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Reflecting
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Thursday, January 03, 2013
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I posted this on my Facebook page this morning, and it's had such a postivie response from others, I figured it'd be worth blogging too.  I just started to post a progression shot of my newborn work from 2010 to now, and then decided to give my thoughts on what it's like to be/become a photographer:

As I'm organizing files from last year, I wanted to take a moment to share this with you. The top is from my first ever newborn shoot back in 2010. It was free so I could "practice", but as you can see, the pose wasn't really posed, I had no clue about lighting, etc. The bottom shot is one from a session last month. Major difference.

I didn't go to school for photography (although it probably would have made things a little easier), my major was actually criminal justice. This all started as a hobby and has grown from there. I'm self taught, so to an extent, I guess that can really help me value all of the hard work that has gone into building a business.

I'm going to share my two cents in hopes that it will help at least one person. In this digital world, anyone can be a "photographer". But being a photographer doesn't mean getting a camera for Christmas, starting a Facebook page the next day and offering the session fee and 200 images on a CD for $50 because "there's no way you can imagine charging as much as some photographers in the area". You're cheating yourself and you're cheating your clients that have entrusted you with a special time in their lives. Period.

Personally, I did a lot of free sessions while I practiced and got to know my camera, lighting, editing. And here three years later, there are still things I want to learn and improve on. I wasn't even comfortable calling myself a photographer for a long time because I knew I had to get better. In fact, when people would ask what I did, I'd tell them about my then part-time job, and then say I took photos in my spare time.

I'm not saying don't go for your dreams. If you hope to be a photographer, please go for it! It can be so rewarding. But I'm here to tell you what I wish someone would have told me when I started; it's not just taking the photos and calling it a day. If you're going to do this, be legit. Otherwise, just keep photography as a hobby. You have to register your business. You have to pay taxes. You have to track expenses. You have to invest in education and equipment. You have to sacrifice time away from your family/friends/pets. Don't sell yourself short, or your clients. If this is going to be your occupation, you will not make money charging $50 for a CD. Take into consideration the actual time you invest. No, really. Add up the time you spend on marketing yourself so people contact you, emailing/setting up a session and going over details with clients, the travel time/gas to and from the session, babysitter fees if that applies, equipment you need for the session, uploading/culling/backing up/editing the images, preparing proofs for the clients, ordering/packaging/delivering prints, and the list goes on and on. Learn your camera, learn your techniques and start out on solid ground. Enlist friends to model for you, check into registering your business, what you need to do for taxes, etc. and then, practice, practice, practice!

That being said, I wouldn't change a thing looking back. It hasn't always been easy, but life's rewards seldom are easy to attain. I know just how rare it is to find something you truly enjoy doing, and I am so thankful that I have. Thank you to each and every one of you that has helped me grow and I can't wait to see what this year will bring.

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