I have a considerable amount of connections who are not associated with photography or film in any way whatsoever. I often get asked, “How does it work?” and I understand that.
I was in a taxi in Accra, Ghana not too long ago and the taxi driver looked at me and said, “That’s all you do? Take pictures?” and when I confirmed, he still didn’t take me seriously. You should have seen the look on his face.
Over the past year, I’ve learnt that some folks consider photography as a serious profession and then you have some that don’t. Wether you’re a photographer or not, I’m sure you agree and speaking of photographers, this post is dedicated to all of you starting out.
I started out not too long ago and I wish I knew the things I know now eight months ago.
Don’t be a jerk.
Nobody wants to work with someone who thinks their shit doesn’t stink. It doesn’t matter if you’re as good as Annie Lebovitz because if you don’t have basic manners or can’t be courteous, nobody will ever work with you. If by chance they do, don’t expect a decent review/referral.
I have lost count of how many gigs I’ve gotten just because clients told me that “they’ve heard” I’m a nice guy.
I’m actually proud to say that I’m not an asshole and when someone books you without even looking at your site, your character can be the best marketing tool you’ll ever own.
It doesn’t matter if you’re working with an actor who’s paying you for a headshot session or a model who you’re paying for a commercial gig, be respectful. Being in front of a camera isn’t easy for most so being considerate, patient and approachable at all times is very important.
You feel me?
Don’t (ever) work for free.
If you value your work, believe in yourself, care about the images you take and know what you’re doing, there is no reason for you to be working for free.
I don’t care if you think there are a million photographers out there who can do it better than you. The day you don’t charge for your services, is a sad day my friend because that means you don’t think you’re worth it and if that’s the case, get rid of your gear because in my opinion, you’re not worthy.
By making sure you get paid, you know your work holds value and that you’re not some Micky Mouse photographer who takes pictures for their 500px account.
My equipment, education and experiences didn’t come easy. Just like yours, they didn’t come cheap either so why should your work?
Just treat your business like any other business and if you don’t know how, learn.
I’m going to dig deeper.
When you work for free and sell your soul for change, you’re screwing yourself over and other photographers out there. Hint hint! Wink wink!
Make sure people know you’re a photographer.
Unless you’re wearing a t-shirt that reads, “I am a photographer” people won’t know unless you tell them. Many folks don’t realize this but each and everyone out there needs to know a photographer.
Don’t ever leave your house without your business cards and if you don’t know how to tell people just pretend that you’re curious to know what they do. Eventually, they’ll ask you too!
Be shameless and on top of your game at all times because like any other business, it’s all about the hustle.
Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, keep learning and never stop.
As I write this post, I’m taking breaks, eating, drinking coffee and revisiting tutorials I’ve already watched 6 months ago. There is so much information out there and you’ll never know it all but image if you did?
The more you learn, the better you’ll become.
Test, test, test, test and keep testing.
When I started out, I underestimated the importance of tests. Before going into a shoot, I’d make sure that my gear is in ace condition but I never really conducted tests at first. It may sound crazy to some but shoot before you shoot.
Surprises suck and the only way to avoid them is to conduct tests.
If you can’t afford to pay people at first, try to compensate them for their transportation and feed them well. It makes a big difference.
Just so you know, I met up with random people and shot when I started out and I developed a body that simply consisted of four images. I (tried) to shot everybody and anyone I knew at first.
When testing, rent out all the gear you possibly can and try to develop your own style.
I will probably update this post from time to time but I think we’re off to a good start. There are so many resources out there and encourage you all to explore as much as you can.
I hope the tips that I shared with you help in you and your photography business.