Wow the time is flying and Christmas is already smiling from my agenda back at me. Crazy isn’t ? So I thought I would write a little post for all of you out there who are just starting. Those of you who don’t know where to start, who build their websites since weeks, those who face fear in so many different stept. Here are my 12 tips for photographer who are just starting out.
1. Start before it is perfect. I know I could (and did) spend hours on my website and wanted it to be perfect before launching but listen to me: put it out there even if it is not perfect! You can better show what you do and keep improving on your site while it is online, than waiting till Easter weekend (or even longer) and nobody knows that you exist and nobody will see your work. (I might write a post about the few things every photographer website needs to be ready to be put online)
2. Don’t forget the taxes. Well honestly this should have been point number one but I didn’t want to scare you off and leave the site before reading the other 11 points. But this is really important. The moment you start earning money from your photography you will have to put money aside for the taxes. Depending on how much you make this amounts will vary but be aware that VAT, income tax and maybe even business tax (when you are doing really well) might be asked from you to pay. I could write a whole post only about German taxes but please don’t make the mistake and take every penny you make as your income and spend it on new gear. I have seen many business fail just because they didn’t put money aside for the taxes at the end of the year.
3. Start networking. When I started out I went to every single networking event of the wedding industry that I could find. I am sure in every region you will find an event to go to to meet industry peers and get connected. And I know it is really really scary to enter the room alone not knowing any face. But just smile, have your business cards by your hand and go to the people with an open mind. „Hello my name is Jennifer, I think we didn’t meet before“. And voila you are in the conversation (You might just like to ad your name instead of mine otherwise you might sound creepy). Believe me some of my best connections today are from one of those events 5 years ago.
4. Always work on your craft. Never, never stop improving your photography. You might like to watch Creative Live and Youtube films that teach photography and those videos are great BUT you need to go out there and practice yourself with your camera to improve and become a great photographer.
5. Create a PDF price list. No matter what your prices are you want your potential customer to get a professional impression of you and your business. So don’t send them just any Word document or the prices as a plain email text. Take your best images and create a little document in Photoshop or Pages (InDesign would be even better). When you customer will receive 10 word documents from other photographers and your beautiful PDF, who are they more likely to book? And if you don’t have one of those programs or you and not good at design just go back to point number 3: Go to a networking event. Find a designer for wedding stationery and change a nice PDF price list designed by the designer against a little headshot session you will take of her.
6. Everybody will have an unhappy client in the beginning. Even though the situation might sound for you like the end of your business, having one unhappy client doesn’t kill you. Try to learn from it and ask what was wrong about the images. Maybe you can offer a reshoot or you will hear that it is not about your images but the person just doesn’t like herself on the image. Nobody is perfect and I am sure all experienced photographers had at least one unhappy client when they started out.
This brings me to my next point:
7. Choose your customers wisely. You might better want to work with clients that you like, that like your photography and that like you instead of just thinking about the money and taking on every client. Believe me that will lead to a lot of unhappy clients and no referrals and a very unhappy young photographer. Choose the right clients to work with to have happy clients and great images in your portfolio.
8. Don’t be afraid to do some shoots for free to build your portfolio. In the beginning it can be hard to get the right shoots to build up your portfolio so don’t be afraid to work together with vendors for styled shoots. Be sure with every free shoot that you are doing that you can use it for your portfolio and that it is the style of shoot that you want to see in your portfolio. Trust your gut, it can also never harm to do somebody a favor in giving him a free picture but don’t be the charity lady that gives free image to everybody. Make sure people don’t take advantage of your kindness.
9. You don’t need all the gear in the world to get started. Buy the best camera that you can afford and a good lens to start with. Just keep investing in your business when you start making money. The greatest image was always just shot with one lens so don’t be afraid to take your best image with that one lens that you can afford.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for money for your work. Like I said before: People might take advantage of you and always ask you to work for free. One single headshot might not be a problem but the moment the whole family is sitting on your couch to get their picture taken you might as well write a bill. The is a difference between doing someone a favor and working without payment. You are a photographer now, you should ask for money for your work.
11. Get a contract. This is a very complex subject but make sure you have a good contract with your wedding and portrait clients so you are allowed to use your own work on your website.
12. Be inspired but don’t be a copycat. Getting inspired by other photographers is great but make sure you don’t copy their work and say it is your work. Take what inspires you and create your own image.
Well this post was meant to have 10 points but I just couldn’t stop writing. Do you have any more tips for starting photographers? Don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.