One Year Later

A little over one year ago I launched Katie Bower Photography and took the plunge from “I-take-photos-of-my-kid-and-people-I-know’s-kids” to “I-will-take-photos-of-you-and-your-kids-for-the-coinage-you-pull-from-your-couch-cushions”.  It was one of the scariest things I have ever done.  Let’s be honest…it’s tearfully frightful to have someone pay you for photos.  For one there are a lot of variables…weather, location, moods, momentary brain drains (when your brain completely forgets what it’s doing) and you may have taken great photos…but they just aren’t that person’s style….there are a million things that could go south.  So consider me completely flattered that I have gotten the chance to perform over 75 client sessions in the short period that I’ve been doing this photog thing.  And because I get emails about this every single day – I thought I would share some background info for you (and give ya a sneak peek into a session I’ve been working on because let’s be honest – a post without photos is kinda boring)…

  • HOW DID I LEARN TO USE THE CAMERA?

I am truly self-taught.  It must have been the homeschooler in me that told me that with a little practice and a whole lotta reading, I could learn how to use my camera without a trained professional.  It took me a long time…and I still feel like I am learning.  I read and reread my manual.  I read lots of photography blogs and would look at their photos next to mine to see how their editing took their pictures to the next level.  I would watch loads of videos on random tutorials.  In the end, I found another love of my life.

Not everyone learns that way though.  So it is definitely not a waste of time or money to recognize when you need help mastering the wheel of the ship…whether that boat be post-processing, picture taking or even things like posing or props.  There are tons of photographers out there that run great programs to help you learn and take your skills to the next level.   But dedication is really important…it takes a lot of practice and time to get even just a tiny bit improved (I should know) and in the end, you will be glad you stuck with it.

  • HOW DID I GET CLIENTS?

If you are a newbie and are looking to start a photography business, I have no idea how to get clients.  err….I have no idea how normal people do it.  I do it through this blog and word of mouth.  That’s it.  No other advertising.  I do know that you need a portfolio.  So it might be a good idea to offer up freebie sessions to friends and family.  That’s what I did.  And get used to running a session – because that in of itself is a beast to handle.  Treat those friends and family members as you would a normal client.   Work on interacting with your target audience.  Give yourself editing deadlines.  Ask those friends and family what you could improve upon.  Get feedback.

Already have a business going and want to expand your client base?  Perhaps offer up a groupon for mini sessions…put an ad on Craigslist…offer a local blogger a free session in exchange for a shoutout on their blog…run a cutest kid contest at a local resturaunt of your clients…contact clothing boutiques to see if they need any imagery for a discounted price…ask a bunch of different successful photographers how they did it.

  • WHAT GEAR DO YOU NEED TO GET STARTED?

I recommend a DSLR and a 50mm lens.  Both things can run about $600 new…but definitely cheaper used.  And believe me, this is the cheap cheap cheap route.  You can still capture great images with a beginner-level camera body and a cheap prime lens…but you still will need to learn how to use them.  After you manage to learn the controls, you can translate those skills to a more advanced camera no problem…and the images are still amazing.  Some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken were with a Canon Rebel and a 50mm ‘nifty fifty’ lens.  After that – get your hands on a copy of Photoshop or Lightroom.

  • WHAT DID I LEARN IN THIS FIRST YEAR?

I learned a lot.  I learned my style.  I like to take clean, happy and bright photos.  Sure, those three things can be filtered many different ways…but in the end, if the pictures are clean, happy and bright – I feel like they are something to be proud of.  Everyone has a different style – a different eye – so finding my style was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.  I also learned that you can over-extend yourself.  That editing time has to be scheduled.  I learned to say no…which is excruciatingly hard when it comes to a paying customer.  BUT I also learned that business’ need boundaries to be successful.  And sometimes that means saying no.  I learned the value in me.  Am I the best photographer?  Not in a long shot. (pun intended)  But am I and the photos I produce and the product I give to customers worth what I charge?  Absolutely.  If I thought I wasn’t worth it – the price would go down.  I learned that continued education can be invaluable.  I learned that having flexible childcare is amazing.  And I learned that if you put a diaperless newborn baby on seven different blankets – it will always pee or poop on the white one :)

Those are the basics of most of the starting a business questions.  If you have other questions – put em right there in the comments and I might do a part two.

Not a photographer or a mom-who-hates-their-desk-job-and-dreams-of-being-a-shutterbug?  Let’s talk about how the girl in the pictures looks like a brunette Reese Witherspoon.  and how cute is her dress?!  Like cuter than a bag full of kittens, right?!

Comments

  1. says

    thanks for the great info Katie! i’m hoping to start my business in a couple months…..working on the website now which is taking forever since HTML coding and me are not friends- ha! But i was wondering about the business aspect of things. did you have to go and get a business license and all that stuff for tax purposes? i feel ok w/the client/picture part, but when it comes to the business side, i feel a bit lost. any advice or help you have on that would be great! thanks so much!

    • Ma-ma-ma says

      @Renee:

      Try looking online at your state, county, or city’s websites. Mine had a “starting your own business” guide with some basic stuff laid out. That’s how I figured out whether or not I needed a DBA and licensing.

      From there, you’ll probably want to have a contract of some sort that outlines what customers are getting, when/how they need to pay you, you don’t sell or distribute their photos, etc.

      Search for small business counseling in your city. Sometimes there are low-cost or free advising seminars and sessions. They are awesome resources often put out there by people who work with small businesses for a living. Good luck!

  2. says

    Great post Katie, and congratulations on your first year. I’ve just started dabbling in amateur photography over the last year and absolutely love it! Isn’t it fun to pick up new hobbies/passions as adults? Even better when they turn into viable careers. Well done. Love your photos and have no trouble understanding why people pay you the big bucks to take their portraits :) If I wasn’t in Canada, and lived closer, I know I’d have called and booked you already.

  3. says

    Hi Katie,

    I’m so proud of you for taking the plunge. I have always wanted to be a photographer I’m a graphic designer (my parents thought that would be a safer route not so much!). I specialize in retouching and album design for photographers and I love what I do but I would love to integrate photography into my business. Lately I have been taking more and more shoots offering them to friends as gifts plus I have a gorgeous niece I get to practice on. I currently work part time for the Canadian government giving me the opportunity to have benefits and steady income. I need the push to get right into it. For some reason I feel bad starting a photography business here in my town seeing that I worked for one photographer before and I’m afraid of how he and other photographers I do work for will feel. Is that ridiculous? Plus I have a hard time with charging… I know my skills are there I have taken many seminars and I feel that I am ready but where do I start with my pricing? Also do you always shoot in natural light? This is the longest comment ever BTW I love your blog

    • says

      Well – that’s a tough question…I don’t think you should necessarily feel bad for starting a photography business if there is someone you know who does it…BUT I wouldn’t be scared of letting him know either…everyone has different styles! Maybe you could even join forces with him on big projects (like if you needed an extra shooter for weddings). Charging is a touchy subject…especially if you don’t have a portfolio with photos that your own…so definitely take that into consideration. I always say that if you can afford it, then take your time to build the portfolio…charge half of what you deserve till you have a solid base and then you can move it up. Oh and yes – I always shoot in natural light :)
      xo – kb

      • says

        Thanks Katie…This summer I will concentrate on getting the photography going…I will keep you posted on how it goes. Thanks for answering my question

  4. says

    Thanks for this post, Katie! I had emailed you a couple weeks ago about this very topic, so it’s like you’re speaking to me (in addition to the very prompt reply email you sent!) This makes me feel more confident in my decision to become a paid photographer. I have a road ahead of me with building up a portfolio and getting the right supplies, but I am happy to hear of your success, it makes me feel hopeful. I am a “mom-that-hates-her-desk-job”)! Thanks again – Morgan @ A Bright Idea

  5. cappy says

    Thanks Katie for another great post! As a part two…could you walk us through a photoshop editing process that you do? I am not looking at doing photography as a profession, just want to enhance the shots I have. or perhaps talk about what you look for as background? I love the photo where she is sitting, finace is looking at her at the soda shop and she is sitting in a heart-shaped chair. Your photographs tell a story to me not just simply taking an image. Love the dress too!

  6. cappy says

    Oh one more question for you…do you still like your JO totes bag? Do you use it as a diaper bag too?

  7. KJ says

    I also love your photos. No desire to have my own photography business but a huge desire to improve the photos I take of my kids. I am the total lame-o who always sets my Rebel T1i on auto. For some reason I just can NOT figure out what the manual settings mean. Is there some catchy acronym that would help me remember what does what? Honestly I’m not an idiot … graduated college with a 4.0 and easily passed the CPA exam, but my camera makes me cry. And my husband keeps buying these fancy lenses for me (I have both a 24-105 mm and a 50 mm) but I honestly just point and shoot the thing.

  8. says

    Congratulations Katie! It’s got to feel good to know yourself. I remember when I stopped shooting willy nilly and KNOWING I could expect to deliver a consistent product. It’s such a relief!

  9. Erica says

    Hey Katie!

    I’d love to hear what photography blogs you follow! Could you list some? (And, of course, I love the blog!)

    Erica

  10. Patti says

    Katie, how do you store all your photos (personal and clients)? Do you have an external drive, a networked site (I can’t think of the name of the popular one that others use for backup), or use the backup/sync option in Photoshop, or burn CDs or DVDs? Do you immediately dump your pics from SD card to your PC, or just do that daily or on some other schedule?

    I need to get better at managing our digital photos and am looking for some tips.
    Thanks!

  11. KJ says

    I just wanted to share this link I stumbled upon that has an article on how to take better photos (it’s tailored more to dance photos but is packed with great info). It helped to explain some things about photography that I didn’t quite understand (and it has charts … YAY!). It’s by some genius who works at google:
    http://www.norvig.com/dance-photography.html

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