If there is one thing I get asked the most, it is probably how I started my business. More specifically, people wonder how I carved out a niche for myself with an emphasis on wedding photography. I wish I had a magical story to tell, but to be honest, I struggled through my first years of business like many of the same people who come to me for advice now. But let's rewind a bit...
How It All Began
I suppose I can claim being creative is in my genes. I grew up watching my mom knit, craft, paint and repurpose vintage items with the the best of them. My grandmother was (and still is) an epically talented painter. My grandfather on my dad's side was a master woodworker and today I have an uncle who is a successful florist, not to mention other extended family members who are creative entrepreneurs and talented artists in their own right. From a young age I was always expressing myself in some way, from singing, painting, pottery, creative writing, acting, or dancing, you name it and chances are, I did it. Through middle and high school I was always in some type of art and writing class. I was certain I would graduate and pursue journalism in some fashion. I was completely in love with the idea of telling stories, and it wasn't until I was handed a camera that I learned there was a totally different way to tell stories through images.
While my first experience with a camera came in the form of a few photography courses in high school, it wouldn't be until I met my now husband almost 6 years after graduating that I would even consider photography as something more than an extracurricular to fill up my senior year class schedule. When Jonathan (that's my husband, just in case you were wondering) and I met, he owned a Nikon and took photos often. He shot landscapes and nature in a completely beautiful way and the camera intrigued me. Once we were married we traveled the country as he worked as a physical therapist in different locations every three months. While this was an incredibly exciting way to start our marriage, I was also really lonely as we moved to a new city so often. We were barely in one place long enough to make real friends, and our family back home wanted to keep up with our adventures. I needed something to fill my time. So naturally, I started a blog.
Adventures of Newlyweds is Born
In 2010 after our wedding, I started a blog aptly titled "Adventures of Newlyweds" for our friends and family back home to follow. I had NO clue how expansive the blog world was back in those days, but boy did I figure that out quickly. Before I knew it, I had people who I had never met leaving comments on my blog. I soon discovered the world of blogging, and my mind was blown. Around that time I realized that my pictures were really quite terrible and that I should probably step up my game if I wanted to continue sharing and growing my readership. I started to learn my camera and with all the free time I had I practiced and began to improve. My husband's camera quickly began to limit me and I set my sights on purchasing some shiny new gear.
During my time as a "lifestyle" blogger, I had met and become friends with several other professional photographers. I began researching cameras and decided that I really loved the images that Canon cameras and glass produced. On my birthday in 2012 when we were on a travel assignment living in LA, I finally got my first Canon camera: the 5D Mark II with a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I was in LOVE. My photo taking obsession went to a whole new level and I photographed everything I could while we were in such a beautiful area.
A few months later we took a new assignment in the San Francisco bay area and it wasn't until I was living there that I decided to try my hand at photographing people. After one session (and I use that term loosely when talking about that time in life!) I was hooked. I loved working with people, the entire process of the photo shoot and knew that I may have found something that I could really love and be good at. The very next day I made a website, opened a business page and started looking for people to photograph for free to build my portfolio. I was a professional photographer.
But oh, how wrong I was! Now, in hindsight I cringe at how easy I thought it was going to be. I wince when I look at the photos I thought were so amazing and I practically want to crawl into a hole and die when I think about how unaware I was of what being a business owner actually meant.
Learning the Ropes
I VERY quickly learned that owning a camera, starting a website and shooting photo sessions for pennies did not make me a professional photographer. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning but quickly learned from them as I went. After a few months I realized I needed to really educate myself and become and expert and I painstakingly read, practiced and worked on anything and everything I could. My goal was to learn how to shoot in any and every situation, with each and every type of client. I invested in myself in my business in a big way; I learned to shoot in manual, how to pay taxes and value myself as an artist. I can promise that each of these lessons came in a hard way, and if I can impart any advice on anyone hoping to become a professional photographer it would be to harness your initial excitement and passion and invest in yourself and your business so you can be the best you can possibly be.
Finding My Niche
Once I had a handle on how to use my gear, I began photographing everything, from newborns to families to events. I wanted to try my hand at everything so I could decide what I loved the most, and what I was the best at. I quickly realized that my passion was with weddings and couples and artful portraitures. I began decline the types of sessions that didn't push my creativity and spark my passion. Once I began to focus on what I was good at, I also began to book more and more. Instead of trying to be good at every type of photography, I was showcasing my expertise in a particular area and because of that I attracted more clients.
My Business Today
Fast forward to today, and I am completely in love with where my business is. While I am passionate about what I do, don't mistake that for meaning that I have it all figured out. I continue to stretch my skills, learn new things and venture into unknown territory. For example, last year I began learning and shooting film photography, and I also co-founded and teach The Bloom Workshop for anyone in business or interested in starting their own business. After making so many avoidable mistakes and learning what it really takes to navigate owning my own business there is nothing I love more than sharing with others.
I don't think I will ever be done learning or pushing myself to grow but I can say that I have found my passion in life and absolutely love my job! So if you're a budding photographer, don't give up on your dream; try new things, reach out and ask questions and continue to learn! Find your passion, and stick to it!
I love answering questions, so please leave a comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with me!