I strongly believe in fate and that everything happens for a particular reason. This is how I feel about photography and my journey to becoming a photographer. Never in my early years of artistry did I expect photography to become a strong passion in my life. Now that it has, I feel a new sense of success and faith in myself that I hadn’t had before, and for this I am grateful.
I had always taken pictures for fun. I would never fail to bring my family’s camera (a Canon 300D) with me whenever I hung out with my friends. My best friend and I would even set up weekly photo shoots where I’d do her makeup (dramatically, I might add) and dress her up in a funky outfit to model for me. Sometimes even I would dress myself up and shoot some self-portraits. Eventually a good friend of mine influenced me to ask my mom for a camera come Christmas time. I was so excited that I could finally have a camera of my own. I would take pictures everyday-of my backyard, my dogs, small objects around the house, my best friend, etc. Back then, photography was never business. It was all personal. I’d make art for my friends and me, and I loved doing it.
Fast forward six years later, and I am now an established photographer in my area with a solid portfolio and respectable client base. I’ve learned more about photography in the past year I have been in business then I did all those years ago doing personal work. I am by no means a seasoned photographer as I still have plenty to learn, but I hope my tips and the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my journey as an artist will help you with yours.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
1. EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT WON’T MAKE YOU A PRO
I see so many photographers on different Facebook groups or forums that ask, “What body and lens did you use?” or “What lens is this?” on beautiful images. Don’t get me wrong; I believe equipment can make a huge difference in your work, and it’s good to know for future reference what body/lens combo works best with specific genres of photography. What I’m saying is that equipment doesn’t define you as an artist. High quality equipment won’t magically make you an expert photographer; you’ll get that by constantly learning and practicing your craft everyday. Don’t get discouraged if all you have is an entry level DSLR with a kit lens or a “nifty fifty.” Harness your craft, and educate yourself on this art form. Don’t invest in high quality equipment until you’ve reached the point where you feel held back by your gear. That’s when you’ll know it’s time to take the next step.
2. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS
I still struggle with this. Quite often I find myself losing faith and confidence in my work because I see another photographer’s amazing photo or their fast pace improvement with each picture they put out. It makes me second guess myself and lose track of what is really important: my work and progress. Each artist goes at their own pace, and just because someone else is moving incredibly fast does not mean you are lesser than them. Comparing yourself to others will only hurt you and cause destruction to your journey of being an artist. Instead, strive to reach that skill level. Don’t stop creating, push the negative thoughts aside, and focus on your own personal journey.
3. REMEMBER WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER
I went through this a couple months back. I had just started my business and was so eager to get clients and make money that I would take any photography job, even if I didn’t like it. I was all about the money and making a name for myself. Eventually, I was so wrapped up in the world of business that I neglected the importance of photography as an art. I lost touch with what inspired me to become a photographer. I soon realized that I loved photography because I had a passion for capturing the essence of young women. Portraits spoke to me so strongly, and I loved being able to take the carelessness and free spirit young women had and making it into art. For that reason, I strictly became a senior portrait and wedding photographer. I found that no other session brought joy and passion to me like these two genres of photography. I highly encourage my fellow photographers to do the same. If you feel an excitement or strong passion for a specific genre of photography, I say go for it. You will get your best photos from this because your true passion will show through.
4. TRY TO HAVE SOME PERSONAL WORK
This sort of ties in with tip #3. Getting jobs is great, but it is also nice to have personal work of your own. I love my seniors very much, but sometimes I have this vision for a shoot that isn’t appropriate for senior portraits. This is when I call up one of my preferred models (close friends of mine) to make this vision come to life. For me, this is a refreshing break to have during the hustle and bustle of senior season. It makes me excited to create and be creative, making me perform better for my paid sessions. Some of my best work comes from my personal sessions because I have unlimited creative control. After posting some photos from my shoot, many potential clients contact me because my models share my work, so it has also proven to be a great marketing tool.
5. SELL PRINTS
Selling prints is a great benefit for you because: 1) you can profit off print sales, and 2) it ensures your work comes to life and isn’t trapped in some computer screen! If you are downloading the images to a CD or USB drive for your clients and giving them the responsibility to print the photos, I strongly suggest you consider offering prints yourself. You’re losing sales you could have made if you offered print services! There are many great labs to order prints from like: Miller Labs, WHCC, Nations, ProDPI, and many more. Prints are also another great marketing tool for your business because house guests of your clients will surely inquire about their awesome family photos and wonder who the photographer is that took them!
6. DEVELOP PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH CLIENTS WHO ARE YOUR FRIENDS
Now this is usually a toughie for photographers. Let’s be honest; it can be kind of awkward to treat your friends strictly as clients in your business because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or act differently towards them! I used to struggle with this as well, especially when my boss at work would ask me to do her baby’s photos! I was nervous to tell her my prices because I live in a somewhat rural area where people don’t usually spend a lot on photos. I didn’t want to disappoint her and have her say it wasn’t in her price range. Really, I was nervous to tell ANYONE about my prices. I have photographed her family quite a few times now and would consider myself to be their family photographer. I later realized that I shouldn’t have been afraid to tell her my prices because she valued my work and would gladly pay for my services. Another awkward scenario is when a friend of yours asks or implies to have a free session! How are you supposed to reply to that?! You don’t want to hurt their feelings or make things awkward between the two of you, right? But WHO CARES. This is business we’re talking about. Just because they are your friend doesn’t mean they can take advantage of your services, unless of course you happily accept or offer it to them. Whenever this happens to me I tell them I’d be glad to have a session with them and then send them my current session prices. They usually get the message after that. It is easy for friends to not take you as seriously as your other clients would because they personally know you, but for the sake of your business, credibility, and professionalism, put your foot down.
7. OFFER SPECIALS AND GIVEAWAYS ON YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PAGE
This is yet another great, free marketing tool for your business! Offer giveaways where the person entering will have to tag their friends or share on their page. This will give your business a TON of FREE publicity. Also offering mini sessions or so and so off a certain session could attract clients who wouldn’t normally be able to afford you and have the chance to work with you!
Although I still take pride in these photos, I did not pay attention to small details: the piece of plastic beside her, did not straighten the photo, did not smooth his face, etc.
On above and title photo, Color Riche II and City Lights Bokeh from the new Summer Collection, as well as Eyes Sharpen and Skin Smooth from the Perfect Portrait Brushes.
Purple Frost from the Color Luxe Workflow Collection, Color Pop +2 from the Workflow Collection. Also Perfect Portrait Brushes: Eyes Sharpen and Skin Smooth.
Vintage Kiss from the new Summer Collection and Perfect Portrait Brushes: Eyes Sharpen and Skin Smooth on face and under eyes.
My name is Shannen Speer and I am an on location, natural light photographer located in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can find me at any time of the day either restaurant hopping with my boyfriend or petting a puppy. I love all things boho and cherry coke. I also love to make new friends either locally or online so let's chat sometime! Visit me on Facebook or on my website. My instagram page is of the same name!