Recently, I have been asked numerous times about what got me started into photography and what made me want to pursue the business side of things. My parents will be the first to tell you that packed away on external hard-drives and printed photo albums are countless videos and pictures that I took. This collection consisted of the selfies, documentation of life events and oh-so-many flower pictures. By the time I was in middle school, I was subscribed to the young horse magazine, Young Rider,where you could sign up to have a pen pal. I just happened to be matched with another savvy horse-obsessed girl and photographer, Charlotte, who was my muse in the early days. Charlotte was a member of the online photography community, Flickr,and I remember seeing one of her pictures of a starfish being silhouetted by the sunset and from that moment I was hooked. My own trip to Charleston, South Carolina, in sixth grade was where I can definitely put a pin in the start of this photography adventure.
Fast forward to high school and I had my own Nikon Coolpix. And man, did I think I was cool. I begged for a DSLR and was even teased, terribly I might add, one Christmas when I unwrapped a Nikon D3200 box from my aunt that was actually filled with rocks and random gifts. I was heartbroken. And, nobody could understand my level of devastation that Christmas. Needless to say, I worked hard and finally made the purchase. That Nikon D3300, the newer version, was my trademark and entrance into the portrait world. The kind of purchase I cried when I opened the box. Happy tears.
You Can Get Paid?
My first ever paying client, Kate, entrusted me to do her senior portraits. God bless her soul. I had no idea there was so much to consider like shooting in manual, raw format, lighting, posing, etc. There is so so much to photography that people just don’t realize. There is a reason our prices are what they are – but more on that later. The crazy part – Kate wanted to pay me. The fact you could make money doing this had genuinely never crossed my mind. Who knew. I believe I charged her the bare minimum. I was so nervous to even give her my price for the session. Now she is a repeat customer and the improvements that come with each session I do with her are priceless. My ideal clientele and, ultimately, a new friend.
From there, I was “Liz Kyle Photography” and when that was not enticing me anymore and my talents were now slightly more impressive, I rebranded to “L. Marie Photography.” My soul intention was to photograph horses and seniors in high school, but then the craziest thing happens: people believe in you + your talent. I got asked to do more and more sessions and realized how much I loved the challenge. The first time I got asked to do a wedding? Shocked. But there I was, reading up and obsessing over how to be the best wedding photographer I could be. I successfully added that to my portfolio, too.
Never Stop Learning: A Modern Cliché That Is Correct
Was it easy? No. Am I still improving? Heck, yes. Every shoot I come away with something new to add to my toolbox. Plus, I haven’t just been working as a photographer. I’ve been a full time student, I have worked countless jobs to sustain my business and basic necessities for myself. I have learned to balanced family, friends and horseback riding with work and school – even now I still struggle to find that balance. I talk about my business constantly. I try to be presentable when going out to meet new people. I am a firm believer in how you present yourself is the best way to attract your ideal clientele. Of course, that doesn’t always work out how I want it to. But, that’s just life for you. I network like crazy and honestly have learned recently that I may need to learn to turn off that aspect and take time for myself. When I’m not networking, I’m a hermit in my room: messy bun, special glasses to filter out the blue light and working.
So… Now I Must Be a Millionaire Photographer, Right?
My secret? Dream and dream big. Set goals that are tangible and within reason. Don’t reach for the end goal, have it in mind, but work up to that goal with the baby steps needed. Believe in yourself and your talent. Surround yourself with those who believe in you and are the hype team you did not know you needed. It is a huge industry with thousands of photographers that live in one community alone. Believe me when I say it is so easy to get down about your work after seeing how well other photographers are doing and booking “so many shoots.” Trust me, it just means you haven’t found your ideal clientele because the good news – there are more people than photographers and everyone needs a photographer to document certain life events. I now have four weddings this fall with four already booked for 2020. Two of those weddings are in Pennsylvania. When I started this photography adventure? I had zero weddings and maybe four “official shoots” a year. Each year, I have grown this small precious child of mine. I just added another full-frame camera to the collection that I can have a backup camera for my weddings to provide the best service that I can. This is just the beginning and I cannot wait to grow to that six-figure business I know I can attain.
What side job dream do you have? Is it something tangible that you could maybe pursue? Message me about it and maybe I can share some insight on how to get your idea into a full-fledged business!