I’ve been a portrait family photographer for just shy of a year now. I don’t consider myself a pro and still have a lot to learn. Today’s post is less about photography tips (maybe I’ll share that someday soon!) and more about what being a photographer has taught me.
A lot of this is photography related but some of it is just life related. Enjoy!
1 // I understand the cost of photography (and any other personal service) now that I provide it.
I won’t sugar coat this one bit. Before becoming a photographer and seeing the work that goes into it, I had a very hard time justifying paying for services like photography (or hair, make up, etc.). I feel like it’s very hard to see the true value of a service unless you have some insider view of the behind-the-scenes work that it requires.
I truly used to laugh at the some of the prices I have seen photographers charge. While I feel I don’t charge a lot because I try to stay within a range that I myself would feel comfortable paying for, I can completely see why other photographers charge more. It’s very hard to put a number value on something like this, too.
As a client, you only see the time I spend at the session with you and then you maybe assume I spend time editing and uploading your photos. From my perspective as the business owner, I see how I spend time traveling to and from sessions, editing time (which is a lot more time that I ever realized), maintaining my website and social media, researching new equipment and shooting locations, etc. It all adds up to a lot of time not even behind the camera!
2 // Someone is always going to be better than me.
And comparison is a very easy but very tricky game to play. When I first started out, I was very nervous and thought my work was crappy. In truth, some of my earlier work definitely wasn’t the best. But everyone has to start somewhere.
However, even very advanced photographers suffer from the “I’m not the best” syndrome. You can always get better gear, have better lighting that day, have better to work with clients or models, better landscapes and backdrops. It’s all subjective, but the comparison of photography as art is very, very real.
I’ve learned that the only thing I should be better than is myself, though. As long as I keep getting better on a personal level, that’s all that matters.
3 // Photography is hard work.
And I actually find it somewhat physically demanding lately. I get into all kinds of crazy poses, sometimes lay on the ground, stay in a squatting position for 10 minutes straight, wake up at very odd hours to catch sunrises and certain events happening.
Photography can be an all-hours on call job if you let it. And the actual work of taking photos isn’t usually as simple as the click of a shutter button.
4 // Photography is not about cameras, pictures, editing, or what kind of gear I have.
Photography, to me, is about people. Sure, I must have physical equipment to run my business and offer what I do. But if I had to sum up what I actually offer at Bee Sweet, it’s not photography – it’s customer service and getting to know people.
Each family that I work with has a different story to tell. That’s how I look at each session. I don’t try to look at each session as work that is done by step 1, 2, and 3. I treat each family differently based on their own needs, style, and the vibe I get from them.
5 // Everyone perceives photography in their own way.
I usually send a preview photo or two to clients a day or so after their session with me. One time, I sent a photo that I thought was one of the best of the whole set to the client. She immediately noticed how fat she though her arm was, though. I guess the client had just told me she lost ten pounds and was very much hoping it would be reflected in her photos. She looked great in my eyes, but she was being hypercritical of herself and one small part of her body. She still ended up really liking her photos, but it struck me as interesting that we all notice different things.
This makes photography a very tricky business and art form. The original photo I sent, I sent because the client’s expression on her face was very genuine and seemed like one of those priceless moments. I didn’t even notice the “fat arm” until she pointed it out.
6 // Photographers are talented artists, not camera puppets.
The worst thing anyone can say to a photographer is “oh, your photos are great. You must have a good camera!” I actually have a very cheap entry-level DSLR that I think, if I told other professionals I used, they would probably laugh in my face.
Anyone can use the camera I or other professionals have. It’s a matter of knowing how to use the camera in the right settings to make it produce what you want, having a good visual eye, creating a good atmosphere for clients (if you work with people), and editing. All those factors have to line up to getting good photos.
I find that I’ve had some less than ideal sessions lately because I was rushing clients and making it a not very relaxed, enjoyable experience. Or if the lighting was awful, too bright, and making everyone hot and squinty – the wrong time of day for sessions is the worst!
Editing also makes a huge difference. It really doesn’t matter how great you are at using your cameras manual settings. I rarely get a photo I don’t need to edit. And by rarely, I mean like 1 in 100.
Here’s a side by side of before and after. The top photo unedited actually looked great to me. Until I edited it! This photo above wasn’t even highly edited. But they can all use a little post-production work.
7 // Photography has opened my eyes to gratitude about the world.
Sometimes I walk away from a session in awe – of a beautiful family, a perfect new baby, a gorgeous sunrise that I will only get to experience once, an event that went beautifully. Photography has made me feel so grateful about life in general.
I actually feel like I should thank my clients sometimes for letting me be a part of their wonderful experience, their warm family dynamics, their charming home. It’s truly a gift to me that others trust me enough to capture their memories and that I know I get to give them the gift of preserving them forever. To say I am touched is an understatement.
8 // I absolutely love what I do.
I never thought in a million years I would be a photographer. To this day, I still consider myself very amateur and know I have a lot to learn.
I’ve had lots of jobs and different hobbies but none of them have been quite as rewarding as photography has been. It’s also been the hardest hobby to maintain, requiring the most work. But I feel that’s why it’s been the most rewarding too. The more work I invest into it, the more I realize I am “all in” and enjoy what I’m doing.
The past almost-year of having this hobby and side business has been so valuable to me. I didn’t pick up photography to make it a business – it just kind of happened. But I’m so glad it did!
Questions for You:
- Was this interesting? I’ve been meaning to share more about my experience with photography for a while now!
- What’s your favorite art form to experience yourself?