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The Biggest Mistake You Can Make as a Photographer

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The Biggest Mistake You Can Make as a Photographer

biggest-mistake-photographer

In our generation, many photographers stumble across their love for photography.  It’s common to hear that a young mother developed her passion when her babies arrived or from photographing her children.  After the new-found love of photography is discovered, many hobbyists decide they should showcase their work on a website, blog, or Facebook page.  Sometimes this is done without a specific purpose or direction.  Before you do these things, decide on your goals.  What do you want to achieve as a photographer – whether it’s as a hobbyist or professional.

When I started as a hobbyist 7 years ago, I knew I loved photography and that was about it.   I photographed babies, weddings, families, seniors and threw them all up on my blog in the process.   I asked advice from other photographers about business, my photos, and what I should do.  I was told things like “don’t clutter your blog.”  I never did.  Another time someone said, “you need to show variety on your site,”  so I added a large sampling of images.  Someone else explained, “keep yourself affordable” so of course I did that too. Each piece of advice quickly became part of my business model and I lacked my own direction and voice.

don't-be-like-everyone

I was following their direction and trying to speak with their voice.  I found myself regretful wishing I could have start over. I would have included my passion for writing in my business plan.  I would have marketed myself to specific genres that I love to shoot.  I would have accepted the type of photographer and artist that I was instead of trying to mimic who I thought others wanted me to be.

Precious time gets waisted when we don’t take the time to consider what our direction is, and what platform we want to stand on.  But thankfully there is always time to turn things around.  I made a change to my blogging format and included more of my daily life (sometimes even from my iPhone GASP!) on my blog.  Originally this terrified me, I was worried about presenting anything but perfection.  I have felt so blessed as I’ve received emails, and encouragement from my readers.  I also quit taking the types of sessions that don’t fulfill me.  This rejuvenated my love for my work, and helped me to strengthen and improve in the areas I specialize.

How to make sure you do not make the mistakes I made:

1- Decide early on who you want to be.  Don’t change who you are because you think it won’t be perceived well or attract clients.  Be authentic and true to yourself.  The people who relate to you and your photography will come.

2- It’s great to follow advice from other photographers but do what feels right to you.  Instead of trying to be like others who have already succeeded, try to bring something new and exciting to the table.

3- Shoot what you love.  No exceptions.  When your heart is in your work it shows, and that’s when your work begins to speak for you.

 

We’d love to hear from you.  In the comments below, tell us about your biggest mistake as a photographer. If you have advice on how others can avoid it, add that too!

 

Knowing Your Direction and Finding Your Voice

My name is Kristin Wilkerson and I am a blogger and photographer. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

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21 Comments

  1. September 23, 2013 at 11:30 am —

    My biggest mistake was thinking that I should do portraits. I still might, but that won’t be for a while yet. The thought of posing people has me shaking. I much prefer uncontrolled action in events. Guess that’s the combat cameraman in me, haha.

  2. September 23, 2013 at 11:39 am —

    Thank you! I couldn’t agree more. When I first started I tried to be like the photographers I admired instead of following my own path. I’ve since learned that lesson and am much happier being myself and my business is starting to head in the right direction now.

  3. September 23, 2013 at 11:50 am —

    Yeah. Ditto to everything that you said above. I think it’s natural to throw all of your cards into the hat at first, but it’s exhausting, and as you said, it doesn’t represent you as the photographer that you want to be. I did a lot for nothing. I’m now taking a step back, not marketing very much, and streamlining my process so I can shoot what I love AND make money. Well said!

  4. September 23, 2013 at 11:52 am —

    I haven’t yet made any mistakes, as I am safely just still doing it for me, as a hobby. I primarily do macros of nature. I do have a few family members who want me to do some portraits. I really want to keep my style and do something different.I think it just takes time and to me you evolve and slowly your style emerges. There are sooo many Photographers out there that so inspire me, my problem is always feeling I am not good enough.

  5. September 23, 2013 at 11:56 am —

    I tried many types of photography before I decided what I liked best. Tried weddings too many “bridezillas”, tried sports too many “good old boys” on the make, tried nature and landscapes not for me I enjoy that as a hobby. Tried concerts and found that I love it. My best advise is try everything before deciding what you want to specialize in. I also tried portraits and studio work bleh too predictable…I do look at photographs from other professionals and work at perfecting my craft as an example of how great I can become.

  6. September 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm —

    my biggest mistakes were not finding my style of shooting i worked with alot of photographers fell in love with many styles of shooting lighting with strobes natural light even editing style i wish when i started i worked harder at each before displaying my work i have now since rebranded my name with more of what i feel is me and so happy i did i still love to have the variety but i have found my self in each session because i know what i am best at and once in a while i like to challenge my self just for fun not for marketing purpose though and my best advise is to have fun with it don’t let it feel like a job you can lose so much passion when it starts to feel like a job

  7. September 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm —

    My biggest mistake was not having all the paperwork, brochures,contracts etc ready when I began to get too much work. I would sit up at night making up the needed paperwork for the next days meeting. I didn’t want to turn anyone away so I did double time for about a year. get all your marketing, contract, brochures, sales forms etc ready BEFORE you offer to take pictures. its been exhausting rewarding but exhausting…. do you have a maternity brochure….sure!!! work work work ahhh here it is 🙂

    • September 27, 2013 at 11:44 am —

      Kim Hamm, that is actually really great advice! that’s me for sure, or I always want to add something into a brochure and have to start all over again, when the client actually needs it like ‘now’! I need to get more organized and streamlined! good point, well said. 🙂

      Great article and such good advice, I know it’s a tad cliché, but there is some truth in the saying, “only compare yourself to the photographer you used to be”. I’ve stopped stalking other photographers sites because I was getting depressed, I put energy into myself and my own business now.

  8. September 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm —

    No big mistakes. I started taking self-portraits with a tripod and a remote to learn about positioning, lighting, backgrounds, expressions for portraits and headshots pics. People thought i was crazy taking pictures of myself. They thought it was all vanity. Doing self portraits taught me a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I also had created a portfolio without even realizing it. Then, I started getting requests/clients wanting portraits and headshots for their businesses. I quickly started planning, getting organized, paper work, price list, business cards and most importantly a WEB PAGE to showcase my work so that clients or potential clients had somewhere to see my work. Getting organized before you have clients is very important. I recently had requests to photograph events which I find a lot of fun since you have multiple people to deal with to get great shots.

    I found that I am good at more than one type of photography. So, it’s good to try various types of photography before you know which you are best at. It may be that you are good at more than one type of photography.

  9. September 23, 2013 at 4:09 pm —

    Good article In my experience, I would add….not drawing a firm line between great customer service and unrealistic customer service. Making extraordinary exceptions to your business practices just to try and please a difficult client never ends well. You give give give and its still not enough. Its best to let them go! Finally after years in the field I am comfortable saying “Its important to me that in the end you are happy with the final product and for this reason I feel I may not be the best fit for you”. Thank you for considering our services, if you would like I am happy to make referral recommendations.

    • September 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm —

      I would have to say you are totally right. Too many people bend over backwards for unrealistic requests. I’m all for delivering a product that makes my client happy but being realistic about it at the same time.

  10. September 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm —

    Thank you! I really needed to be reminded of this today! When I started my business 3 years ago, I decided that I wanted to do things a certain way even though I knew that others would not agree. It was what worked for me. It is still what works for me. However, the voices of other photographers and some friends telling me “You’re doing wrong!” have clouded my vision lately. This really hit home for me. Thank you for the reminder! Great post!

  11. September 23, 2013 at 8:22 pm —

    The biggest mistake I’ve ever made is taking 3 hours of public transit to get to a shoot and realizing when I got there that I had left one of my (only) TWO batteries at home in the charger, and I had to shoot the entire Bar Mitzvah on one single six year old battery (with no charger to recharge it). That’s 1050 images over the course of several hours. It was the most wretched, anxious feeling, worrying that I was letting down the client, but I simply shot more conservatively and it all worked out in the end.

    But I will never make that mistake again!

  12. September 27, 2013 at 10:07 am —

    Finally someone says what I’ve wanted to. It is my business, I appreciate the insight, but I’m going to let my passion ring through to my products! Great post!

  13. September 27, 2013 at 10:51 am —

    Yep, I recently had my portfolio reviewed and the highest praise came for the images I included of my own children. All the others got a polite, “its OK.” When I photograph my kids, its for myself and my family and I shoot with my style and my passion. When I shoot for clients, I try too hard to be everything I think they want and I lose a little of who I am. I’m trying to define my style better and attract clients who want me, not the latest thing they saw on Pinterest. I’m a work in progress.

  14. September 27, 2013 at 10:52 am —

    My biggest mistake was worrying about justifying why I spent a lot of money on my camera instead of just having fun with it. I kept worrying about how I was going to make money to justify it.. Not anymore!!!! I am a volunteer photographer at my local humane society & that’s what I am most passion about.

  15. September 27, 2013 at 11:06 am —

    Thank you for this article! I love it and it confirms what I have already been focused on doing! It’s a big mistake I made when I first started shooting, but now that I am almost in my third year, I am finally developing who I am as a digital artist and am loving what I do as a photographer! : ) Shared this on Pinterest!

  16. September 27, 2013 at 11:38 am —

    I had a hard time figuring out what was my passion in photgraphy. I had someone tell me that I should do models and watch those photographers or shoot sports since you were an athlete in high school. I did a deeper dive and figured out that weddings and events are my passion. I love telling a story as if that person missed the wedding- they wouldn’t miss a beat. I put my energy into weddings and love IT!! I still do family portraits but I found my niche.

  17. September 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm —

    This is awesome advice and while I did struggle with this issue in my initial introduction to Photography, I quickly realized that what I was drawn to in Photography was simply what was for “me” and that my authentic path was what I needed to follow to be successful. Creatively and financially. in particular its important to shoot what you love and in the style that you love. I do want to say that its also great to have a mentor and in all of the arts, people starting out will choose someone who they appreciate and may pattern themselves after that individual until their own style begins to develop but thats the most important part in the end. Being authentic to oneself.

  18. September 27, 2013 at 4:28 pm —

    I love taking portraits of families, so everyone told me I would be great doing maternity shoots, newborns and glamour. But it is the family images that I love. I now have a studio built specifically with larger groups and children in mind. I take the other types of portraits if the specific image appeals to me, but that is all. I love what I do and no longer have the stress of having portrait sittings that I don’t have the passion for.

  19. September 29, 2013 at 11:12 am —

    I’m very happy I came across this article. I have been photographing for 3 years now, and after three years I’m starting to realize what my true passion is but trying to figure out how I start turning people away.
    I love love love my newborn sessions and I feel very fulfilled after each session and I love when they come back in for their 4mth, 8 mth, and of course when they come back in to smash their cake at one year! I don’t want to miss out on those moments, and especially when those newborns become a big brother or sister, I feel honored to watch their family grow. I guess I could limit it to just maternity through one year? But also allowing a few family sessions within the year of course…..
    I’m sorry for all the babbling but that point of finding your true self is exactly where I am right now after 3 years…..

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The Biggest Mistake You Can Make as a Photographer