I started my photography business the  WRONG  way.

Yup, you heard me, today I am admitting to you and giving you ALL of the juicy details on how I started photography and why the way I started was notttt the best. 

Humility is a good characteristic, right? 

My photography business officially launched over four years ago now in 2017 when I found out my husband and I were moving to Japan. I had always had a true love for photography but truly never saw myself making a career out of it because it just seemed so unattainable. But, once we found out we’d be living abroad, I decided why not at least try? 

My husband quickly bought me my first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel T7i with a janky kit lens (ya know, the one that comes with the camera,) and I immediately got to advertising and shooting in Texas before our big move. This was not the best or most professionally responsible move and I’m going to tell you exactly why. 

I had NEVER had my hands on a DSLR camera before this time, never. I had never learned the settings properly, how to shoot in manual mode, or even what different lenses did. I just threw the camera into auto and started shooting and claiming to be a “professional” at my craft.

Not only this but I had no idea what I was doing with the backend of my business either.

  • I had never run my CODB (cost of doing business,) hell, I didn’t even know what that was.
  • I didn’t take taxes into consideration.
  • I didn’t know that I should be backing up images and saving them for safekeeping on a hard drive.
  • I didn’t spend any time truly diving deep into learning or investing into education.
  • I didn’t have contracts in place to protect myself and my clients.

The list goes on and on of things I didn’t even think of doing.

Now, of course, no one comes out of the gate knowing EXACTLY what to do and how to do it. There is a learning process for everyone. But, these are some things to take into account before hopping into business blindly. After shooting a few free sessions in Texas, we made the big move to Okinawa, Japan. 

I immediately began advertising there with….$25 Mini Sessions. I am truly embarrassed even saying this publicly. Yes, $25 mini sessions with NO retainer fee taken up front. Some of you may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? 

Low pricing like this from someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing affects the entire photography industry. It is detrimental. Extremely low pricing with no rhyme or reason behind it, truly, numbers pulled out of thin air (or maybe where the sun don’t shine haha) teaches the consumer (aka clients) that this type of unsustainable pricing is what to expect from any and all photographers. Which is not the case. 

A photographer should be charging their worth based on their CODB. A photographer should be making a livable income that they are able to live a comfortable life with. Not charging pennies and spending more time than money that they are making. 

Now, back to the issue with taking no non-refundable retainer fee up front. 

As I said, the first couple months of my business I wasn’t taking any form of payment up front in order to secure someone’s session in my calendar. This resulted in having last minute cancellations and no shows left and right. 

This is exactly why you as a photographer or your photographer takes a portion of the money up front. This retainer fee covers the time that the photographer has already spent consulting, planning, scouting locations, etc. for you. 

Now let’s talk about staying humble and being able to take constructive criticism where it’s due.

Photography is truly an art form. We are creatives and tend to hold our work very near and dear to our hearts. Which results in taking any constructive criticism directly to the heart, believe me I know first hand how much it truly feels like someone is stabbing you when they point something out that could have been done better. 

One of the first times I posted in a local photography group, I received a comment about the image. I still remember it so vividly to this day because it was the first time someone had criticized my work. I’ll keep it vague but, someone noticed that one of the colors was reflecting very harshly onto my subject’s leg giving it a bright purple hue. I of course at the time, not even knowing how to fix that in editing, took this straight up the booty instead of learning from it. Y’all, this person was right. Their critique was spot on. 

Take it from me, sometimes constructive criticism on our work can hurt and people’s comments are totally not always coming from a good place. But it is extremely important to remain HUMBLE and have humility throughout your entire business and life. (Especially in the beginning when you’re still learning. Take all of the advice you can get.)

To wrap things up here, I just want to say, starting a business isn’t a walk in the park. Maintaining a business and remaining profitable, is also not a walk in the park. But, if you do it wholeheartedly and with the right intentions, it is one of the most rewarding things you will EVER do. 

When you first start, you will not know it all. You won’t have all of the answers, but being teachable and willing to learn and grow in all aspects of business, and serving the hell out of your clients is what will set you apart. 

Hustle and heart will set you apart.

Lastly, I want to leave you with a few tips for starting your own photography business. This is what I wish I would have known when I began and I truly hope that it helps you begin your business journey the RIGHT way. 

  • Shoot for FREE. Shoot a ton of sessions at no charge and learn your craft before you ever take a dime from anyone.
  • Learn how to edit in your preferred program and find your style.
  • Figure out what you LOVE shooting and what you don’t love shooting.
  • Invest in education. Invest into education from someone who has been there, done that and is exactly where you want to be.
  • Run your CODB (cost of doing business.) Run your numbers, take into account every single business expense including taxes in order to figure out what you need to charge to make your desired income. Link to a CODB calculator: https://newbtog.wixsite.com/probabyholder/single-post/2017/04/07/What-should-I-charge-for-my-photography?fbclid=IwAR2BJK7RMK9bXL_k7mEmTMeU8nLAb_txXE4ZRoodSutGKH9DLHtUXwAhxvA
  • Get legally legit. Have contracts in place. Get registered as a legitimate business where you live. Get your business Tax ID number and pay taxes.