So you got a DSLR camera and you want to be a photographer…now what?

If you’ve been following along with my photography story, you know that I first started taking photos after my son Micah was born. I bought my first DSLR camera and was so excited to start taking AMAZING pictures! I got him all set up in a cute outfit, snapped some photos, and was continually disappointed with the outcome. I didn’t realize that it isn’t actually the camera that takes a nice photo, but the photographer! At the time, my goal was strictly to learn to take pictures of my kids, and I never saw myself starting a business. Now that I have, one of the most common questions I get from people is what they recommend for beginners…”what are the steps to get started?”

First, let me say that if you have a DSLR camera and your goal is to take great pictures of your family – that is amazing! Not everyone will or should start a photography business. This post is really meant for a few reasons: to show you what goes into it and give you helpful tips if you ARE interested, and also to give those who may not be interested in starting a business but ARE interested in hiring a photographer some helpful insight into what to look for, as some of these steps are important to a legitimate business and are NOT steps that everyone takes.

1. The first thing that is SO IMPORTANT (I can’t stress it enough!!!) is to invest in education!! Learn to use your equipment. Those of you who know me know how much I LOVE education. I’m a teacher currently over at UWM, and I truly think education is so valuable. None of us are born with a natural ability for photography, and it is so important to invest in education in order to grow! This was the first thing I did, and it had the biggest impact on my photography and style of photos, as well as my customer service! Here are a few photos to show you the difference in family photos over the course of ONE YEAR which I attribute solely to education (not equipment!). The one on the left was my first ever family shoot for friends of mine that I ADORE and were so kind to help me out as I awkwardly fumbled through posing and trying to find locations! The one on the right was a year and a few months later, and at this point I had taken classes on lighting, how to use my camera’s settings and had practiced enough to be confident in choosing locations and directing my clients. You guys don’t even want to know how much money I’ve spent on education…. 😛

before and after photography class

If you’re more of a hands on learner, I highly recommend finding a mentor. Not only is it great to find other photographers to talk to, but it is also so helpful for that 1:1 interaction. I do offer mentor sessions, so if you are interested you can contact me for more information!

2. If you do start a business, make sure you are LEGITIMATE!
What does it mean to have a legitimate business?? It means:

  • You pay taxes – expect about 1/3 of your income to go to taxes. You also need to pay sales tax
  • You have contracts – these protect YOU and also your clients. If you’re a client and your photographer does not have a contract, there is nothing legally binding them to deliver what they say they will. I would be very cautious of handing over money to someone without a contract

3. If you are going to be a legitimate business, especially taking photos of things like weddings where you can’t have a “redo”, you need to figure out how you are going to do everything in your power to protect your clients photos! Are you backing up everything as necessary? What are your systems to protect and organize memory cards so things don’t get written over? What if your camera breaks? Do you have a backup? Once you start charging money for photos it’s very important for both you and your clients to have systems in place to prevent these very preventable problems.

3. Practice…practice…practice! Practice on everyone around you! Don’t expect immediate perfection, and give yourself grace!

I love to talk photography, so feel free to reach out when any questions you have! Would love to hear what else you all are wondering about 🙂