Artemis had so many great pieces of advice to share I decided to break her interview into 2 parts. She started a business and ended a business and learned a lot in the process.
If you didn’t read yesterday, feel free to catch up here.
All professional wedding photographers:
1. Are great social networkers
2. Are always super sweet and friendly
3. Are outgoing
4. Shop at Anthropologie
5. Have rock star attitude
I am precisely none of those things so therefore, I am not a professional. Never minding the fact that being a professional simply means you are getting paid for your work, these days, with the availability of DSLRs, super-fast lens, and post-processing tools for mass consumption, everyone and their dog’s babysitter can keep an arsenal of photography goods in their backpacks to rival that of any “professional.”
So now we have this conglomerate pool of “professionals” in this easy-entry industry because who wouldn’t want to get invited to fabulous weddings every weekend just because you own a nice camera? Wedding photography promises us that we will be touted as mini-celebrities in our neighborhoods because all photographers keep blogs (and of course, we know that EVERYONE is reading your blog, I mean, they gotta be!) so therefore, this is as close as you are going to get to joining the ranks of, say, Anthony Robbins, as you'll ever get. I say Anthony Robbins because the number of wedding photographers that can truly make a living on shooting events alone is probably a fraction of a percent of those of us who would like to think we are bringing in the big bucks. The rest of us, like Mr. Robbins, sell our knowledge of how we made it “big” in the industry to other wannabe photographers who are so eager for the secrets of the trade that they willingly shell out money for information as secretive as, well, common sense.
So I’m telling you right now, as long as you wear your converse sneakers with skinny jeans and own a fedora-like cap and skinny tie somewhere in your closet, hold your camera like Sylvester Stallone holds his gun in The Expendables, and start every conversation with “Are you Canon or Nikon?”, then you can call yourself a professional. I can say all these things (and again, what do I know?) because I have been there. I was part of that legion of newbies who hailed all of the rock star photographers like they were gods and goddesses of a parallel universe. I was that photographer slut who went to all the networking events and shot all the weddings for next-to-nothing or worse yet, FREE. And now that I am so far removed from the business of it all, I can start to find the joy and art in photography again and take pictures of family and friends just because it is fun. On getting business:
Many people take beautiful pictures but unfortunately, beautiful pictures are not enough. When I first started, I needed a portfolio so I shot sorority and fraternity parties for free for my friends. Then I had a friend from work who was renewing her vows and she had seen some of my party pictures so she asked if I could shoot her wedding ceremony and reception. I had just upgraded to my Mark II and had my arsenal of lenses but I didn't have the experience of shooting an actual wedding so I agreed to do it for free. I treated her wedding like a professional gig and she liked her pictures so much she paid me a little bit for it and got me some portrait referrals. When I determined I wanted to make a business from this, my sister advertised on craigslist since it was free and we got some low-budget weddings from that. Our godfather is a commercial photographer and website designer so my sister worked with him for a month to design our first photo blog. From there, I announced my photo business on Facebook and received an out pour of support and awe from not just friends and family but also people who I haven't talked to in years. People started to ask us to do side gigs in exchange for services that could help promote my business. A friend of mine was starting a food tour in Los Angeles so he asked us to document their first tour in exchange for a new website design from his business partner. Another friend wanted a free portrait session for an interview he was doing with the Los Angeles Times. I ended up getting a half-page color spread from that in one of the largest newspapers in the countries.
In short, I never paid for advertising and I don't think photographers need to. Think about it: When you are choosing a photographer for yourself, do you go through ads or would you rather find someone through referrals? So my advice to photographers is to stay extremely well connected and let others know about your business. You never know who you can help and who can help you. Sometimes you do need to do things pro bono to get something else out of it.
A client looks for these things in a photographer: Consistency, reliability, professionalism, and a fun experience. Make sure you know your craft and can CONSISTENTLY take good pictures and miss as little as possible. When choosing a photographer for my wedding (down the line?), I will pay good money for someone I KNOW will get the shots I want. I will pay for someone whose style is consistent so I know what to expect.
And NETWORK! Not just online networking but go out to networking events and INTENTIONALLY meet people. During months when I don't have much going on, I go to some sort of a networking event once a week. I meet with marketing people in Los Angeles, Asian Americans in the entertainment industry, wedding industry mixers, enterprenuer workshops, and am plugged into a young entreprenuer club called Young Ambitious Los Angeles.
You are your business so you have to be a walking PR campaign for yourself. Be honest about your intentions and be proud of your craft and business. Stay connected and never turn down opportunities, even if they are very small. You never know what will come back to you down the line. Even though I don't even know where I will take my business anymore and don't promote AT ALL, I still get friends and aquaintances who want portraits or head shots. They see my pictures on my blog, my Facebook (when I had one), or are direct friends of mine.
Photography is an extremely crowded field but there is always room on the top for the right person.
What didn't work:
Not giving my business the respect it deserved. I sometimes didn't want to promote to take things as seriously as I should have. I should have been more proud of my accomplishments.
Also, charge people what you are worth. I did a lot of free things in the beginning and there is that fine line where the free has to stop in order for people to know your worth. Even for close friends now I still charge for my time because I want others to take the shoot seriously and know what it is worth.
And don't give up! I did when I got pregnant and lost that drive to push my business to another level. A business and reputation take years to grow so embark on it knowing it needs a long-term commitment from you for it to flourish.
Go ahead and visit her.
You know you need one more blog addiction, right? : )