Monday, June 24, 2013

5 Hard Lessons Learned...

Lessons Learned so you don't have to make the mistakes.

Well, I will start off by saying, I am not a seasoned professional and I will probably have many more posts like this one to pass on before I feel even the slightest bit comfortable with the word 'professional'. We started this company for the passion of photography. Because somewhere deep inside we thought our passion was going to keep us going. Well, here we are 4 years later, and we are still learning the hard way.
We try to stay one step ahead of the learning curve, by following other seasoned photographers who have gone before and drudged a path of ease and comfort, but sometimes you decide to trek your own way, thinking your being original. Well, I am here to tell you, it's not original to make the same mistakes that others warn you about. It's original to NOT make those mistakes. I know each and every newbie has said to themselves 'I have to learn my way' because we said that too, but you have to know when is the right time to step out and try for yourself.
Here are 5 things we learned the hard way. Even with following all the professionals and all the advice they gave, we still ended up learning all our lessons AFTER we opened our business. If we had learned these from the beginning we would have saved ourselves a lot of time, money, and clients.

1. Knowing Your Camera

This may seem like a simple task, and something you feel you already do. But have you ever picked up the manual and read through it? Have you used all the buttons? Have you experimented with all the knobs? One thing to remember is that seasoned photographers know their camera like the back of their hand. It doesn't surprise them when they use a setting. If something is off in the photo, they usually know why. So, it shouldn't surprise you when all your photos are blueish. It shouldn't make you guess, when you flip a switch.
Try all your settings. If you don't know what will happen, look it up. Online resources are the number one way to gain knowledge about your camera. they are there for that purpose. Always practice. If you are turning your knobs, taking a photo, and it's black, turn another knob. Find out why, and do it right.
It's so wonderful when someone decides that their passion is worth the risk, but there is no shame in keeping it a hobby until you know your camera like the back of your hand.
There are great resources for learning (some I may not have heard of)... - This is a great visual tool for photographers to go and learn your craft.   They are dedicated to teaching you each and every detail so you will feel confident. 

One of my main resources involves following 'big name' photographers on facebook, and when they post something from their blog about learning photography, I read and read.

2. Active Media Outlets

So, you hear it all the time, use media outlets to get yourself out there. It's free, and you can reach many more people. All of this is true and if you are starting a business (even before you claim 'professionalism') utilize the media. It's more than a source of learning. It's also a great source to get your name out there for free.
One thing we have learned the hard way is that the more you use it, the better off you are. When you are first starting out, you have to imagine you are in a bubble, and that bubble will only grow if you include others by force. I know that might sound bad, but how are they going to know you exist without you saying 'here I am!'. You have to dedicate yourself you posting even the more tedious photograph.
It shows you still exist and it also is proof that you are practicing. I have followed many newbies in their business path through Facebook, and the more pictures I see the better I see them getting. I love to see progress and that only comes from PRACTICE!!!

3. Business Cards

I will say, this is one detriment to our company that could have been avoided for a simple shipping rate of $6. there are tons of companies out there that will give you a basic layout business card for free (you just have to pay shipping) Which seems like an unnecessary thing sometimes, but I can tell you from experience you loose out when you don't take the time to simply put your basic info on a card to hand others.
Word of mouth is one of the biggest platforms to gain customers. Utilize your clients as business partners, simply by giving them your card. There are many times we were asked if we had a business card to give and we didn't 1. we lost that customers referral because we might not have seemed professional enough, or 2. we lost the referrals they would have shared the card with.
So, get yourself out there and get some cards.

4. Backing Up Photos

Some of you may be going "Duh", while others are saying "I knew this, but I can do it later". I am going to tell you, it may seem like something that is obvious, but I think the execution of the fact is a bit lacking. 
We learned the hard way that trusting an external hard drive for COMPLETE backup was a detriment to our company. When the hard drive fails and things become corrupted, it's expensive and nearly impossible to recover. There are many things to help alleviate the price tag of backing up data online. I wouldn't always go that route either. 
If you don't have at least 3 places you keep your RAW, edited, and videos, then you may end up regretting not listened.
-CD (DVD's/Bluray's if your files are larger) work as the best way to keep files secure.  They may end up collecting over time, but if you get rewritable ones you can reuse them after a year or so.
-Portable externals work better for secure storage than desktop devices. Especially if you are going to be moving the device. They tend to wear slower, and take a beating a bit better.
-Online data storage works great also. I would try and find a place that has a warranty or guaranty for return of safe storage.  
There are many other places to store them for extended periods. The one thing to remember is to not put all your eggs in one basket. You have to have them in several places for peace of mind.

5. Selling Yourself Short- 

Confidence/Pride vs. Humility/Shame

There are many people out there who started photography because someone said 'this is such a great photo', 'You are an amazing photographer', 'I wish I could take photos like you'. I am not trying to say you don't take great photos, but if you get into photography because other like the way you photograph, just be prepared that photography (especially when starting out) is 20% taking photos/80% computer time. If you don't edit your photos in a 'professional' program, then you may feel like the computer time is a lot less than that. Although, when you are practicing and making your craft better time will take you into those 'professional' programs and hence the time spent. not to mention all the time promoting your business, setting up a website, posting new sessions online, making business cards, perfecting your brand. etc.
One thing to remember is a good balance of confidence and humility. Having a good equal is going to take your farther than you could imagine. No one likes people who are prideful (which is caused by too much confidence) and in the same sense, No one wants to hire someone who takes shame in their work (which comes from too much humility) 
You have to know how good you are, and how much you can grow. If someone criticizes your work, take it and learn from it. (even if all you are learning is people have their own opinions) It's always helpful to hear constructive criticism, and it's always wonderful to hear how people love your work. 
As long as you are willing to grow then nothing people say will sway you too far in either direction.
You can only be as good as you let yourself be, others should have no say in how good you are going to be.

If this is helpful to even one person trying to start a photography business (or any kind of business really), then it was worth it. I am glad we can all help each other out and make someone else's life a bit easier. I know ours have been made easier because of the amazing people we follow.


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