FAQ : How To Start A Photography Business

Photography

The second most asked question I receive from photographers is how I started my journey as a wedding photographer. As I mentioned before, I photographed three weddings in October of 2006, then shot 38 weddings in 2007…all without formal training or money. When I began, I dared myself to dream and fail. JD and I planned for me to give this whole photography thing a try for one year and if it didn’t work, I’d go back and reclaim my scholarship to law school.

Okay, so that’s the story, but most people who ask want to know the how. What was the lynchpin holding my dreams and reality? Well–at the risk of being repetitive–I can attribute my growth and development to three main things…although I’m the first to say I probably did everything wrong and this advice isn’t worth the time to read it…but it’s still my story nevertheless…

I started my ‘business’ with a Canon 20D and a 24-70mm, 2.8 lens. That’s it. I had nothing else, but I took what I had and made it work…much like anyone else starting out. Now, I knew nothing about my camera. Nothing. I read and reread my manual then set out and practiced. And practiced. Then I scoured the web for answers when I didn’t know what an f/stop was.
Practice and honing a craft is the key to growing success. Hands down. There isn’t a magic pill to just get better. Trust me, I prayed for it. And it didn’t come in a package on my doorstep…it came, rather, in the form of blood, sweat, and tears. Day after day of giving myself practice assignments with my camera, second shooting, and participating in photography forums to help my progress.
If you’re not getting better, go and practice.

Because of a strong relationship my clients and I build throughout the wedding planning process (and, specifically, the engagement session), I’m invited into their lives during its most important part: Their wedding. When they see their images blogged and/or their slideshow, they’re immediately taken back to their special day and they’re quite appreciative. Their gratitude has taken the form of personal endorsement. My brides and grooms (and their friends and family members) have become a cheer squad of epic proportions and the only thing they’re missing are pom-poms. Most of my clients have been referred to me by a past bride, or is someone who has seen one of my slideshows from a friend of a friend of a friend of the bride.

It’s quite amazing and I’m humbled by the magnitude of it all.

The slideshows I link here on my blog have been the epicenter of my business growth…unknowingly, they have become a marketing tool…only buttressed by the personal endorsement from my cheer squad. When asked this question by other photographers, I’m proud to tell them I’ve never taken an advertisement or passed out business cards like they were on fire. My clients are my promoters-human commercials, if you will-and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

This is the cornerstone. Of my business. Of my life. When I first started my business, I was one of hundreds of thousands who was trying to do the same. However, everyone else had everything better. A nicer camera, car, studio, sample albums, computer, lenses, lifestyle…nicer everything. And I had Polo. And a part-time job, an 11-inch MacBook, one 2G memory card, and a lot of heart. To put it plainly, I couldn’t compete playing the established game.
So I changed the game.
Instead of resting on the laurels of things that purportedly made me a professional (camera, studio, lenses, etc), I simply showcased who I was. That’s it. Where others showcased their everythingness, I merely wrote about life. My life. What I ate for dinner. The Lakers jersey I bought for Polo. Tropical Island lotion. You know, LIFE ALTERING THINGS.
And yet, strangely, it worked. Being myself on the web–on my website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter–has given people more than enough information to Like me or Dislike me. Both outcomes are fine with me.
I’ve come to believe when running a niche business, giving prospective clients an opportunity to connect (liking what you like, laughing at your jokes, sharing idiosyncrasies) or repel (they don’t like Britney Spears, think you’re as humorous as a door knob, think you’re just weird) is worth its weight in gold.

So. That’s it. That’s all I got. When I first started, I couldn’t have dreamed my photography business would morph into what it is today. Yes, there are days when I want to pound my head on the desk {repeatedly}, but the joys of doing what I love far outweigh the life I was destined to lead in the corner office in Downtown Los Angeles. For this, I couldn’t be more thankful.