for FREE. Why wouldn’t you make one?!

-Shoot everyday and shoot for free. The only way to get better is by practicing…and often that means shooting even when you aren’t getting paid. The important thing is getting better and mastering your skills, which isn’t going to happen while you sit at the computer and wait for bookings to come. If you have down time, get out there and photograph whatever you can. It may not mean a paycheck today and may cost you some time, but I promise that the time you put into becoming a better photographer will mean financial gain later. Just get out there and shoot! And now I am going to say something bold, but I mean it….if you can’t find a few hours a week to get your camera in your hands and work on your skills….you probably don’t want this bad enough.

-Network with other photographers. Get involved in your local photography groups or reach out to photographers in your area. This fellowship is key to growth! I remember being super intimidated by other photographers when I first started out. (Let’s be honest…I still get pretty nervous around the “big guys” in the industry). I was terrified of asking for help. I would literally spend hours looking for answers to my questions, then when I finally got the guts to ask…it only took the photographer 30 seconds to tell me what I needed to know. I thought I could do it alone and that held me back. I spent the first 6 months of my business not even knowing that I could open¬† more than one photo at a time in Photoshop. But I didn’t hide under my bed forever…I eventually learned how to ask for help. Some of those friendships I built back then are still some of my most cherished, today!

-Use contracts. The moment you start dealing with money, you need a contract. Don’t wait on this….it’s for your client’s protection, as well as your own. Thankfully, there are some awesome resources online where you can buy complete portrait and wedding contracts!

-Stay far away from editing actions and presets. Yeah they can be fun and can make a poorly-shot photo look pretty cool….but they can also hold you back and be your worst enemy! In the early stages, when you are still trying to figure out your style and learning how to edit your images, editing actions can be tempting. But when a editing preset becomes your BFF, suddenly editing becomes the answer…and you now rely on that action. But when left to your own devices, you are forced to learn on your own how to CREATE a great image. This means learning the editing program for yourself and truly learning what the different editing controls do, but it will only make you stronger! Later down the road, if you decide to try some actions and presets, you will have the skills that you need to tweak them and create your own look!

-Don’t sell yourself on being cheap. Let’s be honest…you probably WILL be cheap in the beginning. And that’s perfectly fine…you have to start somewhere. But don’t make that your selling point if it’s not where you want to be forever. It bothers me when I see new photographers post things like “Hire me because I only charge $XX and others charge $XXX”. While the numbers might be the truth, this statement is telling people that they should only hire you because you are cheaper. (Trust me, I was there! My first business card had the word “Affordable” on it!) Let your work do the talking, not the numbers. Respect your art and make it appealing in many ways, other than just price.

-Start blogging. Your blog is your public journal. A place to share your work, your personality, and the happenings in your life. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a great marketing tool as well! Start blogging NOW and you won’t regret it. I started blogging when I shot my first wedding and I love that my journey has been documented from the beginning and will continue to be :)

-Don’t make big investments in branding right away. You will be surprised how quickly and how often you change your mind about your style. These can be expensive changes, when you are investing in a graphic designer every step of the way. I have had 4 “brands” in the 3 years I have been in business. It took each and every one of them to make the brand that I have now, which is the first one I have invested in a graphic designer for. It did take some time and effort on my part to learn enough about design to get myself through those first stages of my brand, but it was well worth it. We all want that mind-blowing website from day one, but there is nothing wrong with letting your website/brand and your photography grow together!

-Always keep learning. There are so many affordable and even free resources out there to fill your brain with knowledge. (Creativelive is one of my favorites!) Spend a few minutes everyday learning something new!

-Don’t get discouraged. It’s not going to be easy. And I don’t think it ever will be, so you’re going to have to be prepared for that. But going to bed every night, knowing that you are pursuing your heart’s calling and making a living do it…..makes it so worth it. Keep pushing on and savor every step of the way. It won’t happen overnight, but persistence will get you there, just don’t give up.