So you have dedicated some time to learning the craft of photography and purchased some likely expensive gear right? I hope I caught you before you purchased your gear though because there are some things you need to know before you start:
Buy the best lenses you can afford
When it comes to gear, it is the lens that makes the image. You don’t need a 35mm,50mm, 60mm 85mm, 18-200 and a 70-200 to get things accomplished. My recommendation to you is to buy a 24-70mm F2.8 and a 70-200 or 80-200 2.8. This way you cover a large range with only 2 lenses. You also likely do not need to buy them both at the same time if you are just starting out. The 24-70mm 2.8 will quickly become your best friend! This is the most common mistake I have seen people make, It is commonly called lens envy. Also, when buying a lens, make sure it is a full frame lens. Even if your camera is a crop sensor camera, the lens will still work. When it comes time to upgrade, you don’t need to re-invest your hard earned money in new lenses again.
Get a Portfolio
Whether it is a digital or a printed portfolio….you still need one. You simply can not show up on someone’s doorstep asking to photograph something and not have any examples. You only need a few images to show the quality of your work. They can even be from shoots you have done for yourself. Make sure to take the time in choosing the right images for the type of photography you are getting into.
Forums were invented to be a place for people to discuss common interests. While there are still some great forums out there, most of the photography forums have been burned to the ground by negativity. The place we use to enjoy has now been overrun with hobbyist’s criticizing professional photographers work. I highly recommend staying away from these unless you already know of a great one.
Social Media is Your Friend
I highly recommend creating a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus account. Although there are many others out there I would recommend to keep it small. Adding too many social media accounts to your business will eat up your valuable time and consume you in the end. There are also services like hootsuite that allow you to post to multiple accounts at the same time. This will save you an abundance of time over the course of a year!
Network, Network and Network
It is great that you have decided to take a step in your life with a passion that fuels you, but if nobody knows that you are taking that step your business will fail in an instant. There are some great resources such as your local chamber of commerce, Facebook Groups and local camera clubs that are easy to utilise. Dont be shy in telling people that you are a photographer and hand out business cards everywhere you go. At first you will be shy about it, but it will come as a second nature in no time flat.
Other Photographers are Not Your Enemy
This goes along with networking as well. The photographer down the street is not your enemy. When you are just starting out, they could be a great asset!! I have been given work from other local photographers that were over booked because I networked with them at various events in the past. They also make great sounding boards and are always willing to give advice from a business or art perspective. It is also nice to chat with people who have the same interests, you can only drive your significant other crazy so often with your photography rants / stories!
Ask for Feedback
When working with other photographers, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your work, technique or people skills. At the end of the shoot simply ask the question “So honestly, how did I do today?”. Photographers are typically an honest bunch and will tell you what you need to work on. You can also ask for feedback from a client indirectly by asking for a testimonial. You can always judge how you ranked by a testimonial. On the other hand if you receive a great testimonial without asking, you know you knocked it out of the park.
Work Will Not be Knocking on Your Door
Work does not magically show up one day just because you declared you are a photographer. Work is something you need to chase constantly. Starting out, you should pick 1 type of photography and chase away. Once you have a pipeline of contacts in that niche, chase the next one you are interested in. This helps establish your business in the photography segments you want to be in.
Don’t be Afraid to Turn Down Work
I have been contacted countless times for things I would not typically shoot. My general response is “I don’t do that type of work, but I can refer you to a colleague if you like”. Although work may not be knocking at your door, you want to stay focussed on the type of work you want to do because anything else is a distraction. If you are a commercial photographer and someone asked you to photograph their pet would you?
Never Work for Free
I have heard it all too many times. “We just want to try you out first and if you do a good job there will be many more jobs behind that”. If that were the case, I would still be driving my car for free now wouldn’t I? If your rates are fair there is no reason you should work for free. The one exception to this is volunteer work. I like donating my talents to volunteer work and happily do so for free. Remember, you are providing a service and services cost money. There is no such thing as free to the photographer. There is likely travel, gear, insurance, time, talent and many other costs. So if you did work for free, it would likely be costing you money to do it. Just simply don’t do it!
I hope this post has helped you in some way. I made some of these mistakes when I was starting out.
Please Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts or ideas.