Dear Landon + Stephanie,
I’m currently doing photography as a hobby and have done a couple of photo shoots free of charge. The last one I did, I charged a fee and developed some pictures for them but ended up, personally thinking, I could’ve done better. What would be your opinion on which way to go? Continue as a hobby until I perfect myself or charge a small fee for my time?
Six years ago we asked ourselves this very question! We didn’t know when was the right time to start charging. In our minds, our images weren’t up to par with the work that we admired from other photographers. We thought that we weren’t qualified, that we were nobody’s, and that nobody would ever know who we were. At first it felt like we would never get there and we felt like we weren’t worth anyone paying for our services.
We were so wrong. We were focusing on the wrong thing. We realized that there was something that set us apart from other photographers, even though our images weren’t the best! We were passionate about photography and that showed in the experience we were giving to those free shoots. YES, we did free shoots too in the beginning of our career. Everyone has to start somewhere. Here are some things that we did that help turn our hobby into a profitable business and we hope they help you too.
1. Stop saying you’re not worth it!
You can be your worst critic. Your question is one that EVERY photographer has asked themselves at some point in their career. Still to this day we know of photographers who’s price point is in the $4,000 plus and they question their pricing. You’re lack of confidence will be your worst enemy. Even if you continue to struggle with confidence, FAKE the funk! TELL yourself that you ARE confident enough times and you will begin to renew your mind.
Be your biggest cheerleader, see what you could improve on and do so. Have mercy on yourself and give yourself credit because you acknowledge that you aren’t perfect. Pinpoint what your weaknesses are and work on that. Don’t let those weaknesses outshine your strengths. It will be a lot of work but nothing that is worth having comes easy!
2. Build a portfolio
Pick a few friends and ask them to let you take pictures of them. The worst they can say, is no. Although that is not very likely because you’re offering them free pictures. The key is to make the best out of these free shoots. Require that they dress up and get dolled up. I don’t know about you but we get super excited whenever our couples take the time to get dolled up! Their excitement for these pictures becomes contagious and inspire us to be more creative.
3. Start charging for your services!
Even though you aren’t where you want to be in photography, charge your inquiries. They contacted you for a reason! Obviously they see the value in what you are doing to consider paying you. They are giving you permission to start charging for your services. Photography is very expensive and honestly, there will be programs and equipment that you will eventually want to get and need once you develop your style of photography.
Our first client ever, paid us $100 for a portrait session. They contacted us for a reason. They wanted us to take pictures of them vs asking a family member with a “good camera” . That had to mean something. For other photographers $100 may be chump change, but to us, we had made it, lol. We actually got paid to do something that we love and after that there was no going back.
Bottomline, you’ll never be able to invest in new equipment or your business if you aren’t charging. Set that money aside and use that to invest in the educational resources and equipment that you need .
“Everyone has to start somewhere!”
Above is an image of one of the first engagement sessions we ever charged for. You can even see our old logo.
Above is a photo from a recent engagement session.
“Use your weaknesses to help drive you to greatness.”
4. Continue to learn
You will never get better unless you do more research. Study your craft! Strive to know it all! There are plenty of free resources to get you started with the basics. That’s what we did. We searched forums, and blogs, and youtube to learn as much as we could. It was the only option we had. We didn’t know anyone that could or wanted to help us.
Find a photographer who’s work you love. Absorb the free information that they offer if any. If you find that they offer mentoring sessions, consider the investment. Had we known someone that offered mentoring sessions we would have jumped on it when we first started. It truly would have saved so much time and frustration to gain knowledge from someone who had already been there. Even to this day we STILL invest in photography education from photographers we admire. In order to grow you must increase your knowledge.
5. Bonus tip
If you are still reading, than kudos to you! That is a good sign. It shows that you are committed to grow. Thank you for hanging in there because this last tip will help you increase your prices. Now that you are going to start charging for your services, set a price that you feel good with. Every 3 paid sessions that you book increase your price by $25 bucks. Fight the instinct to think you are not good enough. You are good enough!
Here is some popular blogs with great photography tips
Landon + Stephanie