Now that i’ve been in the photography game for 5 years, I am on the other side of questions like “how can I get started with weddings,” “what camera should I use,” ” I really want to start photography but have no idea how,” and i’m always an open book. I offer mentor sessions for starting photographers, but am happy to give away some of the more basic advice that I learned from trial and error and experience. This is what I tell most people one way or another.
1. Practice You literally can only get better with practice. Unfortunately that means you might have to have 10 bad sessions before you get 1 great one! That’s okay! Everyone has a different method to their madness, but I would recommend privately asking 5 close families, seniors, or whatever group you want to photograph, if you can practice on them with a free session. I don’t recommend posting this on facebook or your instagram story calling clients for free, because you’ll have a harder time transitioning to being known as a photographer who is worth paying later if people know you were doing it for free not so long ago. After the first few sessions, word will spread like wild fire that you are doing photos! There are so many people in west Michigan who need photos, that you will definitely get asked. The important thing is that you set a price that is a little out of your comfort zone, that shows you have invested in your gear and knowledge and you’re worth paying. Otherwise you’ll be on a fast path to getting taken advantage of and get burnt out.
2. Time The one thing every successful photographer has in common is time! They’ve all put in seasons of work that builds their brand and reputation each year. A lot of people start and expect to be as busy as the photographer they admire right away, and quit when they’re not after 6 months of hard work. Photography in Michigan has seasons. There are busy seasons and slow seasons, wedding seasons, and Christmas card seasons. Each time one passes that you faithfully serve your clients and share their photos, you’re setting yourself up for more success the following years. I think it takes a minimum of two years to see the fruit of your hard work your first year. Don’t get discouraged your first slow season in the winter, it will be busy again later if you keep up the work.
3. Your gear isn’t everything, just something! If you’re just starting out shooting families and friends the first year, I do not recommend dropping $2500 on the newest camera! I shot on a canon rebel t6i the first year and a half of my business, and I don’t regret it. The only thing you should know for these starter level cameras is the kit lens is junk, so you should definitely buy a canon 50 mm 1.8 lens with it. Try to sell the kit lens on facebook marketplace, and buy some extra memory cards with it! After you’ve mastered manual mode on that smaller body, you can upgrade but spend some time researching. I love to buy camera equipment used, because it is like a car and loses it’s value quickly after purchasing but most brands like Canon, Nikon, and Sony can withstand years. To me a lens is more important than the camera body, so invest in those. Instead of going to best buy, go to a smaller camera shop like Normans, or Marks camera (both in Grand rapids) and talk to the employees who are very knowledgeable. They’ll let you try things out and you could even rent equipment for a couple of days.
4. Second shooting For aspiring wedding photographers- get second shooting! A styled shoot is fine, and can add value to your portfolio, but nothing will add value to your brand quite like learning the ropes of a real wedding day behind another photographer. Reach out to a few photographers you admire, share your equipment and goals, and then see if you can accompany them and use a few of those photos for your wedding day. You’ll learn the ins and outs of a wedding day, and brides will quickly reach out to you. If I could go back, I wish I would have spent two years only second shooting higher end weddings instead of shooting my first few weddings that didn’t really value photography or me as the photographer. I shoot the way I do today because of the photographers I second shot.
There’s lots more tips and tricks, like which software to use, when to shoot, where to shoot, how to manage your clients. I offer mentor sessions for beginning photographers where we can dive more into this. I’m a firm believer that there are enough clients in West Michigan for every aspiring photographer to be successful, so i’m an open book!
In short – Value your time, and give yourself time!