For Photographers: 5 Things I Learned the Hard Way

Life is a learning experience, and considering I started photography for others at 17 years old, I learned a lot of things the hard way. Photography is a physically and emotionally demanding job, and although I love it, I didn't know what I was getting into. My job is fulfilling, and my passion, but there are some things that I wish I had known before diving head first.

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  1. There's no room to be a perfectionist. I am one. From zooming in on every pore, to spending over an hour on each image... it's not viable for a business. I've spent the last few years streamlining my workflow, but I still spend way too much time on the computer trying to get over my need for perfectionism. It's important to recognize your time is valuable. I wish I worked on this when I first started because now I'm working on undoing bad habits. Edit quick, shoot more.

  2. If you charge, you're in business. If you're in business, you have taxes to pay. Even if you charge $50 for a session, you have taxes, equipment that can break, insurance that you need to have, and contracts that your clients need to sign to protect yourself. I had no idea that if I charged $100 for everything that I didn't get to keep all of it! It's incredibly overwhelming when you start working out the logistics, but it can't be looked over. The best thing to do is to call an accountant.

  3. You will never be good enough. You will look at other photographers and throw a pity party about how good they are, and how terrible you are in comparison- even if you're making moeny and your clients love you. And when you love your work, someone will push you down and tell you that you're not good enough. If people are paying for your services, you are good enough. There are always people out there who will like what you do- you just need to find them (on the contrary, there are also always people who don't like what you do... that's okay, keep looking).

  4. You don't need a formal education. Yikes- I just got controversial. Your clients don't care if you have a Bachelors in Fine Arts of Photography, they just want good service and beautiful images. Unfortunately a lot of art schools don't even teach business skills, or they only have a few courses in it. Some of the most successful photographers I know didn't even go to college- they worked or interned, and took advantage of free resources.

  5. You don't have to do what you don't enjoy. On my website I show beautiful portraits of everyday women because that's what my passion is. I don't show weddings because I don't enjoy photographing them. Photographers don't have to be good at every genre, and sometimes it's even better to specialize in one genre. You wouldn't ask a chemical engineer to do computer engineering for you, would you? If you don't want to do it, don't show it on your website. You will be much happier doing what you love. That is why you're a photographer in the first place, isn't it?

Hopefully you can learn from my hard lessons. I'm a sponge and I love soaking up knowledge, but it would have been ideal to see my hard lessons on the horizon. Although I messed up a lot, I learned from these lessons and want to teach others through them. Feel welcome to post your own lessons as a photographer or reflect on mine in the comments.