This year is wrapping up quick. I still have a lot of work to do. I have about 15 sessions/weddings to finish editing and deliver to families. And after that I am actually really excited to sit down and organize my books and figure out if this year was a make or break me year. I consider this to be my first year in business. I remember last year at this time, I did my very very first maternity session. And that maternity session lead to my first fresh 48 session and my first lifestyle newborn session that opened up my 2018 year.
This year was all about grinding. I had my camera in my hand more than a third of the days this year photographing families, babies, couples, weddings. And this was my very first year doing it. Man, did it teach me some lessons. So here are my thoughts on the things I learned that I did right and did wrong. This list could go on and on and on but I’ll try to not keep it too long.
I captured some beautiful memories
Hands down of course, this is my number one goal with my photography and my main purpose. Everything I photograph for my clients is so that they had real images of who they are, who they were in as beautiful a way as I am capable of doing. I captured families on rainy cloudy days, in their home, in their hospital room and on more occasions than not, in front of some seriously gorgeous golden light. Which is always the goal, because you just can’t beat the natural golden glow and warmth that the sunset adds to a photo. I captured laughs, snuggles, swaddled babies, hands hold each other, couples looking each other in the eyes telling them they loved each other.
I booked a lot of sessions
I photographed 95 sessions this year. That’s prettttttty good for my first year in business. I don’t know exactly what attracted that many people to my work. I do know a few things about marketing and although I definitely felt the evil gods of Facebook and Instagram shooting down my posts for people to see, I still finagled my way into getting a bunch of clients. I kept putting my work out there. I tried to speak honestly in my descriptions on my posts from time to time, and I made real connection with my clients and families.
I got noticed
I do. I do feel the need to be noticed to feel like I am saying something, doing this thing right. And lots of photographers submit their work to be reviewed, to be judged and to be graded. I had the opportunity to submit to the Unraveled Academy to try and become a Expert Artist. It was extremely nerve wracking. I had to pay $150 for the possibility of being rejected, but I wanted to be among these top creme de la creme so much! I needed validation. And so I worked really hard on a perfectly curated portfolio and submitted it to The Unraveled Academy and three weeks later I got an acceptance email. There are less than 50 Experts. I am so humbled and honored to be among them!
I am so excited to be a leader at the Bold, Emotional, Colorful community. I submitted a different set of 100 images in an application to be a leader in this awesome group of photographers who are all about creating BEC images. I get to give tips and advice to others and write blog posts and create content for the community.
I upgraded my camera
This year I went from a cropped sensor Canon 70D to a Full Frame Canon 6D mark ii. If you’re a photographer you know the struggle of deciding on which camera to upgrade to once you finally make the decision to put that hard earned money on the line for a fancy fancy camera. I took my time and choose the one I did because I needed some of the capabilities that it lent me that even the top of the line Mark IV didn’t have, like a swivel screen, which is so very very needed in my fresh 48 session to get that above the basinet shot which I am kind of known for.
Upgrading my camera made me feel like a series photographer, and I used 100% of my own money that I had earned from photography alone to be pay for it. I’ll be honest with you. My camera cost 1600$. Most of my sessions this year ranged from $150 to $250 at the point that I bought that camera. So a little math – roughly 10% of my sessions this year went to paying for my camera alone. That means my family didn’t see any of the money for the 10 sessions I photographed to pay for my camera. 10 sessions equals time away from my family as well as money for my family. Sometimes, when you think about things a different way it can be a little disheartening. People think that photographers charge crazy prices, but I promise you 100% that the cost of anything about $400 is not so we can drive Lexus’ – it’s so we can not only cover business taxes that we pay, not only cover investment in our gear, but so that hopefully we can pay a little bit back to our families who sacrifice for us to serve our clients too.
I built a community
I have some SERIOUS fans out there in the land of social media and my clients. I have some clients who have booked me over and over and over again this year. I did 5 sessions for one client alone this year! And I love it! That is one important thing to a photographer, that we can have clients who love us and our work so much that they will come to us, no matter what. And we photographers love rewarding those clients as much as we can as well.
I also built a community with other photographers. I am so very very grateful for the meaningful relationships I have made with a few local togs. It may not even be important to them at all, but to me it means so much. I don’t feel alone and I feel like I have friends who understand me, who understand that exact feeling of starring at their computer screen from 9pm till 2am when they had a rough night with their kids but their clients need their photos delivered because they care about making them happy.
I have made lots of friends on social media too and I get to talk to other photographers and clients everyday on instagram and Facebook about my work and about life. As a ‘stay at home mom’ I could never ever feel alone. I have so many many people to talk to all the time. I could do it all day long and never get anything else accomplished.
Okay and now for some not so greats:
I didn’t calibrate my lens/I bought a cheaper lens
Oh oh oh does this one hurt me so much. Here I sit at the end of the year, looking at my last sessions, after 93 other sessions (I should be really practiced by now, right?) and I’m like – these photos are barely in focus. And the problem was I bought a middle range lens. It was a lens that other photographers swear by and that a lot of them love. But you either get a goddess of lenses or you get a freakin dud. And that is what I got. It worked well for most of the year, but by the end, it is so soft I can barely get a focused image at 2.5 aperture. Photographers know what I mean. So this means, I have to chuck out my $800 lens and shell out $1600 for a top of the line version. Because I will not be delivering soft-focused images.
I overbooked myself
Oh this hurts too. I got so many inquiries by mid October, and I just kept taking them. I booked straight through November and into December. Then the weather kept doing its thing and I had to reschedule like 5-7 sessions and am still trying to find some good days to shoot 2 more I need to do. This is not just a deal with rescheduling with my clients, this has a big impact on my family because there are baby sitters to consider and plan out and other peoples schedules to work around, mostly because I have a young child. This will get better in the future. But the hard part about thinking about not overbooking yourself next year is that you still need to make a certain amount of money but you need to take on less clients so you can make sure you still fit all of them in. So then you have to raise your prices, which is going to deter new clients and often old clients too who have already gotten to a certain price. Pricing photographer has sooo many variables and almost nothing to do with actually just what you want to have in your bank account. Its about what you need to make to cover your business expenses, your taxes and divide that between the amount of sessions you can do… yeah I’m a work in progress on that.
I didn’t pay attention to my family
Oh my gosh, these all hurt. But it has to be said. Here I am worrying every second of everyday if I have given even equal the amount of thought and energy to my girls as I have my business, my photos, my clients. This one is hard to explain, but I tuck my little ones into bed each night as best I can I run to my computer to work. And then I’m tired in the morning and just tripping through the morning till I can finally wake up and wear off my late night editing hangover just so I can do it again the next night. I know that this is a condition of my life right now. If both my children were in school I would be able to focus on my business during the day and give them all my attention when they are home. But right now that not our schedule. And my photo sessions are in the evenings, and during the warm months, when a lot of other families are doing family things. But most of the time, I’m trying to photograph others
I overshot my sessions
This one is just to say, that I shoot a lot of photos at my sessions. Like actually shoot 1000 photos per family session, and then I make it hard on myself to choose the best to send to my client. And I have to edit all those that I choose, which could be as many as 150, which I would love to edit and give but that is a lot of time to edit all of those. It’s a work in progress. I will be working on solutions this next year on how to not ‘overshoot.’
I could go on and on about the good and the bad of running a personal business. But that’s for sure. It’s 100% personal on all levels. And it makes my heart beat and my eyes cry sometimes. But I am growing and it is teaching me so many things.
Here is to 2019. May I be smarter, braver, work harder, and always challenge myself to get better.
Peace & Love,