From the First Year Photographer

My business, Belinda Marie Photography, just wrapped up its first year of operation on January 23rd. I only know this little factoid because that’s when my annual subscription for my website’s domain expired, and I was forced to repurchase.  Although purchasing my domain wasn’t quite as thrilling on the second go-round, I couldn’t help but reflect on the events that transpired through the previous year. Do I still love this? Did I get anything out of it? Did I learn anything?  Why am I doing this? Did I accomplish what I wanted to accomplish? 

Photography is an oversaturated and complex business. There are so many ridiculously talented people out there in photography land that are also trying to make their business plan come to fruition. It’s not a career for the faint of heart. Do I still love this? Of course I do! I have the chance to meet wonderful people and families. Each client I have is coming to me because they trust me to photograph the beautiful moments that are currently happening in their lives, moments they want to share with the world, and memories they want to remember forever. I not only enjoy my own work, but I love to see all of my fellow photographer’s work out there. I skim through their sites, facebook pages, pinterest posts, and instagrams. I love admiring all of it. It’s art, and it’s beautiful. I can’t seem to get enough. 

Okay, okay, I still love it- that is certainly clear, but am I getting anything out of it? Like I said, photography is an oversaturated business. If you’re in this to get rich quickly, please think again. In my first year, I made enough to reimburse myself for the purchase of my camera. Sounds good right? No, not really. I’ve invested quite a bit more money into my business than just the cost of my camera. There is of course my can’t live without Adobe Photoshop CS6 editing software, lenses, lights, backdrops, props, website fees, and marketing material. I’ve also invested time in creating my own contracts, client questionnaires, logos, designed my website, created my social media business pages, and most of my time is spent editing photos. Not that you have to have the latest and greatest to be a successful photographer, but eventually your editing software becomes outdated, photo editing styles change, sites need to be refreshed.  My point?  Photography is a job for those who truly want to be a photographer. You will need to constantly invest in your knowledge, invest in your skills, and invest in your business. I get out of my business what I put into it.

Did I learn anything this year? You betcha! If I didn’t learn anything in my first year, I might as well close up shop now. In fact, my own personal goal is to learn even more my second year. To be successful and really make money, myself and my fellow first year rookies will need to keep pushing. We need to push ourselves not only as photographers, but as business owners as well. Every year we should be challenging ourselves to come up with fresh ideas, create new images, and learn to market ourselves in new ways.  I don’t view other photographers as competition, I view them as mentors. Every inspiring, moving, or heartfelt photograph I see only motivates me to go beyond my own limits in every photo that I take.  Every photographer I come across on my journey will have something new to teach me, and I can only hope to offer something in return.

When I started out, I was upset because my Facebook page only had 60 likes. Other photographers were in the thousands. I’m still not on their level, but I’ve learned that it is completely okay. I repeat, It’s COMPLETELY OKAY. I’m not doing this for Facebook likes. (Sorry, Facebook. I still love you.) My short list of followers doesn’t mean I don’t have the talent to get on another photographer’s level, it just means I’m not there yet.  Every photographer has their own style, and there is a client for every photographer.  I’m doing this because I enjoy it. I’m doing this because although the work is hard, and can leave you feeling vulnerable to a world full of critics, I know that I’m sharing my love of art with the world.

The last question I asked myself was, “Did I accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish”. The answer is a big laughable no. No, not even close. That doesn’t mean the year was a waste. Honestly, I feel that if I did accomplish everything I had planned for myself in my first year of being in business, then my goals were nowhere near high enough. I’d be more disappointed if I did accomplish everything. I did however make a huge step forward. Before 2014, having a photography business of my own was just a dream for me. Now, I do have a business plan, clientele, and a fantastic group of supporters. Cliché or not, I cannot thank my husband, my poor adorable child who is a test subject 90% of the time, my family and friends enough for supporting me during this really exciting and challenging experience. Without my clients and supporters I couldn’t accomplish or continue doing what I really love. Thank you all for making my domain purchase worth it, and my first year in business so memorable.

- Belinda