Not only are small intimate wedding ceremonies becoming a big trend, but they are also my next favorite thing to photograph beside a birth! Couples are able to focus on their day instead of the stress of a larger wedding and entertaining their guests. I was so excited when Rick and Julie contacted me to photograph their ceremony at the Prescott Courthouse. They were heading up to Prescott from the Tuscon, AZ area for a softball tournament and had only told a couple of friends that they would also be getting hitched at the beautiful Prescott AZ Courthouse! The weather was perfect and they were so great to work with.
Paul and Janeen were not planning on having a photographer for their small and intimate wedding. They had planned on being married at The Chapel of the Valley in Prescott Valley, AZ with a small desert reception in Prescott, AZ Town Square at ‘Tis Art Gallery. I received an email about two weeks prior to there wedding date from Janeen’s coworkers stating that they wanted to hire me as a gift to the couple. How sweet is that?! The day tured out to be gorgeous and I had a wonderful time photographing their special day. Congratulations!
I love being able to give back and one of the ways I do is by volunteering my time with Operation: Love Reunited or OpLove for short. We provide free photography sessions to military families whom have loved ones overseas. Today I had the pleasure of photographing these two handsome guys. Just like my own two boys, they were very much into exploring and not so much into sitting for me I can’t wait for their daddy to receive the album of their pictures while serving overseas!
I’m officially back from maternity leave and I got to spend my first session with this wonderful family! They traveled all the way up from Phoenix so their session could take place in beautiful Prescott, AZ. It was a little cooler then what they are used to, but by the time we all arrived on-location and started shooting, it was absolutely perfect. The wee one was not into smiling a whole lot, but with silly sounds and smiling back, we were able to capture some good shots of his handsome toothless smile.
The day I was able to start my path to becoming the photographer I am today, was the best day of my life. I had been dreaming of this day since I was a child, but finances had always been a road block to my dream. I started out with my father-in-laws Olympus Evolt E-3 and a kit lens. I started joining various forums, CafeMom’s Photo Moms, being the leading group and where I give a great deal of credit for most of my basic learning in the beginning. Not only did I receive a lot of great advice from some lovely ladies, but I also learned all the no-no’s from those making big mistakes.
The best way to learn in life is by listing to those that have experience and in some ways, making the mistakes yourself. I hope the following information will be a good stepping stone in your journey of becoming a successful photographer and business owner. I am going to make this into a two-part series; becoming a photographer and becoming a birth photographer. Lets begin!
Learn Your Equipment
Learn manual on your camera, even if it’s a point and shoot. You will be throwing money down the drain if you shoot a consumer grade or professional camera in auto. A great beginner book in learning the exposure triangle is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. He also has some great videos on YouTube. Learn the right way to do things and then allow your artistic side to shine thorough.
But when can I start taking clients?! Whoa, hold your horses, it’s going to be a while. I know it’s a super exciting and new adventure, but practice on your kids, your dog, random objects around your house, indoor and outdoor, shade and full sun, stationary and moving objects (kids move). Take a subject and try to accomplish 10 different (flattering) images without them moving from their spot. Rope in friends and family for FREE, non-professional sessions. Make it very clear you are not a professional, but aspiring towards a goal. Once you have become consistent in lighting, posing (studio type, casual, or both), able to achieve different (attractive) angles, you then you start portfolio building. You wouldn’t open a bakery without knowing how to bake, right? This is no different.
How long do you spend becoming consistent? That depends. Some are able to accomplish this within a few short months yet I’ve seen others years later that still have not mastered this. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Becoming a Business
If you plan to open business (eventually), you have a lot of leg work ahead of you. Becoming a photographer is not strictly about taking some great images and slapping them onto social media and a CD/DVD, you also need to be business savvy. I would say actual shooting and processing time has only been about 15% of my entire business. There is a TON of behind-the-scenes stuff going on. If you are able to, take a business class at your local community college. Too many people have zero business sense (I’ve worked for a few), but even those of us that have a basic scope of knowledge, would still benefit greatly from a class like this. Here is a basic rundown of the various things I’ve had to learn over the years by self teaching.
- Contracts, different ones for the different areas of photography I shoot.
- Model releases and who needs to sign them
- Copyright and Usage license laws
- Taxes: city, state, income, federal
- Home zoning laws (if you do not have a studio, which most do not starting out)
- Business plans
- Cost of doing business
- Computer software
- Website: html and CSS coding, WordPress and Blogger navigating
- Graphic design
- Customer service, there’s no manager to pass the high-maintenance ones onto, you’re it!
These are just the few topics I could think of off the top of my head. If you are not interested in becoming well versed in these areas, hire a true professional. Write a business plan and do not work backwards, you will only be creating more work for yourself.
Time to Start Portfolio Building
Okay, so you’ve become consistent in your images, you’ve created or purchased your contract/model release and have had them looked over by an experienced lawyer, now is when you start attracting clientele for portfolio purposes. Most will typically have a low cost or free sitting fee but charge at cost pricing for prints and discs. Post your images to photography forums, get true honest critique, fix your problem areas and improve.
While portfolio building, work on building your website and Facebook page to display your work, both can be built prior to launching to the public. Also start to get all the legal mumbo-jumbo in place. Business licenses, EIN, zoning if necessary (just because you own a home, does not mean you can build a studio in a spare room), insurance, etc.
There are some common mistakes I see over and over again.
- Not getting contracts or model releases signed
- Using other photographers images for advertising/marketing or “just because”- NEVER okay
- Pricing themselves below the market average – competing is okay, ridiculously cheap is not
- Not doing a business plan or cost of doing business – this is extremely important!
- Not filing taxes – I recently saw the chance of being audited with a low income in around 1%, but why chance it? If you are going to be in business, BE IN BUSINESS!
- Shoot and burn – this is where people conduct sessions, go home, do minimal processing on their images and have a quick return to the client regardless of the quality.
Respect those that have been in the industry. Learn from their mistakes. If they are willing to help, take it, be grateful and pay it forward. There are so many of us willing to help, but have been burned too many times or been fought with along the way making us apprehensive and bitter at times. Do your own work, do not copy others. Find a mentor. Be accepting and show you are willing to learn.
You will come across rude people in the photography community from time to time, but that’s life. For the most part, you will find nice, but honest people wanting to help you. I know I have cried a few times from constructive criticism, but not from rude responses, but from my own feelings being hurt thinking I had an amazing image when I in fact did have to improve!
Ultimately, we get into the photography business to do what we love, so don’t spend your time working backwards like so many do.
Are you expecting or know someone that is?! I am searching for Moms and Moms-to-Be within 30 miles of zip code 86315 for the months of March through May 2013. In exchange for participating you will receive:
- Session free of charge
- Password protected online viewing gallery of your images (viewable for 14 days)
- 5 digital files
- 10% off any prints and products
- Must sign a model release form allowing me to use the images taken during the session for my website, marketing and promotional purposes.
Searching for the following:
- 2 Maternity - Must be between 32 and 38 weeks pregnant
- 2 Fresh 48- Able to call me within the first 48 hours of birth. This is not a Newborn session.
- 1 Lifestyle Newborn – Must be under 2 weeks at the time of the session. Little to no props.
* Print purchases not included are subject to sales tax. Only one session per client. Travel fees may apply
* All print purchases not included are subject to sales tax.
Please take a moment as a birth professional to fill out this survey, thank you! Continue reading
Please take a moment as a parent to fill out this survey, thank you! Continue reading
Rory and Melanie were college sweethearts. After eight years together, a cross-country move, and two rescued cats, they decided to elope. On August 6th I had the wonderful privilege of attending and photographing Melanie and Rory’s wedding at The Chapel of the Valley in Prescott Valley, AZ. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but the interior is absolutely GORGEOUS! Congratulations you two and thank you for allowing me to photograph this special day!