by Guest Contributor Spanki Mills
Ready to take the plunge and start your own photography business but overwhelmed with what you should believe? Where you should invest your money? What you should expect? I talk to so many people who are ready to start a business but hear so much information and they are just confused. They have so many of the same questions I did starting out…questions I have forgotten that were so confusing. I had no one to really ask, so I jumped in blindfolded and made a few…or a lot…of mistakes. The old saying “had I only known then what I know now” has rang in my head so many times over the past few years. If I had the chance to tell the new girl in the biz Spanki what the Spanki of today knows…this is what I’d have told her:
Girl it’s not all about the shiny equipment…
Again, I am not saying I know THIS is the way to becoming successful and we all start at different places, this is just what worked for me. First, the biggest misconception I hear time and time again is if you don’t own the most expensive camera on the market, then you have no chance at being a “real” photographer. I disagree! However, I didn’t start with the lowest end camera, I did start out with the Canon 20D. It was the current model that was above the Rebels but still below the big daddy 5D. Not saying that a Rebel or a 5D wouldn’t be great too, that is just where I started.
Think of it like this… Your camera is like your brain and the lens is like your eye. Yes some brains are faster than others (yes, I know, my brain is one of the slower ones) but as long as your eye can see, your brain can register and record what it was told. That being said, I am now a firm believer in the lens over the camera body. NOT to say that the lens has to be expensive, it just has to be quality. The lens I use and LOVE is the 50mm 1.4… yes the $400 lens! So, that brings me to lenses…Again, You do not need to jump right to the L glass to take a sharp image, actually I wasn’t getting a sharp image, so I DID jump to the L glass and spent thousands on multiple L lenses, only to realize I still didn’t get a sharp image. So I decided it MUST have been my camera… and I upgraded to the 50D. Yep, you guessed it, STILL no tack sharp image. Until I took the time to REALLY educate myself on my camera did I get that sharpness that I so desired. In the end it has nothing to do with the camera or the lens. You guessed it… it was ME, and to this day every one of my images you see where taken with the same $400 50mm I first bought and sold the rest.
SOOC Auto. 50mm f/1.4 November 17, 2007
There is no dollar sign on education…
There are few jobs out there that don’t require some sort of education, and photography is no different. I know it sometimes can be a good chunk of change to pay someone to teach you, but this is how I see it… jumping out there before we are ready is like going to a job interview with ratty hair and yesterdays makeup on. You only get one chance to make your first impression. So make sure you are posting images now you want to be remembered for later.
I do believe we all grow and evolve as we shoot, that is perfectly normal. Do I think we all have killer images just starting out? No way, at least I didn’t. But I made sure I knew how to consistently give a quality product. Yes when I first got started it would take me 600 images per session to guarantee myself a gallery for my client with 30 images in it, where as now I may only take 150 images. I still knew, that I knew, they were getting something worth paying for. So make sure before you worry with what colors your brand will be and scouting out studio locations, you have invested a good amount time into your education! Please make sure to research who you are learning from and make sure they are able to teach you what you are needing to learn, don’t just look at a photographer you love and chose them to learn about business, make sure they are succeeding at their business first! Make sure you see some of you in them. No need to learn from a wedding photographer if you aren’t real sure about weddings yet either, stick to the basics of shooting and business first.
Image taken with 50mm f/1.4 September 9, 2008
Do you really want the world to know you have multiple personalities…
Okay so I know there are days I feel free and artsy and want to wear Toms with my boyfriend jeans with the hole in the knee. Then there are days I feel very mod and sleek and want to wear my skinny jeans and silk shirt with my blazer. And then there are some days I feel soft and romantic and will put on my leggings and a flow-y top with lace and ruffles. But seriously, I can not wake up each morning and pick a little of each mood. I have to narrow it down or people would gawk at the way I was dressed. The same goes for the way we edit. I know it takes a while to grow into who you are as a photographer. There is nothing wrong with that, but maybe try sticking to one or two editing styles so it doesn’t look like 17 different photographers edited your images. Play with your edits and get a feel for what grabs you the most. If you need help with finding who you are in your edits, try stepping back and looking at WHO YOU ARE. For me, my personality is loud, bold, simple. I was a professional painter before I was a photographer so obviously I am not scared of color. I think you can see one of my images and tell just by looking at it what kind of personality I will have. Let your images speak for you.
Sept 2008 / Sept 2010
There has to be a dollar amount worth leaving your family at dinner time for…
Where do I start pricing? Oh if I had seen things then like I do now…First remember when pricing yourself that there is a small window of successful pricing. Most of us starting out do not know what to expect for how much actually goes into running a photography business and we tend to price ourselves too low. The obvious problem with that is… it will catch up with you. You will need to come up for air sooner or later and you will have to face changing your pricing. The second thing that you could run into is someone looking at your cheap pricing and thinking “that is so cheap, what is wrong with them”. I know, I am guilty as can be on that one… how many times do you go into a store and see the hamburger meat on sale and think “oh that must not be fresh” or see a pair of shoes that look amazing but because of the cheap price tag you automatically assume they will hurt your feet? Cheap isn’t always best!
Recent images, still with my 50mm.
So, that is it… what todays Spanki would have told the new girl Spanki a few years back. I know it is scary, photography is a form of art that leaves us vulnerable and uncovered. It is our souls expressing what we see in others and left on an image. Breaking out there and allowing yourself to be exposed is a big risk. It is a personal journey I took and there were days I wished I hadn’t. But in the end, finding photography for me has helped me find ME. Photography has created a voice for my heart that I couldn’t hear before. Do it!! If you are on the fence, jump. You never know what your heart has to say.
My REAL name is Spanki! I will go by just about anything…Stacy, Becky, and Sparky are what I get the most often. (I guess no one really thinks they hear right when I say Spanki). I am a thirty “something” mother of 4 (if you don’t include my husband who acts 12 most of the time)! I have 3 boys one 11yr old, twin 10yr olds, and a daughter AKA the “boss” who is 5 (and to think I was told I couldn’t have children) pshhhh! I am no good at math, or spelling…I tend to make up words. My poor friends and family have learned they have to de-code me! I have no problem laughing at myself! I sing really good when my radio is REALLY loud, I still think I can cheer just as good as the girls who can actually FIT in their uniform, and there is never a dance competition I won’t break it down in! I am a self taught photographer, who loves photography for the memories it captures. I wish I could be the “artist” that can cry over an image…nope, not me, I am just the one who had always had a camera in hand not wanting to forget a moment in time I knew I’d never get back!