Here’s the thing: being a photographer is pure magic. From where we stand behind the lens, we get to capture some of the best and most beautiful moments of our clients’ lives. I wouldn’t trade it for the world — but whew, I’ve sure learned some lessons along the way. I’m sharing with you, my top 5 tips for newer photographers
Whether you’re just starting out or you just need a few reminders that remind you this career is awesome, I’ve decided to compile a list of things I wish I’d heard when I was starting my photography business — and things I still need to remind myself from time to time.
1. We all start somewhere.
Every single incredible photographer you know booked their very first client and showed up to their very first shoot once. As much as it may be hard to imagine, they were all “newer photographers” at one point. If you’re still in the early days of building your business, it’s important to keep this in mind! Don’t knock humble beginnings — they build grit and give you amazing experiences. Will you mess up? Yep, absolutely, because we all do. But with every single experience, you’re growing and building your career!
Nothing worth growing happens overnight, so try to fight the urge to compare yourself to photographers with much more experience or who have been at this thing for much longer than you. Your business may not skyrocket overnight, but your care for and confidence in yourself should — because you’re doing it! You’re taking steps toward your dream! And I think that’s genuinely amazing. Comparison will always lead to insecurity and disappointment, so just keep showing up and trusting the process. Before you know it, you won’t believe how far you’ve come.
2. Don’t try to shoot everything.
Look, I totally get it. It’s easy to want to say, “Yes!” to every single inquiry that comes your way, especially when those inquiries equal paying clients. But can I let you in on a little secret? If you say yes to everything, you’re only going to end up with a confused heart and a confusing portfolio. Instead, it’s best to chase after what you truly love, honing your craft and building your client base in that specific niche. This is a surefire way to move from “newer photographer” to someone’s dream photographer.
If your dream is to capture emotional, connected moments, a cake-smashing shoot (while it’s a ton of fun!) probably doesn’t serve your portfolio best. If you’re trying to build your editorial career, booking wedding weekends won’t be for you. Here’s the thing you must remember: there’s room for everyone at the table. You’ll never be a “photographer for everyone” — and that’s a good thing because there are countless kinds of people who need a photographer who matches their needs and vibe.
While we’re on the topic: pick your niche based on what brings your soul to life, not on what you think the photography market needs. Why? Because if you don’t love shooting weddings, you’ll eventually completely burn out on booking them, even if your work is good and your bank account is full. If you want a career that’s fueled for the long run, you have to run in the direction you’re most passionate about. Trust me, when you choose work that fulfills you and fuels your creativity, success will follow!
3. Show what you want to shoot.
This one might seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I sit down with a newer photographer to hear what they love capturing in photos… only to see zero evidence of that on their social media accounts or websites! Your online presence is essentially free marketing. If you want to draw in your dream clients, you have to show them that you’re their dream photographer! Make sure that what you post online is serving your business’s ultimate goals.
4. Work with what you’ve got.
I often think about this Arthur Ashe quote: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” I think we should all have posters of that hanging above our desks as we edit galleries! None of us are exactly where we want to be in our businesses yet — which is great, because that means we have more to accomplish, and goals to celebrate when we do! But sometimes, fear and insecurity can keep us frozen from ever reaching for those new heights we dream about.
Whatever camera you have, whatever clients you’ve found, whatever schedule you’re working with — just roll with it. Do the best you can with what you’ve got, and you’ll be surprised at how the pieces fall into place. It might feel like you’re going nowhere right now, but you’ll look back and realize that wasn’t true at all. (Ask me how I know.) All of your hard work matters, I promise! Just keep going and never give up.
5. Learn to use your tools.
I shot my first sessions in auto mode on a camera kit I bought at Costco. Yes, really! Whatever camera, lens, and editing software you have right now are your best tools because they’re the ones you have. I’m living proof that you can create beautiful images that your clients will love without all the “fancy stuff.” At the end of the day, a great camera is good, but you are the real artist. Your creativity is what makes you a great photographer, not your equipment.
Whatever camera and lenses you have, become the expert on them! Use them to the best of their ability — even the “simplest” things on the market today have a ton of capabilities. So make the best of what you have and upgrade as you go, when you have the client base and finances to go for more expensive options. When you are ready to upgrade, lenses will make a huge impact on your images! If you can only afford one great lens upgrade, that’s okay! You can always upgrade the body of your camera later on.
Not sure how to choose the right camera — or how to best use the one you have? You’re in luck. My Photo 101 Course is open now, and it covers allllll the photography fundamentals you could ever want, from deciding which camera you should invest into how to shoot in manual mode. It’s self-guided, so you can work through each of the modules (there are 7!) at a pace that works for you. I promise you’ll walk away feeling so much more confident in your photography skills and ready to take your business to the next level.
Wherever you are in your photography journey, just know that I’m proud of you! Don’t compare yourself to me or to anyone else. Just keep chasing down your passions and watch the rest fall into place. You’ve got this! For more in-depth lessons and support in building the foundation of your business, join Photo 101