Ok, so I wasn’t going to do this, but I decided to anyway. I’ve had a lot of people email me, specifically recently, showing interest in my workshop but not living close enough to come to it or can’t afford it. They’ve all asked if they can either take me out for coffee to pick my brain or talk on the phone to pick my brain. So I came up with a solution. Virtual coffee. That’s right! I decided to start hosing E-Learning Sessions via Skype chats for anyone who wants to take me out for “virtual coffee” and pick my brain. It’s totally free so you don’t actually have to buy me a cup of coffee, unless of course you feel so inclined… lol! Anyway, so tonight I spent some great time with Lisa Burgess of Lisa Burgess Photography. She asked me some great questions and I hope I was able to help. I am completely honored that people feel comfortable asking me for advice. I wanted to recap a couple of really great questions she asked and how I responded. I hope this can help those of you who are reading it. Here goes.
#1) Can you specifically name some of the things you wish you knew starting out?
This is such a great question because I feel like people say this all of the time and never specifically answer. So I’m going to give you specifics. First, I wish I had solid branding down before I tried making a name for myself. I wish I would have sat down, made a list of adjectives that I wanted my logo/business to portray to the world and designed my logo off of that. Now, I have a graphic and web design background as well as a business management and operations background. Because of this I can do most of my stuff myself, but if I could, I would have spent the time and good money on a fabulous designer to get my branding solid from the get go. Second, I wish I would have started using Photobiz from day 1. I spent a horrible amount of time trying to do a website for myself where if I would have just knew about Photobiz I would have shaved about 4-5 months off of my design time and focused on business. Third, I wish I would have read Dane Sanders’ book Fast Track Photographers awhile ago. Now, I don’t know when it was written, but if it was around two years ago when I started the business, I wish I would have read it. I did a blog post on this book that you can read here if you are interested. This book really helps you to clearly and easily define your goals as a photographer and business owner. I can’t rave enough about it, so definitely go buy it. Fourth, I wish I would have signed up for Pictage and The [b] School earlier. Pictage has the best photography forum/community ever. I can’t speak highly enough of what an amazing community of photographers they have. The Pictage community has helped me for a year and has been a huge help in getting me where I am. The [b] School I’ve only been a part of for a couple of months and while I don’t think the community is quite as strong there (I don’t know that it’s been established for long enough to be a really strong community like Pictage) the videos are top notch. There’s a great video on branding that I would recommend everyone watch because it changed my entire outlook on it.
#2) Do you need Photoshop and Lightroom?
Technically speaking you don’t “need” them, but I don’t work without them. I use Lightroom for mass editing and put my final touches on my photos in Photoshop. I will warn you to NOT define your style based on premade or prepurchased actions or presets. Instead define your style and either purchase or create actions to complement your style or make your editing life easier. I CAN’T STRESS THAT ENOUGH!!! There is nothing worse than a photographer that buys Kubota or Totally Rad Actions, slaps it on their photos and then calls that their style. Their photos end up looking just like everyone else’s photos that does that and it doesn’t help you to be unique. It doesn’t do you any favors. That’s not to say those aren’t useful tools. They are useful tools if you know how to manipulate them to complement your style.
#3) At what point do you start charging?
This was an awesome question. It’s not going to be the same for everyone but we had a good, long discussion about this very thing. The problem is that many times (I went through this too) your friends and family don’t take you seriously as a professional photographer because you’re always doing work for them for free. They are never going to take your seriously or see you as a professional until you start showing what you’re worth. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do free work to build your portfolio, but at some point your friends will start talking to their friends and their friends will talk to their friends and before you know it you’re known as the “cheap photographer” because you cut everyone a deal since they “know” you through someone else. My advise was if you’re going to give discounts then give them to everyone. If someone approaches you asking for a discount, then the answer is no. I heard this on the [b] school on the branding 101 video and I’ll never forget it. There is nothing worse than a photographer who hands a client a price sheet and starts apologizing. You need to be confident in your pricing. So if you’re going to give discounts, then give them to everyone. Run a special so that when your prices go up it looks like the “special” is over. Make sense? That way they know the cheaper price is the special price and isn’t going to last for forever. If someone approaches you for a discount because you know them, then add value to their package but make them pay the full price for the package they want. I’m not worth any less because I know you so why should I get paid less just because I know you? Instead I’ll throw in a print credit, an extra session, or an album upgrade.
Anyway, I hope if you’re reading this you got some helpful tips out of it. I love these e-learning sessions because I love helping people, especially newer photographers who don’t quite know where to start. I’m certainly not an industry expert and what works for me may not work for you and what’s worked for other people doesn’t always work for me, but I hope my what advice I can offer is of value. Also my thoughts and opinions are just that. They are subjective. I know people will disagree which is ok. Again these are just my opinions.
If you want to schedule a learning session with me, remember they are FREE as long as you use Skype, you can contact me through the “Contact Us” link on my blog or send an email to email@example.com. I’m available most week days after 7pm central standard time (that’s one hour behind eastern time, one hour ahead of mountain time, and two hours ahead of pacific time). If you need a weekend day let me know when you’re wanting to do it and I’ll see if my schedule accommodates it. Since the wedding season is going to start ramping up soon I will have less time on the weekends.