I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting emails. I get very excited when I open my inbox and there are emails from actual people and not just spam. But lately, the emails are getting almost overwhelming and I am so afraid that I am going to miss someone! I really don't want to miss someone.
I tend to get a lot of similar questions, and so I have been doing FAQ's here on my blog. Lately the questions seem to be more frequent, so I thought I'd post a couple together. I am still in my first few years of business, and I am still learning SO MUCH, so I'm sure there are better answers out there, but for those of you who happen to read my blog, I hope this helps you out a bit.
How did you get into Photography?
This is kind of a long story, but I'll try to shorten it just a little bit. I was never that kid that knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was little, I wanted to be a "baby doctor"... then as I got older I knew FOR SURE that I would be a lawyer. I went to college intending on that, and then changed my major about 4 times, eventually settling on Physical Education as a major with a minor in Youth Ministry. No photography. I did take a few classes in high school simply because I LOVED taking pictures... After I left college, I got married. After 2.5 years of living in a bad situation, I left. At that point, I realized that I had totally lost who I was. I had no hobbies of my own, and very few friends. I needed to figure out what I wanted and go for it. So I took my camera and I began to figure it out. I took pictures of everyone and everything that I could find. I used it in manual mode ALL THE TIME so that I learned (even though I took a whole lot of horrible pictures at first!). The more I shot, the more I loved it.... and the better I got. The better I got, the more people started asking me to do things. I was at the age where my friends were starting to get engaged and have babies. People started asking me to take pictures of things for them. I did... gladly. Birthday parties, engagements, new babies, families... whatever I could do, I would do it and I would do it for free. I didn't pick up that camera and instantly expect to be paid for every photo I took. I knew I was new... and still learning. I knew it was great experience. Not only did it give me practice, but people saw their pictures and it started to grow a client base right away. I began to read everything I could find about photography... books, blogs, forums. I asked questions of other photographers. I attended industry get togethers... I put myself TOTALLY out of my comfort zone. And it all grew from there. I found right away that I was IN LOVE with it. It wasn't something I was doing as a source of income... I was simply doing something I loved. I believe that is a big part of why it has lasted.
When did you start charging?
I did not start charging right away. As I said, I did a lot of free stuff. Then I started slowly charging. I started charging $50 a session. I would take the pictures and give them a CD of all of the photos. I was still shooting EVERYTHING that came my way. Even during that time, there were a lot of times I would still do things for free... simply because I wanted to shoot and it was a great experience. I slowly began raising my prices as I built up a body of work that I liked. I was fortunate enough to have a friend that was into photography as well and she was booking weddings. She let me shadow her and second shoot with her, even though I probably didn't add all that much in the way of photos. But the more I shot, the better I got. Last summer, she came and second shot a wedding with me and it was so much fun! We still occasionally second shoot for each other and I love it. The more paid sessions I did, the more paid sessions I booked. People would pass on the information to their friends... and their friends would see the photos and book me as well.
How did you book your first wedding? And how do you continue to book jobs?
I actually booked my first wedding off of craigslist. I simply posted an add stating that I was looking to get some experience and I would shoot for free. I had a couple respond that said they were getting married THAT WEEKEND and they were not having any guests. It was just going to be them and a priest. They said they weren't planning on having any pictures, but then they saw my ad. I was TERRIFIED but I did it. I went and I took the pictures and it scared me to death. Then I blogged them. I didn't know what to expect. But I was so glad I'd done it, even though it was totally out of my comfort zone. Then I booked a wedding. And another one. And my friend let me second shoot... and slowly I started to build up my portfolio of wedding photos. I still LOVE to second shoot, and I still take every opportunity I can to do so because I always learn so much and it is just so darn fun! (Side note to any photogs reading my blog... need a second shooter???)
As far as continuing to book... it is simply word of mouth and my blog. Every wedding I do, there are bridesmaids and guests. As I'm shooting, I get to know some of them... often times people ask me for my card because they know someone getting married. And that is off personality ALONE... well and usually some engagement pictures of the current couple. But that is another reason it is so important to have fun and love what you do. People around you will be drawn to that and they will want to work with you.
I can't afford better equipment, what should I do?
Okay, there are lots of schools of thought on this. A lot of professionals out there will tell you that if you cannot afford two canon 5d cameras (or the nikon equivalent), and various lenses, you should not be shooting weddings. I tend to disagree. I do not own a 5d (although I am looking to buy one... again, anyone selling? :) I started shooting with a Rebel xti. I shot my first wedding with that along with various other shoots. Then I started using a 20d. I now use that and a 30d. Still. And I love them. I also have several lenses that I use... but I don't have a whole arsenal. I would suggest that you rent equipment until you can buy. Work it into the price you are charging your client. And make sure you have a backup camera because I have had my camera STOP working in the middle of a shoot. Luckily I had a backup.
It is expensive to be in this industry, but don't buy into the fact that you always have to have the biggest and best that is out there. I used this free blog when I started out. Then I paid someone less than $100 to make it look like it does. I started out with free business cards.. then I upgraded to Moo mini cards. Now I currently have an even more exciting card (that I'll share soon!). I started out with no website... then I used a free template from Wix. Then I created my own free site with Wix. I only recently upgraded to Show It (which is TOTALLY worth it).
I suppose the short answer to this is work with what you can afford (as long as you have a back up!) and rent if you can. But be creative in how you do business... you can save a lot of money that way and still do great! I know there will be people who disagree with me on this, but throwing money at something doesn't make it the best. You can have top of the line equipment, an expensive website and designer business cards and still not be good. You can have a simple DSLR camera and an amazing eye and be wonderful! Don't give up!
Okay... well I hope some of those can help some of you. Again... I would still consider myself to be somewhat new to all of this, but I also know what it is like to be searching for answers... so I hope this helps someone!
And for those of you who wonder what I did with my wonderful college education...It didn't go to waste :) I still work at a church with teenagers and I absolutely adore them. Here is a shot of me with some of my kids (bonus points if you can find me! HINT: my hair is blond!):