5 Mistakes Start-Up Photographers Make
I started my photography business a little over 4 months ago. It was a big deal making the leap from amateur photographer to professional. I knew I was good at photography, after all I had been doing it for 2+ years at Flagler College. Even though I had the technical skills there were still some major lessons I have learned in this short time. Hopefully this list can help you if you are just starting out!
5. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
I cannot say this enough. Know your stuff! Know your camera equipment. Know your client. Know your location. Your clients are expecting you to be the professional. Make sure your know your camera inside and out. When unexpected errors happen, you need to know how to troubleshoot problems. You need to plan out photo shoots. Don’t expect your client to take the reigns and tell you where they want photos at a certain location. You need to arrive 30ish minutes early and scout out the location. Find those spots where the light is just perfect, or that magical set of stairs with a mural background. If your client plays a sport bring some props along! If they bring their own props that’s great. However, if they don’t you’re prepared to provide your own. This leads into knowing your client. What are their interests? How can you portray that in their photos? Know your clients expectations. Have they seen your photos? Do they like your style of photography? Have a storehouse of poses for your client. Some clients need directions down to the placement of their feet. Be bold and give them some direction. They expect you to tell them what to do. Make sure you tell them the timeline of events. For example, the photo shoot might take up to two hours, but could be less. Explain to them when payment is due BEFORE the photo shoot. Tell them when they can expect their photos to be done and how they can see them or purchase them from you. Know what your prices are and stick to them! Don’t let your client guilt you into lowering your prices. You are a professional and you are offering quality work. You are not a “cheap” photographer.
4. Have a system for new clients
I vividly remember my first phone call from a potential client. I was so stunned that someone had called for Oh, Snap! Photography that I didn’t ask the right questions. I ended up with a lot of unresolved issues. When was payment due? What was that address again? How did he hear about me? To avoid this mistake come up with a series of questions you need to ask. What is the shoot for? How many people? How many hours? How did you hear about my business? Etc. Don’t be a drill Sargent asking question after question. Allow the conversation to flow between you and the client and make sure to address these questions. Then you need to make sure they know what the next steps are. Will you send them a contract? When will you expect payment? These questions lead us to our next point. Get it in writing
3. If you like it then you should put a ring on it get it in writing.
I have a standard contract that I email to clients. I can change the minor details, pricing, date, the clients name, etc. But for the most part the contract says the same thing. First I address what we discussed on the phone: pricing, time, and location. Then the contract goes on to say that 25% of payment will be due 7 days before the shoot. That 25% will be applied to the client’s final total that will be paid the day of the shoot. Any cancellations within 48 hours of the shoot and the client forfeits that amount. This ensures that they are serious about booking your time.
Unfortunately I learned this one the hard way. I had booked a 3-year-old birthday party and was calling the mom to confirm the address and time, but she wasn’t answering her phone. I assumed she was just busy with day of details and that I should drive that way and she would get in touch with me as soon as possible. Eventually she sent me a text saying that the party was canceled. Needless to say I was frustrated. Not only had I set aside a 3-hour time slot on a Saturday for her, but I also turned down other jobs assuming I would be busy during that time. When you ask for a deposit it requires your clients to respect your time now that they have an investment in it.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others.
When I was thinking about making the transition to being a professional I was all about blogs and Pintrest. On one hand it was good, I was inspired to be better, to push the envelope, but at the same time I was comparing my worst photos with their best photos. These photo geniuses were posting their final best photos on their sites and I was looking at my outtakes and photo blunders thinking I would never achieve their level of skill. You can look at others work and admire it, just don’t be discouraged by it. Have the self- discipline to stop looking when you start feeling bad about your work. Have confidence in your photos. Be proud of your work.
1. Confidence, confidence, and oh, yea, confidence!
Taking the leap to start your own business is a BIG deal. I had, and still have, a lot of insecurities about my talents and skills. What makes me think I’m better than anyone else with a DSLR camera? Here’s a little secret, if people are calling you for a quote they like your photography. They’ve seen your stuff and know you possesses the knowledge to successfully take pictures of their family. That’s huge! If you don’t believe in yourself, what makes you think others will too? If you’re making the jump from amateur to professional that means you’ve spent countless HOURS and HOURS practicing. Photography is no longer a hobby, but a lifestyle. My husband was (and is) such a good sport. There have been countless times we’ve been out somewhere and I spot an awesome location with great light and I make him pose for me. When I first started, I played with the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. I learned my lenses inside and out in order to get the perfect lens flare. I lived and breathed my camera manual. If you don’t know the relationship between your ISO and shutter speed then you might not be quite ready to make the leap into the big leagues. Learning is a never-ending process, but you should have a firm grasp on the basic principles and be able to explain them to others.
Here are some pictures from when I first started practicing on my Rebel T2i. As you can tell my work has come a long way. I love that I have a tangible way to see my growth into a professional photographer.
This isn’t the end all be all list for starting photogs but hopefully it gets you thinking about things you can be doing to better your business. What are some rookie mistakes you made when you first started out?