In May of this year, I finished my M.F.A. (Photography, of course!) and after three years in the protective bubble of the academic art world, I am so fortunate and very thankful to be able to pick up where I left off here at Pretty Presets. I love this community so very much, and coming back is like seeing an old friend - it's so easy and as though no time has passed at all!
On the other end of things, though, I am finding it quite difficult to get back into the swing of things by finding new opportunities for my photography. While all of us have different situations, my guess is that if you have taken time off from any type of photography-related business - whether you are a commercial or fine art photographer - you will probably experience some of the same challenges when you decide to return.
Maybe you took a year or two off to focus on your family, or maybe, like me, you went to grad school. Whatever your situation, I am here to tell you that getting back into the swing of things is equal parts exciting and difficult. My hope is that this post encourages you on your journey back!
Here are just a few things that I have learned so far:
People Have Short Attention Spans
Let's say you specialize in portraits, and you take a couple of years off - chances are, you may lose some clients if you do not follow up with them regularly. I'm not saying they'll completely forget you exist, no! However, you may (you will) find yourself in need of some follow-up emails and postcards to let your clients know you are back in business.
Since I took time off three-and-a-half years ago, Lightroom has been upgraded numerous times, Adobe's Creative Cloud has become an industry standard, mirrorless full frame cameras are a thing, Pinterest is a social media staple, and the list goes on and on. If you are in the process of taking time off, stay as plugged in to trends as you possibly can. This will give you a leg up when you return. While I did stay on top of some things, I let others slide. I wish I had stayed more on top of Lightroom, because I feel like I am having to relearn so much of it.
I have always used social media to promote my photography. Even when I was in grad school I still posted, albeit infrequently, to my Facebook page and my blog, but not enough to keep the home fires burning. If you take an extended break from the social media aspect of your business, prepare for some work in building it back up when you return. Keep in mind that, like everything else, social media is constantly changing. Due to recent changes in algorithms, Facebook business pages do not drive nearly the same amount of traffic as they did a couple of years ago. I'm learning how to compensate for this by using Instagram.
You'll Need to Revisit Your Portfolio
In 2010, I thought my photography was really coming along. It was - I was learning and growing - but the work I did from 2010-2012 does not reflect my current style. Like so many photographers, looking at my early work makes me cringe a little because I was trying so hard to define my own style as a photographer. I was super proud of the images in my portfolio then, but it's time to retire them, and also to not be embarrassed by them, because they helped me grow. Most of them do not, however, belong in my portfolio today!
The Good Old Days Were Just As Challenging As Today
It's easy to look at the past through the lens of nostalgia and feel as though it was so much easier then.
Get this: it wasn't.
When we are struggling in the present, it's easy to forget just how hard it was, especially when we were first starting out in our photography ventures. It took so much hard work to build you business the first time, and it will be a challenge to rebuild it. Just like the first go-round, it will happen, and your business will come back, it will just take as much (maybe more) persistence and dedication. You have done it once, you can do it again!