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In this post Gina Milicia – author of our brand new eBook, “Portraits: Making the Shot” shares 30 lessons for those wanting to get into the photography business.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell
If you are going to invest in a photography course/workshop do some serious research first.
It’s a huge investment so find out who the teachers are. Are they industry professionals that are going to be teaching you relevant styles and techniques?
Is the style of teaching suited to your personality and photography?
Who are the ex students that have gone on to create successful careers?
Consider weekend workshops and online courses held by experts in their fields.
A mentor should be someone who has had a successful career, whose work you admire and is passionate about what they do. They should be available for at least one hour a month.
Intern with as many different photography businesses as you can, both large and small. My first interning gig was with a food photographer. I’ve also worked with high-end commercial product photographers, car photographers, and fashion and wedding photographers. I came away with valuable skills that I still use today.
When you are looking for an internship it’s often easier to offer your services on a casual daily basis or weekends or even nights rather than trying to find someone who will commit to a long-term internship.
I landed a full time assisting job with a fashion and celebrity photographer because he noticed I scrubbed his toilet and cleaned his studio when I had nothing to do
Some of your friends and family are going to try and talk you out of pursuing your dreams.
They have good intentions but it’s your dream not theirs.
If you spend 3 hours a day photographing and editing photos you will become a master at it in 10 years. There are no short cuts or magic formulas, just hard work.
When you love what you do it never feels like work.
Some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs had spectacular failures before they found success.
Henry Ford had 5 businesses fail before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.
Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times trying to invent the light bulb and after the 10,000th time; he succeed
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
The photography industry does not need another Ansel Adams, Annie Leibowitz, or Alfred Stieglitz. Develop a unique style that sets you apart from everyone else
Most people give too early. Building a business takes years, there will be set backs. Commit to the long haul.
Fact: the average entrepreneurial millionaire has been broke or nearly broke 3.2 times
It took me 5 years to actually make a profit. It took me ten years before that profit was enough to afford me a decent lifestyle
I worked full time in an Italian restaurant for the first 5 years
Having another job while I built my business had the following positive effects
I landed my first paid advertising shoot from waitresses I worked with. She introduced me to her husband who ran an advertising agency. One day he asked me to do a shoot for his agency. It was a simple product shot that should have taken an hour. I worked on it for 2 days, made a loss but earned a very happy and lucrative client.
Collecting new clients is a numbers game. In my early years I discovered that when I was showing my folio to Art Directors and Editors I was getting 30-50 “no’s” to every “yes”.
It took me many, many years to work out that this rejection is never personal. It often just comes down to potluck if you meet with someone on the same day they happen to have an assignment that suits you.
There are some very famous examples of people who experienced countless rejections before they achieved success
One of my greatest learning periods was during a 3-month stint working in a photo lab printing Black and white prints. Yes, last century when we marveled at the new mobile phone that was the size of a small refrigerator and twice as heavy.
I was shooting models tests all weekend and bringing them into the lab to print and process during the week. Two of my co-workers were 30+ year veterans who would critique my work and give me suggestions on improving technique and style.
Show your photos to as many industry professionals as you can. Ask for constructive criticism and learn from it. This is a great time of growth and learning.
Be grateful for all the praise your family and friends will always give your work but remember they will always love everything you do and may find it difficult to point out any faults.
If you want people to take you seriously then you should take your appearance seriously.
Never sign a contract before reading the fine print. If you don’t understand it then find someone who does.
Aim towards outsourcing all the things that take you away from earning money for your business like book keeping and web design. Your time would be better-spent blogging or marketing.
Blog, tweet, flickr, facebook, instagram, google+, linkedin do it all and do it often.
Share your work, support other artists whose work you love and be generous with your information.
Unless you are lucky enough to be working for cutting edge magazines or alternative clients who love to push the envelope shooting only paid work will give you a very generic looking folio.
Shooting personal projects give you a chance to test new lighting styles, lenses, locations and it’s a brilliant way to showcase your personality.
Name and number and file every shoot in a consistent way. If you’ve ever spent hours looking for an image or even worse lost files you will understand the importance of this point.
Keep one hard drive on location and another off site. Hard drives fail. Protect your files.
Use professional assistants. Having a great assistant means you never have to sweat the small stuff. Everything is taken care of. This means you can focus on getting the shot
Work with a variety of different Hair and Make Up artists and Stylists till you find the ones that compliment your shooting style.
A RAW image file contains all the original data that the camera censor captured.
A JPEG is a compressed file that only retains about half the data of a RAW file.
Give image the best possible chance from the start. No excuses. Just shoot RAW.
Pockets get holes in them and cards fail. I found out the hard way.
If you depend on your creativity for your living, then your most valuable piece of equipment is your mind. Taking time out everyday is a great way to do this and
The best advice on equipment and technique has come from spending time with other photographers. Social networking makes it really easy to connect with different photographers from all around the world.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The first thing I did when I decided to become a photographer was to get business cards printed that said Gina Milicia PHOTOGRAPHER. Even if I wasn’t 100% convinced I was ready or good enough the simple act of printing cards made it real to me.
I started out with a basic SLR camera and a cheap zoom I borrowed from my brother. I photographed only in daylight for the first 2 years because I could not afford flash gear and worked hand held because I also could not afford a tripod.
There will never be a time when you are 100% ready. There will always be something missing. Just start. Today.
A few great books that inspired me.
Gina is the author of four dPS eBooks including:
You can buy one for $19.99 or grab the whole bundle for only $49.99 (save 38%) from any of the links above.