I remember very clearly when I decided to become a photographer. I had been working as an aide at my children’s school and due to the state’s budget, cuts were being made. All aides were being laid off. I had been working 2 hours a day for the last 2 years and thought that this was my chance to finally be a photographer. After all, all of my friends wanted me to take pictures of their kids and I already owned a nice camera. How much work could there be to it? I felt like the only basic component I needed help with was posing. I wasn’t used to telling people how to move their body for photos. So I spent a week doing free sessions for people I knew, told them how to pose and I gave them a disc of the edited pictures. Now I was all ready to start my Facebook fanpage, build a website and order business cards, right?
Wrong! Just because I owned a fancy camera and did a few sessions for some friends did not make me a photographer.
In my experience, here is what made me a photographer:
- Learn Your Camera! I shot in auto for the first 6 months of owning my business. I know, it’s shameful. It worked for the few years I owned my camera, why would I change? Well it turns out, you are a much better photographer when you have complete control of your camera and your images. So I took control. I would sit at my computer for hours looking up tutorials, reading my manual to my camera and scouring forums. And then I would beg one of my four children to let me practice on them. Eventually, I got it. It all began to make sense to me. I went straight from auto to manual. I never used the settings in between auto and manual. To me, it was like going from diapers to big girl panties. No pull ups in between.
- Value your time and yourself. It sounds easy enough, but it isn’t. Don’t get sucked into that trap of thinking that if you are new, you have to take whatever session comes your way, causing you to miss important family events. When I started just a little over 4 years, I worked every Saturday and any weeknight that someone wanted to book me. My rates were also lower. Translation=no profit. It was all going to gas and stopping to eat a taco because I wasn’t eating at home. Mark days off on your calendar to ensure you don’t get overbooked, and this includes marking off some Saturdays. Your family has to come first. Your clients will understand that and respect you for it.
- Learn what types of sessions you love. I used to hate the idea of doing weddings. But then I did one and I was hooked. I love capturing the details, being the shadow that nobody really notices yet you are one of the most important people there that day. I thought I would love newborns, but it turns out, I don’t. Not at all. When I get an email about newborns, I refer them to another local photographer. After 4 years, I now know what I love to shoot. My passion is families, seniors and weddings. When you first start out, dabble in everything. Get a taste for what you like and what you don’t. You never know where your passion lies until you try it. Below are a couple of then and now photos. The top photos are from my first year in business 4 years ago and the bottom images are from recent images.
- Seek out other photographers. I remember a few forums that I belonged to and all of them were very different from each other. I found one forum to be very judgy. If I asked a question or posted a photo for critique, I felt it got ripped apart. But, there was another forum that became my internet home. These gals were a wealth of knowledge and so great about sharing it. In fact, I have that forum to thank for instilling in me a pay it forward attitude within the photography community. There may also be photographers in your own city that get together. Ask around and see if you can join them!
- Be yourself. Don’t ever try to copy someone else’s style. Don’t ever compare yourself to someone else. Everyone in this business has started somewhere. Every photographer has taken horrible pictures or had some bad sessions. It happens. One thing I hear from my clients a lot is they love that the person I am on my fanpage is the same person they meet at a session. I am quirky, I am nice and sarcastic all at the same time. I love to laugh. I am passionate about what I do. Who are you? Know the answer to that question and don’t be afraid to show it to others.
Now let’s break it down:
- Be in control of your camera and master shooting in manual
- Value your time and yourself.
- Shoot what you love.
- Find other Photographers.
- Be yourself.
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.