4 Things Nobody Warned Me About Starting My Own Photography Business

When I left my corporate career and began my own photography business I knew it wouldn’t be easy. That was 12 years ago.   Back then; there was a real lack of resources for photographers and small businesses, so I began a little naive except for my business background and major. I was so skeptical from the start because this was fun for me.  Now it was a JOB.  It was real.  I had clients to please, taxes to pay and deadlines to meet.   There were days I wondered if this was the right path for me - moments of doubt and uncertainty.  The 4 things below,  I wish I knew before starting my business.  Would knowing these have changed my mind about delving into this profession?  No way!  But I would’ve been better prepared and had the confidence to know that what I was going through was all very normal.  So maybe this will help you if you’re thinking about entering this industry.  Or if you’ve been in business as a photographer for a while, but have self-doubt, this might make you realize that you’re not alone and your doubts and concerns are all very normal.  

1)   It’s a lonely business -  I know, it sounds weird since many photographers photograph people and if you’re around people, how can it be lonely?  Well, photographing is just a tiny portion of your job as a photographer. When I interact with people during my session, I get into ‘creative mode’ and I’m not interacting in a way that fuels me.  I interact in a way to accomplish what I need to get the shots and the trust of my clients.  I delve into their needs and properly communicating what I need to make it the best session for both of us.  So it’s not necessarily interaction that feeds your social needs.   In fact it’s interaction that drains you because you’re ‘ON’ and in the moment with your clients.  Typically during sessions with busy children I’m on a high with the interaction (I need to be silly, instructive, demonstrative, etc. for my little clients who need to gain my trust) but after the session I’m spent.  It’s rewarding but it’s lonely because it lacks the calm, but deep interaction that sometime we desire and need.  

2)   You will constantly critique and question your work  - Some days you’re content and feel like you have control and understanding of every aspect of your business.  Then there are days you question your work, your business structure, your pricing, etc.  This is all very normal.  Without questioning these things, we can’t advance and better our business.  It’s the constant evaluation and never ending learning that keeps businesses fresh and up to date.  But with that, unfortunately, comes doubt and self-destruction when it comes to our own creative efforts.  And since most of us are a one-man (or one- woman) operation, it’s even harder to convince yourself that you can do it. 

3)   You will run into creative slumps – this will happen.  Don’t fret.  It’s totally normal and part of the creative process.  There are high’s and lows so you just need to be prepared in the event you hit a slump.  I’ll be expanding on this in a later post.  But for now, I urge you not to give up during these slumps.  It’s very easy to just throw in the towel and say ‘I’m tapped out, I’m just not cut out for this’.  But DON’T give up.  There are methods of climbing out and advancing your creative juices.  Every artist falls into these dark moments but I assure you, there are ways to make those moments brief. 

4)   The learning NEVER ends.  Once you think you know most of what you need to succeed and advance in this profession, you soon realize that you have to so much more to learn.  You will never truly ‘master photography’.  It’s constantly changing so you need to constantly be learning and altering your business model according to these rapid changes.  So research and staying connected with the latest trends, equipment, software, client interests, etc. is all on you.  You have to be self-motivated.  You don’t have a boss alerting you to changes in the market place.  You have to stay abreast of these changes and ‘YOU’ have to determine how it affects your art and your business and make the changes necessary. 

I’ve mentored many photographers that have found these to be the biggest shockers when it comes to their art and operating their own business.  They are surprised and relieved when I tell them this is all very normal and expected.  It’s just part of the business, you take the good with the bad.  Photography is a wonderful art and business to be in, but like every businesses, there are challenges that go with it.  You’re not alone if you’ve experienced any or all of these.  I hope this helps some of you.