Encountering challenges is inevitable when it comes to running a business. And it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll encounter some unexpected speedbumps that’ll bring valuable lessons. That’s why it’s important to embrace these difficulties as opportunities for growth. But setbacks don’t just enable your own personal development. They also allow you to provide valuable insights to others within your industry. And today, some of your favorite photographers are sharing some of the biggest lessons they’ve learned throughout their journeys.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the industry, these photographers are dishing out valuable tips and insights that can truly transform your perspective on photography.
1. Growth is Waiting for You Beyond Your Comfort Zone
Scotland-based photographer Raini Rowell’s biggest lesson they’ve learned is to “Seek out discomfort—that’s where the growth happens. If you find yourself feeling like everything comes easily/naturally/automatically to you or your work is starting to feel too ‘samey,’ it might be a sign that you need to try something new. Try a new technique, go somewhere you’ve never been, put out that messaging you’ve shied away from, approach that vendor whose work you admire—even if it means facing that awkward prospect of rejection or failing or being imperfect.”
2. Don’t Lose Yourself in the Noise
The Rose Reflective Photography is sharing their biggest lessons, and that’s to “Go all in–with your art, your clients, and your business. Be so confident in the photos and experience you offer your clients that it is borderline delusional. If you aren’t confident, slow down and approach your business with intention. Confidence comes from being totally yourself and owning what makes your work yours. What do the clients that have hired you say stand out most about the photos and experience you offer them? Looking at other photographers’ photos, branding, copy, client experience, and strategies is okay for inspiration, but be careful not to lose yourself in the noise.
Finding you in your business comes from a lot of introspection and less from outside influences. When I started showing up confidently as myself (however weird), I started connecting with the clients that wanted to travel to Oregon’s Coast for an elopement that felt vaguely like a romantic horror movie and that valued LGBTQ+ inclusivity as much as I do.”
3. Remind Yourself That Your Photos are for the Couple
“At the beginning of my career, I followed blogs, looked at Instagram, and tried hard to create inspirational images for others.” But UK photographer Cara Zagni-Elden quickly realized what’s important, “The images you take as a photographer aren’t for you, they aren’t for Instagram, and they aren’t for you to decide what’s trendy. They are for the couple. It’s about capturing their love, their story, and their connection (yes, this can lead to some cracking publishable images), but reminding myself these images are for the couple and not about me keeps me grounded and actually creates my best work.”
4. Protect Your Time, Energy, and Creativity
Cedric D. Vincent learned one of the biggest lessons at the beginning of his career, and that’s “Overbooking will eventually lead to burnout. As photographers tend to get more successful, we tend to book as many weddings as possible to make more money. This was the biggest mistake during my growth. I suddenly had a lot of work and, on top of that, a huge amount of backlog. This led to me being stressed, unable to deliver galleries on time, and neglecting some in the process. I ultimately raised my price and booked fewer weddings. My energy and creativity came from a better place since then, and there was more room for growth.”
5. It’s Okay to Say “No”
Building a successful photography business requires you to protect yourself as well. And Indiana wedding photographer Stephanie McKenna is giving us a few important reminders: “Don’t spread yourself too thin by taking on too much work. It hinders your creativity. Overshooting is nothing to brag about. Slow down, be intentional, and anticipate the shot.
Lastly, only say yes to work and projects that inspire you. It’s okay to say no to things that don’t.
6. Photography is More than Building Your Portfolio
As a photographer, the odds of you capturing images in the same locations are quite high. And that’s why Nikolaichik Photo reminds us that “Sometimes photographers photograph elopements in the same locations over and over again. And it might start to look similar. But it’s important to remember that your clients flew thousands of miles to see these places for the first time and elope there. It’s our job to photograph the day about them and for them, not for our portfolio or Instagram.”
7. Release Yourself From the Trend Trap
New Zealand photographer Pia Bacino’s “Biggest lessons are to burn the grandstands and that the story behind your photography is what truly matters. The grandstands symbolize the people looking at us, whether in praise or judgment. To burn them is to release ourselves from the trend trap and simply be free in the expressions of stories we love to tell. We can spend so long thinking that our work will only be good if it looks a certain way (mostly defined by who we look up to or by trends). The truth is, the best work is the one that makes you come alive and means something to you. After all, we do this to be free and creative.”
8. Own Your Photography Style
“You can always copy other photographers. However, in the end, it’s not actually you. And destination photographer Weddings by Qay realized that’s why it’s so crucial to “Be who you are and don’t be others. Can you take inspiration from others? Yes, definitely, but put your own spin on it. It’s also important to remember to treat every wedding differently, even at the same location. Each and every wedding is special in its own way.”
9. Create an Experience for Your Clients Before, During, and After the Big Day
California elopement photographer Julia Maass has photographed many elopements over the years, and she’s “Learned that prioritizing your client’s experience before, during, and after their wedding day is the best thing. Ultimately leaving it up to the couple and helping guide them through the experience results in the most unique photos. One of the most epic photos I’ve captured actually came from inspiration from my clients, and I love that you can photograph in the same location and lighting but get wildly different results!”
The photography community is such a beautiful one to be a part of. It’s amazing to witness countless creatives taking time out of their busy schedules to support fellow members, offering priceless insights to those navigating the industry. And that’s exactly why we’ve created the Photobug Community Facebook Group—a group of like-minded photographers that share valuable lessons like this, ask questions, share their latest work, network, etc.
So, if you’re hunting for a group of creatives that’s all about lifting each other up, click here to join our Facebook group.