Never in my life have I faced more challenges than in the past year.
I figured it would be healthy – and hopefully informational for others – to write a reflection now that I’m more than a year into running a photography business and considering myself an entrepreneur (I’d use the more trendy term solopreneur if it weren’t for the ridiculous amount of support my partner gives me and my business).
People have been paying me to take photos of them since 2014, but up until one year ago I considered photography little more than a hobby.
Then, in August of 2017 I decided to make portrait photography my career and turn my hobby into a full-time business.
My first steps in legitimizing my business were to apply for a sales tax license and buy a domain name. More steps in the months to follow included re-installing the Facebook app on my phone (I had weaned myself from the endless scroll, but now needed it for business promotion), and buying insurance for my business. And, of course, I am always working to improve my shooting and editing skills.
Never in my life have I faced more challenges than in the past year. I look at photos I took one year ago, or even six months ago, and cringe a bit. My shooting and editing has come so far! I’ve successfully narrowed down the scope and style of my work.
One year ago I thought that newborn photography would be a huge passion and money-maker for me, but I soon learned that I was not particularly good at or interested in the posed newborn niche (I still offer family/documentary style family sessions with a focus on the newborn). One year ago my edits were flatter and less vibrant (ie, more boring). One year ago my Instagram account was all over the place, and I have since created a more curated, cohesive feel.
Lighting has been one of the specific parts of photography that I have learned more about in the past year than I could have imagined.
I have learned how to work with lightstands, speedlights, modifiers, and backdrops. In particular I have learned how to setup and tear all of this down quickly and efficiently while photographing events or outdoors. My biggest area of improvement right now is shaping light, especially balancing the temperature of light with the ambient light of the situation. Doing this effectively makes editing white balance and tint so much easier in post. I couldn’t do any of this without MagMod light modifiers. I’ve also learned a lot about these modifiers from groups like MagMod Community on Facebook.
In addition to the art of photography and lighting I have learned so much about business in the past year.
I have never studied business, marketing, or accounting in any formal way and I feel that everyday. There is such a steep learning curve to figuring these things out, but luckily there are also a plethora of resources to learn about it online (like the local lady photographers group I’m a part of). I have probably learned the most from the online communities for photographers that I have joined, both local and global. I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at without my main mentor, Moira of J La Plante Photo. Moira has much more experience in the world of business than I do, and I count myself extraordinarily lucky to have her in my life.
As I learn more about photography and business, the Dunning–Kruger effect is constantly on my mind. This theory describes the inability of people to acknowledge how little knowledge or skill they have in an area, resulting in them having an much higher opinion of oneself than is warranted.
I am constantly using this principal to remind myself that I can never stop learning, never stop growing.
I can never let myself settle and become static or boring. Part of why I incorporated this theory into my everyday thinking was a video by London photographer Jamie Windsor called “Why BAD Photographers THINK They’re Good“. I can always get better at every aspect of my art and business, but if also helps to look back at how far I’ve come.
Thank you for reading, thank you for your support, and keep learning!