You asked. I’m answering. It’s lookin like a marathon of everything under the sun! So in order to consolidate, I’m organizing all your questions into groups and answering them that way.
- How do I start a photography business?
There are some great resources out there on how to officially start your business. They cover everything from insurance to taxes to how to deal with deal with new clients. But I think that most of the questions out there about starting a new photography biz are from folks who think that it would be a great way to get additional income doing something they love without sacrificing the 9 to 5 of everyday. Let me tell you something I learned this past year. You are right. It’s not a 9 to 5. It’s a 8am to 11pm type job. At least it was for me starting out. I put more time into photography than my past ‘normal’ office jobs and it takes more from my darling family too. I don’t want this to discourage anyone out there from pursuing photography – because I truly do drink the taking-photos-can-change-your-life koolaid…but I hope this brings some awareness to those out there thinking photographers have this glittery unicorns in a meadow type life. There is a great deal of sacrifice starting any business. Same applies here. And there are times that you won’t love it. All that to say….if you are interested in starting a photography business, I would encourage you first to learn your camera. I am still learning mine. And then second, build a portfolio. Would you want to pay someone your hard earned dough if you didn’t know they could give you some great shots? And 15 good photos of your own kids don’t count….because dealing with someone else is a way different dynamic than dealing with your own offspring. So that’s my two cents…learn and build.
- How do I get clients? (versions: how do I advertise? how can I grow my new photography business? what do you do to get people to do photo sessions? get your name out there?)
Advertising is something that I have not had to do yet. I don’t advertise outside of posting on Bower Power so it’s really tough for me to encourage folks on how to successfully grow their business. However, my dad has his own business (it’s computer software for the medical field so not quite the same) and something he taught me was that your product should speak for itself. He always said that fancy bells and whistles will only get you so far and then it comes down to 1. is your product great. 2. do you deliver what you promise 3. word of mouth is the best advertising there is. I truly believe that those three things can help any business. And if I struggled with booking clients, I probably would consider making sure my photos were the best that I can make them (by comparing them to photos that I love, asking for reviews from photographers that I admire, joining photographers chatrooms to get input), joining forces with local businesses (like holding a cutest kid contest at a local gym, or contacting bounce houses to see if their parties ever needed photographers and also considering doing some pro bono work to get my name out there.)
- What can I invest in to become a better photographer?
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Invest in your weakness. If you can take great photos but your editing needs work, take a class on Photoshop or Lightroom. Struggle with perfect exposure? Read some books about how to get it and practice, practice, practice. Is the personal dynamic or connection where you fall flat? Come up with some cheat sheets for jokes with kids, shadow a veteran photographer to see how them make folks feel comfortable, or just simply come up with some talking points for all shoots. Great shots don’t come from great cameras…they come from great photographers…so work on your weakness to improve overall (heavens knows I am working on my ten weaknesses all the time!).
- What is your workflow like? (versions: how do you manage the time to edit? what is it you do to backup your photos?)
I probably have the worst workflow…so you don’t want to be like me here. After shoots, I come home and download. All my images are backed up on Carbonite (an online service I pay for that backs up all my files just in case my house burns down) and also on an external hard drive. That gives me three copies of each original file. Then I sort through each image and copy the ones that I want to edit into a separate folder. I try to give a really well rounded package – so of the 20-30 final images, they are usually different orientations, different backdrops, poses, etc. Then I edit. After editing, converting and watermarking, I upload to their online gallery (I use Zenfolio). Then I back up again all the finalized images. After that, I burn the cds (1 copy for the client and 1 for me to keep) and remove the original unedited ones from my computer. That leaves me with 3 copies of the originals (Carbonite, external hard drive, cd) and 5 copies of the edited (Carbonite, external hard drive, computer, cd, online gallery). It’s probably not the smartest way to do it but until I run outta space, it works for me.
As for time to edit – it happens at night. After I put Will down, I settle in for some reality tv with Jeremy and I sit and blog. After I get my post done, I edit. Usually that means that I am up till 2am. It’s terrible to be so sleep deprived but I know that I have a really deep passion for photography so its worth it to me as I build my portfolio and grow my business.
- How did you learn photoshop? (versions: what books did you read? what classes did you take?)
I am one of those freaky girls that loves self-teaching….must be the homeschooler in me. I taught myself photoshop. I look at photos of other photographers and try to figure out how to make my photos look like that. It’s like a puzzle. You have to try to figure it out. And I follow a lot of other photographers blogs. I never really got into the forums out there but I know that some folks find them enormously helpful…I just don’t have time right now. The internet is an amazing vast resource and if you know how to google you can find folks that are willing to help you improve and learn when it comes to photoshop.
p.s. For more answered questions a la homeschooling – check out this post.