We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.

Joseph Campbell

In 2020, I made that TERRIFYING leap to become a photographer.... and I FLOPPED.

I mean this in the most appreciative way possible. I do NOT regret a thing and I am SO thankful to the families that were up for the adventure of those free photoshoots. They were everything. My first year was BRUTAL. I had no idea what I was doing and I had no idea how to improve. I was NOT cut out to TAKE photos let alone run a business. So, I wanted to share ten thing that I know now that I WISH I knew then. For any new photographers out there, I sure hope this helps you! For those who don't know a thing about photography, I hope you can find some connection to my life lessons.

1. Don't buy all of the presets out there.

While anyone can make a Lightroom preset and you can make ANY preset look good with enough tweaking, just because you CAN make one, doesn't mean it will work in one-click. I spent SO much money back then buying presets thinking that one click can make your image pop. Seriously so much time and money wasted.

For anyone LOOKING for a great preset source, I cannot recommend my friend, Anna Tenne's presets/actions enough. Buy her classes that go with. A preset does you no good if you don't know how to tweak it to work with your art and your editing style. Now, I use preset's I have created myself... but she was/is essential to where I am today. I actually got it on a 20% discount code "WELCOME20C" that I don't think ever expires!

Stop buying things, start investing in yourself, your education, and your future.

2. Do your research about your research.

ANYONE can make a video and sell it online. That doesn't mean it is quality education. To find an educator you want to work with, look at their work. Does it match the style you love? Does it have GREAT reviews? Does it seem like a reputable source? Are they trying to sell you a one-click "EVERYTHING YOU WILL EVER NEED TO KNOW" course?

Find out what you are looking for... and keep looking until you find it.

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.

Alfred A. Montapert

3. Don't let taking one great photo get to your head.

I am 110% pro-celebration. BUT don't get an ego because you accidentally took a great photo. Be EXCITED! Show off your work! But, if you couldn't recreate a similar photo, don't get an inflated ego about it. You have been holding a camera for a month, you have no idea how to CONTROL your camera, light, compose an image, etc. You are not the greatest thing since sliced bread. You are improving and I am SO happy for that. But you have so far to come.

I spent quite a bit of wasted time on the peak of Mt. Stupid and didn't want to listen to ANYONE. The peak of Mt. Stupid only leads you to the Valley Of Despair... Boy, I spent months living in the Valley Of Despair.

Life is about peaks and valleys, but just always assume you don't know everything about anything and you'll be just fine.

4. STOP saying "I can edit that out in Photoshop."

This was my go-to phrase when I started out.... I should NOT have said it EVER I was awful with photoshop at the beginning PLUS it is so much easier moving that thing out of the way NOW than it is to spend hours on the computer trying to get it out of the way then. Do I remove things now? Yes! I will take distractions out of the way like people in the background, funky hairs, acne... but if it is something that will take two seconds to scoot out of the frame, just do it beforehand.

“Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

― Benjamin Franklin

5. STOP agreeing to shoots in harsh lighting.

At the beginning, I would take any shoots at any time. I had NO idea that if you shoot at noon, you get rather unfortunate shadows on faces and squinty eyes from the sun. Now, I CAN fix some of that but I much prefer to shoot in the evening around 3:00-sunset.

Stop trying to extend yourself further than what you can handle.

6. Change your perspective.

Eye level is the perfect angle for MOST of the shots I take. This isn't a rule, or if it was, rules are meant to be broken, anyways... but for portraits, I like shooting at eye level. It adds a depth to the images I wasn't getting before. I am a tall-ish woman (5'9") and this means I do quite a few squats in a child's portrait session. Get used to that.

If you don't like your shot at eye level? drop it even lower. Stand on a stool/bench. Adjust your angles.

Your point of view isn't always the best point of view.

7. Value Yourself. Value your business.

Sometimes you will come across clients who are just walking, talking red-flags. These are the people who do not value your work but want free photos and will nit-pick at every aspect and still complain in the end even though they paid nothing for your time and talent. Those are not your ideal clients and that is okay! It's okay to be slightly picky about who you work with. At the beginning, you are building a portfolio. If these people will not help you learn and help you grow, you don't need to do free sessions with them.

Once you get to the point that you can charge, DO IT! But, don't just pick out a price because it is what other photographers are doing. Most photographers are not charging a livable wage. Find out your cost of doing business and go from there. Also, don't forget to charge tax.

Know your worth...then add tax.

8. Practice does NOT make perfect.

There is no such thing as a perfect photographer. You will never be perfect. I was told that once and it broke my heart. Like, what a downer thing to say! Now, that is so exciting to me! I have grown so much both personally and professionally since 2020. What will it be in five years? The possibilities are ENDLESS because I can only learn MORE!

Never. Stop. Learning.

9. Trust your gut.

While you aren't always right about everything, you need to trust your instincts. I know, that makes no sense. But, for example, I do my research on gear, locations, etc. I provide a list of locations that I really like to shoot at. But, I leave that up to my clients in the end. Sometimes, they choose locations that are less than ideal. Tell them. Trust your gut when you know what you are talking about. If they choose a place with literal garbage all over the place, find a new location. If you have been eyeballing a specific camera, but a different one is on sale in your price range right now, don't buy the discount option.

10. This is personal.

This job is as personal as it gets. You may capture the last images of a person. You may get their last laughs, their first steps, the last time two people see each other before moving away... You may capture their first kiss as mister and misses. You will meet people who turn out to be your closest friends. Sometimes, it is okay to mix business and pleasure. With this job, everything is personal. Those that you make a personal connection to tend to be your favorite images.

We are there to celebrate their victories and there to mourn their losses. We are a LITERAL shoulder to cry on some days.

Make a personal connection with all of them. Give EVERYONE grace.