There I was. Sitting at my computer staring at every wedding photographer's website that I could find. It was 2006 and I was a teller at a check cashing store. I worked at a slower paced store so I would use my down time to sit and stare at all of these beautiful wedding pictures. I began to realize that I was a bit obsessed with weddings and beautiful photography and started to think, if I like this so much then why am I not pursuing this? I've always believed, partially thanks to Oprah, that this world would be a better place if we all were brave enough to go out there and do the things that we love for a living, not just the things that we think will bring us the most money or prestige. So I decided to be brave and sat my husband down to tell him how I was going to spend a big chunk of our hard earned savings to buy a new camera and a couple of lenses. He was supportive so I bought a camera, two lenses and started studying and by studying I mean some serious serious studying. I read pretty much every article the world wide web had to offer. I read my camera's manual from cover to cover multiple times and THEN I started shooting. I practiced and then practiced some more. I mean seriously, there was some relentless studying and practicing going on, but I knew that I had a unique eye and could not give up on this no matter how hard it was. So I pushed on and after a while I realized that I didn't have to think about camera settings or what power level to set my flash to. I just did it. It was second nature. This is when I knew I was ready.
So, how did I start to stand out from every other person out there with an SLR that thinks they are a photographer?
1-I learned to shoot in manual. Not just how to shoot in manual, but I knew every little detail about my camera and my lenses. I knew when I wanted to use my 24-70mm and when I wanted to use my 200mm, and it wasn't just because I wanted to stand closer or farther away. Changing a lens can change so much in an image. I could stand back, look at my client and the background and know exactly what the finished product would look like with each different lens before I ever took the shot. I learned what every single button on my camera did and could change every setting without looking at my camera. I could guess what my settings should be and be pretty close to dead on every time without having to adjust. This is so important! It seems like everyone has an SLR in this day and age, but most people think that they are going to take amazing images just because their camera was expensive. They aren't willing to take the time to learn everything about their cameras.
2- I found my niche and stuck with it. How often do we visit a photographers site and see something similar to this: "Specializing in weddings, families, seniors, pet, commercial and sport photography". How can you possibly specialize in all of these things? I realized that although I love children and can photograph them well, I just can't photograph them as well as I do adults, nor do I like to. I would rather photograph weddings and stylized portrait sessions...period. These are the things that make me the most happy and that I can do the very best. So, although I am good at shooting families and children, I no longer offer those services. I would say, if you are just starting out and absolutely need the money then okay, take any job that comes your way, BUT don't post those pictures on your blog or advertise them in any way otherwise you'll never have people hire you for the types of shoots that you actually want, meaning you won't be as happy or as successful as you could be. Only let people see what you want them to eventually hire you to do. Period.
3- I branded. I have always known that my style of photography is passionate, sexy, dark and moody, however, my first website was vibrant and sassy. Mistake. I course corrected as quickly as I could and created a new site and blog that matched my personality as well as the personality of my images. My site is now black and leather textured. It's moody and sexy just the way I like it. And I continue that trend with everything I put my name on. My business cards, stationary, even CD cases are all uniformly branded. This has made a huge difference for me.
4- I use Facebook and Twitter to promote my business. I know a lot of photographers that do not have fan pages or even link to their site on their facebook accounts. Why? Facebook is free advertising and I can honestly say that atleast 50% of my business comes from Facebook in one way or another. I enable my clients images to be viewable by all of their friends with their permission. Their friends comment, which makes my clients super happy and sure that they hired the right photographer, and it shows all of their friends the kinds of images that they can get if they hire me. Facebook is HUGE! Make sure that you are using it to it's full potential.
5- I shoot for myself. This ties back with finding your niche. I personally love stylized shoots so I make sure that at least once a quarter, if not more, I style a shoot the way that I want to, get a model and shoot for fun. Not only does it keep my creative juices flowing but it shows my clients what I am capable of. A lot of times clients don't know what they want until they see it. They will see what you love and begin to ask for it. I can honestly say that by doing these 5 things my business has taken flight. I couldn't be happier!