Thanks for the warm welcome and all the feedback from my first post last week! The suggestion was to throw down the hashtag #HybridDaveTuesdays and I’m ok with that ;)
I’ve been shooting for a long time. Since I was 14, in fact. I dreamed of being able to take awesome photos and I was playing around with an old Olympus digital point and shoot 1.3 Megapixel monstrosity until my parents finally realised and got me a Nikon SLR. I played around for years and years before deciding I wanted to take it further, and then the realisation that it cost an absolute fortune as a hobby pushed me to figure out how to make it pay for itself. The transition from hobby to business was ambitious and challenging, but persistence paid off and I learned a lot of lessons along the way which I’d love to snip up and share today. I’ve gotten a lot of really good advice from some really smart and creative people, and we’re all in this together!
Sidetone – This post doesn’t include a sales pitch or affiliate link. I’m just sharing the love because I’m 100% in the “community over competition” squad. Go KelbyOne!
Here is my best advice for new photographers:
Shoot with other photographers
I cannot stress this enough. Make friends with strangers! Like I said, we’re all in this together. Sign up for photo walks, meet up with people you see online, take photos of your mates, take photos of strangers, take workshops. Honestly, take every opportunity. You will learn so much about how to shoot, how other people shoot, how to network and connect, just get out there and get involved in the photography community. Don’t be afraid!
Find your niche
This is important. Can you name a famous photographer who doesn’t have a specialty? No. Can you name a famous photographer who is very specialised? Of course! There’s a reason for that. There are a LOT of photographers out there in the big, wide world, and subsequently, you aren’t competing on the quality of your photos alone, nor on your price, nor your website, but the WHOLE LOT plus your personality. You may be good, but a LOT of people are good. Your personality is portrayed through your photos, and your niche is your special little area of interest. For me, it’s travel. Even still I’m thinking of changing my genre because that’s very broad. I love to shoot the world as I see it, including its nature and wildlife, its landscapes and people. So what do you want to shoot? Fashion, Architecture, School, Underwater, Equine, Wedding, Food, Aerial, Landscape, Concert, Medical, Baby, Fine Art, there are just so many categories with varied markets out there, so make sure you love what you do and that it fits, so that within that market you can sell YOURSELF and let your photo sales follow.
NB – Note how much stress was placed on that section!
Invest in yourself
Never stop practicing! As I just said, you are selling yourself for a large chunk of this business. I’ve sat and endured hours of tedious YouTube videos just to find out how to do something, but by far the better option is to spend a little bit on some online classes or live workshops and seminars. And it really is an investment. There’s no substitute for being in an audience watching an awesome, talented professional delivering their knowledge and demonstrating their skill in person. It’s a commitment of time, energy, cash, but it’s totally worth it! I wouldn’t hesitate at doing it all again. It helped me to grow into who I am.
Find your squad
Your network. Your tribe. Your connections. Your peers will help you grow and learn, and you’ll reciprocate and help them too. You’ll learn things, you’ll meet people, You’ll pick up clients, you’ll be inspired, and you’ll make friends! If I didn’t have the squad I wouldn’t be anywhere even close to where I am. It’s the advice, inspiration, and criticism that helps you learn from your mistakes and you perhaps wouldn’t have known you made them without the squad there!
Know when to invest in your business
When it’s time to do it, you’ll know. Camera gear can cost a bomb, and I’m absolutely not telling you to go and start wildly throwing cash around, but when it comes time to invest in gear, insurance, websites, registering a company, sample products, you’ll know and you’ll see the benefits of the fiscal investment when you’ve nailed all the other points in this post. If you want to be successful you’ll need to do it right, and similarly, when it’s time to be successful you’ll be in a position whereby these things become a necessity. We’ve all read posts on why photography is so expensive, we know the investment behind our images. Just time it right!
Be prepared to work until you cry
Photography isn’t a 9-5. To get the return I put in the hours, and it was a bit of a shock to my system when I was spending all my free time building a website, pushing my social platforms, learning and studying the art, spending out on new glass, and then having no return turn into a few quid (substitute: dollars) and plateau there for a while and trying to figure out why I wasn’t rich yet! If you follow me on social media you’ll know that I put in the time far outside of ‘normal’ working hours, no matter what time zone you’re looking at me from! It’s this dedication and commitment that pushes growth. If you’re seen to be busy, and I mean truly busy rather than just loud on social media, you’ll feel the growth. Personally, on a foreign trip I’ll be up before dawn to shoot the sun coming up, still shooting throughout the morning during the nice light, fuelling up on energy and moving locations, answering e-mails, checking and double checking the evening plans, then shooting again through the afternoon and evening all the way through until it’s dark again, and then some! I might not be at work at 8 am on a Monday, but I may well be working 16 hours a day for 5 days when I’m away on a trip. It takes self-discipline to stick to the schedule I set myself, it hurts, but the satisfaction levels on completion of the project (and when seeing the sales come in!) are through the roof. It’s a job, but I’d do it if I didn’t get paid, so that means it isn’t work.
Be good at what you do
I was never very confident, and when I started doing paid shoots I was so worried that I wasn’t worth the money I was charging. It’s taken some effort to change my mindset to believe in the amount on the bottom of the invoices I send out, and the key points are that your confidence is a cycle. If you don’t feel confident, you won’t be seen as confident. If you act confident, you will be seen as confident. This perceived confidence will boost your actual confidence, which will allow you skill to shine through. Bottom line, if you act confident then you will become confident. Don’t think of it as a dream, think of it as a plan. Make that plan come to life, love going to work, and charge what you’re worth!
We’re all in this together