By Amy Phipps on | No Comments
I need to share these thoughts and actions with you. Why? Because you’re going to understand. Only fellow photographers will understand the depth of my guilt and the ways in which I’ve been wrong. I only ask this of you-don’t judge me. At some point, you have either done one of these or you will do one of these. My hope is that you never will. But if you do, just know that someone else has been there and feels your pain. Okay, I’m ready now.
When I first went into business 6 years ago, I felt like I was totally ready. I had a wide range of people to reach out to and it was easy for me to book sessions immediately. I worked on my posing, getting contracts in order and learned a few things about editing. I had my camera in AUTO mode and that worked really well, except for those times it didn’t. But shooting in any other way was way too hard to learn and I was too busy learning how to have a business, I didn’t have time to learn how to shoot in manual. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. I was wrong. So wrong. I honestly thought that shooting in manual was a personal choice and couldn’t be that much different than shooting in AUTO. After all, these digital cameras were pretty fancy, surely it knew more than I did.
I’ll pay you $20.00 if you can guess which camera I used when I started my business. The original Canon Rebel. THE ORIGINAL. I even shot a few weddings with that camera. It was what I had at the time and I didn’t think you needed to have a $3,000 camera to have a business. Looking back, I can say this. I still don’t think you need a $3,000 camera to start a business, nor do you need a full frame body to start a business. But you do need a camera that can handle low light situations if you will be shooting indoor events and you need a camera that produces large files so that your clients receive quality digital files/prints. But you don't need a camera that will put you in debt buying it.
About a month ago, I had the worst thing imaginable happen. I lost the SOOC files of a session that I hadn’t exported the edited images for. I was up late organizing files on my hard drive because it was getting full. The next day I went to edit a senior session and it had the exclamation mark in the corner, meaning the files weren’t synced up anymore. I figured I must have moved them somewhere else. I certainly did—to the recycle bin that I had emptied. And of course I didn’t back them up either.
The night of that session I had been tired and figured I would back them up the next day. Nope. Didn’t happen. As soon as I knew there was no way to recover the files, I called the mom and let her know what happened. I had to be honest and tell her. I asked her to tell me how she wanted me to make this up to her. I lost the files of her daughter but I had another session scheduled for her son (they are high school senior twins). I wasn’t sure if she would trust me again or how she would feel. The next day she asked if she could not pay for her son’s session and I still reshoot the daughter and do the son as well. I was so relieved! The mom was so sweet and so forgiving. BUT, had this been a wedding, I would have had a lawsuit on my hands. Lesson learned…BACK UP YOUR FILES AS SOON AS YOU DOWNLOAD THEM.
The first time I photographed a newborn, I thought to myself “How hard can this be, it’s just a baby and all they do is sleep.”. But it turns out, when you want to take pictures of a baby, they don’t sleep. They also want to eat, pee and poop on everything and stay curled up like a ball. I no longer photograph babies. Turns out, the only babies I really like are my own. Photograph what you love. No more needs to be said about that.
I used to look at backgrounds all the time. I wanted that background that was really going to stand out and be cool. I was looking for the wrong thing though. I should have been looking for light. Light is what makes a photo truly beautiful. You can have the most amazing clients, they can be gorgeous and well dressed, but if you don’t have the right light or know how to use the light around you, your image won’t ever reach its full potential. Look for beautiful light!
For about the first 4 years of owning my business (it’s been 6 years total), I wouldn’t show a client the back of my camera. I would laugh it off and say something lame like you can’t see until I post a sneak peek for you. The truth was that I wasn’t confident in my SOOC image that I didn’t want them to see what it looked like. And I don’t do a ton of editing! But I couldn’t handle them looking at that image in the camera and being worried that I didn’t know what I was doing.
3 days ago I showed up to a session without a memory card in my camera. I often times just run out the door with a water bottle, my phone and my camera. This time, I got to the location, look at my camera and just about died. The worst part—the session was with one of the twins mentioned in confession #3. No lie. Put your card back into your camera when you’re done downloading photos. Keep extra cards in your bag. Take your bag with you.
This year I have finally put together great looking guides for my clients. When they inquire about booking or do book, I send them my pricing guide. Once we get about 2 weeks away from the session, I send them a What to Wear Guide, as well as a Guide that goes over everything they can expect. This helps them get all the information they need and you look awesome. Why am I so thorough now? Because I spent a few years of not being thorough.
Typically people don’t book a whole lot of sessions in January because they’re still paying for Christmas and they just did pictures in the fall. I know this, yet when I look at an empty calendar in January, I still get scared. I worry that maybe this is the year that people stop calling me. Maybe this is the year that all the people that wanted photos done by me have had them and that’s it, I’m done. Maybe raising my prices was the worst idea I’ve ever had. But then halfway through January people start booking again and by April I’m so busy I don’t have any free time.
I now let people look at the back of my camera. I wasn’t scared this January and I’ve been searching for new places to shoot at in the light. I’ve upgraded my camera 3 times since starting with my Rebel and I bought a few more memory cards. I don’t plan to ever lose files again and I still don’t photograph babies. I know what I love to shoot and what I don’t. I’ve worked hard to be able to say no. I try hard and I have loyal clients because of it. Please learn from my mistakes! And know that whatever mistake you make, you aren’t the first one to make it.
Amy Phipps is the photographer behind On the Phippside Photography, located in Stockton, California. Amy has been married for 21 years and has 4 children. When she’s not trying to decide between which of her 43 black shirts to wear, you can probably find her sipping on a Dr. Pepper and walking around any day of the year in flip flops.