Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Photography Business

I got to thinking about a few things I wish I knew before starting my business. Yes, I wish I knew more about the technicality of photography (wait, so you’re telling me f-stop and aperture ARE THE SAME THING?!?), but I wish someone would’ve sat me down and had a real conversation about expectations. I envision this scene in my head like there’s this mafia-looking guy (hair slicked, big nose, acne scars) sitting in a corner booth at an Italian restaurant ready to give me my first hit job.

Okay, so here we go. Here’s what I wish someone told me when I first started my wedding photography business…

1. Expect the worst.

It might sound terribly pessimistic, but expect the worse. If you can imagine just how bad things could be-and you’re okay with the outcome-then you know exactly what you’re risking. Knowing the worst, but hoping for the best tempered my emotions when I first started. The worst case scenario (for me) was: failing at photography, going back to law school, and owning a really nice DSLR camera. Once I realized what life looked like if I failed, I was ready to succeed. There are others who might be risking a mortgage, health insurance, and a 401K, so I suspect the transition may be slower in order to safeguard one’s family and assets, but it’s important to really know what’s on the line.

2. Embrace mistakes.

Although you don’t want to make mistakes, they’ll happen. It’s part of the growing process, but it’s important to know not all mistakes are bad. A misstep that allows you to learn, correct, or grow is actually beneficial and the more you make in the beginning, the less you’ll make later. Instead of trying to avoid mistakes, embrace each challenge optimistically and know you’re learning along the way.

3. Unconsciously decision make.

Okay, so that was written all yoda-style, but what I really mean is go with your gut. I’d like to think I carefully weighed all the factors before starting my business (consciously), but actual decision making is made in primarily in an unconscious way. This doesn’t mean this is bad or faulty, there’s simply just too much to digest, too many unknowns (I had never started a business before, could I really compete in a saturated market, would people like my suede boots?). Innately, we want to make educated decisions, but it’s important to know actual reasons are hardly enough to cover reality. Do as much research as you can, then take a jump!
(This also applies to buying lenses, the perfect photoshop actions, business cards, a website, etc)

4. Befriend thought paralysis.

This pertains to point three. When you start a business, you want to know all your options…at least I did. Little did I realize this would only lead to the inability to actually make a decision. The more you research, the more you’ll find. This may lead to a rabbit hole of choices (been there, done that), so try to set parameters before you dive too deep.

5. Grapple with the emotional reality.

Let’s be real for a second: the daily grind of what I do isn’t glamorous. I sit in yoga pants for hours in front of my computer…I sing for my dog…I occasionally wear mismatched socks around the house. I work a ton and I photograph (professionally) on good days. Before I built my business, I looked forward to working from home with positive emotions (probably because I had never done so), but once things got going, I realized it wasn’t all pixie dust and kazoos. The emotions I place leading to or at the conclusion of an event are often the strongest because they’re idealized…it was important for me to take my perfected ideas of being self-employed and juxtapose it with reality. I wish I had done so earlier because it would have lessened the blow of sitting in solitude for hours, not having a water cooler to congregate around, and having a co-worker with four legs.

Original Source from CreativeLive Blog

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    • I'd add one more -- listen to your clients/customers. Elicit what they liked and what they didn't like -- both before and after the shoot. Deliver perceived value. Your customers must be pleased with the value of what they receive from you.

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    • As a recent purchaser of the services of a professional photographer, I would add this:  Give fabulous customer service.  The photographer I hired did so, and I have recommended him to three of my fellow professional practice owners who also needed "corporate head shot" work. Hopefully he will get some additional work out of those referrals. 

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    • "Wait, so you're telling me f-stop and aperture ARE THE SAME THING?!?"  --Jasmine Star

      Well, no, aperture is the opening, defined in linear terms (such as millimeters) that measure the diameter of that opening.  Second, f-stop is defined as the focal length of a lens (or a telescope mirror) divided by the aperture, with both expressed in the same linear units.  So, mathematically speaking they are hardly the "same thing."  A 600mm f/4 lens has an aperture of 150mm and an f-stop of 4.  The focal length is 600mm.  Divide the focal length (600mm) by the aperture (150mm), and you will get the f-stop, which in this case is 4.  The nice thing about understanding this is that, if you know the f-stop and the focal length, you can figure out the aperture.  That might help with a number of things, such as looking around for a filter that fits.  (Good luck with a 600.)  More important, it can help with day-to-day shooting decisions.

      All of that leads to another business rule if the business you are thinking about starting is a photography business: have your technical skills down pat, and know what you are doing and what you are talking about (such as the difference between aperture and f-stop).

      I am not trying to sound snippety here, but is there a discount on the price of the articles we are reading here lately?  If I say that I am going to stop down a couple of stops, what would this writer have me do with my aperture?  Should I thereby increase it or decrease it? Would she have any idea how to evaluate the claim that the latest Canikon X25 will give you another "stop" of dynamic range or of low-light capability?  Exposure is rather important.  If she does not know that there are three and only three exposure variables (and how they are inter-related) and that aperture is not one of them (but f-stop is), should she really be rushing off to start a photography business?  Should she be writing articles about photography at all?


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    • Try to remember that not everyone on is an expert like you are Lannie!
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    • So people post anonymously now? If knowing that there are three exposure variables makes one an expert, we are in trouble.
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    • I agree with Lannie. If you don't know the basics of proper exposure you are misleading your customers by calling yourself a photographer. I wouldn't call someone who knows how to make a proper exposure in manual mode an "expert", but I would call them competent. Personally, I would only pay someone who is competent.
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      • Well, not sure what to say - Jasmine and her husband are very successful couple, and its doubtful you get to be that successful without talent and knowledge. We all should only hope to be as successful doing something we love doing.
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