Blogiversary | What I’ve Learned | Part I

1 year. 50 photo shoots. 205 blog posts. 2 business names. 1 workshop. Countless meltdowns. Endless smiles. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of work.

It’s been one year since I posted my first blog post. One year since I picked up my camera and stopped being scared to take photos of people. One year since someone took a chance on me. One. whole. year.

Oct. 30 was my blogiversary (yep, that’s SO a word), but I was in Tampa taking a much needed vacation this weekend–no photography, no editing, no e-mailing, no nuthin’! Just relaxing with a couple amazing friends (more to come on our Halloween shenanigans). So, even though I’m a couple of days late, I wanted to sum up my first year in business with a post on things I have learned. I learned most of these things the hard way (as I tend to do), but I wouldn’t go back and do any of it differently. Every hard moment, thrilling moment, tearful moment, and learning moment was worth it, and it’s seriously so exciting to think of how many more moments like those I have in front of me. Dude…I’m a photographer. I’m doing it. I’m loving it. That’s just nuts. 🙂

As I wrote this post, I realized I might possibly maybe perhaps have written a little too much, so I think I’m going to split this into two posts. You get 10 things I learned today and 10 tomorrow…so without further ado…

1. Read forums. The one I’ve read the most is Open Source Photo, and when I was trying to figure out what company to use for albums and prints, this forum was a total lifesaver. A ton of photogs all in one place chatting about this, that, and the other photography thing.

2. Don’t read forums. Ooh, contradicting myself already, am I? Yep. After spending a little bit of time on photography forums, I discovered a sad truth about the photography industry…a lot of photographers are just nasty. It’s really disappointing and disheartening, and some of the meanness I was witnessing on the forums just made me feel sick. How could people who shared the same passion be so cruel to each other? I don’t know that I have an answer to that, other than they feel threatened by people who are new to the industry, and they have apparently forgotten where they’ve come from. It’s an unfortunate reality. So, I say read forums as needed, but when they get discouraging…just step away. There is no need to add negativity in the industry to the already stressful nature of starting your own business. Stay positive and avoid the nasties out there.

3. Seek out people like you. Just because someone else declares that photography is their passion does not mean they are your kindred spirit. Even if the first few people in the industry you meet aren’t quite your cup of tea, keep seeking out photography friends. You are bound to find some special people out there just waiting to be your friend.

4. Contact people in the photography industry. No really…if you are a photographer and you are reading this, and you are hesitating to contact your favorite photographer and ask them out to coffee, or ask them if they need assistants/second shooters…then your homework THE MINUTE YOU FINISH THIS POST is to e-mail a local photographer. One of my biggest regrets this year has been that I didn’t ask Courtney Fries out for coffee when she still lived in Florida. She moved to Colorado earlier in the year, and I thought I’d lost my chance to meet this woman I admired so much, but then she offered a workshop in August. I attended and got to meet her, and she is literally one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I wish I had stepped out of my comfort zone and met her a year ago.

Also, on another note…I contacted both of the photographers I’ve had the privilege to second-shoot for this year. No one is going to contact you out of the blue to second-shoot. (Or if they do, tell me about it, because you must be doing something really right!) If you want it, ask for it. The worst that can happen is they say no…and then you just contact other photog’s until someone says yes. It is SO worth putting yourself out there.

5. Shoot in manual. I hate to admit this, but I was shooting in Auto for most of my portfolio building shoots. Yep…I was too scared to learn my camera. I don’t know why…but I just was. Maybe I was scared I would try to learn it and I wouldn’t be able to do it right. I don’t know…I just know that at some point in the spring I started working in aperture priority, and then out of the blue a photographer I had contacted way earlier in the year got back to me and asked me if I could help her shoot a wedding that weekend. I had read Jasmine Star’s blog about her experience second-shooting, and I was determined not to let a little thing called Manual Mode be a source of embarrassment for me. So, I came home from work every day that week and just made myself shoot in manual. Not great photos, just ANY photos…of my couch, my dog, Todd, my kitchen. I made myself work it out in a week, and I second-shot my first wedding in manual. Literally from that moment on, I saw an improvement in my photos. That was the biggest jump in quality I could put my finger on. I’ve been getting better all year, but that was a definite turning point. If you are still shooting in something other than manual, I am SO challenging you to quit that cold turkey and go full manual, baby!

6. Find open shade. Oh man, this is something I wish wish WISH I could go back and do right in my first shoots. I literally thought that putting someone in full sunlight was the right thing to do. Seriously…that makes sense, right?? Umm…negative, Ghost Rider. Not that it’s always bad to shoot in direct sun, but if you can find open shade…USE IT! By open shade, I don’t mean the subjects have to be under a tree or something. Just use the shade coming off a building, or from anything casting a shadow. Jasmine Star preaches that from the rooftops, but I didn’t get it til I finally learned it through my own shoots. Then I had a total “Duh!” moment and realized what I was doing wrong. Yeah…like I said, I apparently like to learn the hard way.

7. Don’t buy the cheaper or lesser version of equipment…you will always want the better version a week later. I bought the Speedlite 430 EX II the week before I second-shot my first wedding. I knew I needed a flash, and I fully intended on buying the 580 EX II. But Best Buy was out of it, and I had waited until the night before the wedding to buy it. I got myself in a pinch and ended up settling for the 430. It was cheaper, so that softened the blow a bit, but by the end of that first wedding I knew I wanted the 580. The 430 does the job, but the recycle time on the 580 is so. much. better. I will get that 580 at some point, but I definitely wish I had just spent the money and done the proper planning in the first place. I also learned this the hard way with memory cards. DON’T buy the cheaper (ie SLOWER) versions…they will just make you want to throw your camera across the room. Be wise with your money of course, and I know it takes time to work your way up to the top equipment. (Trust me, I know…I am waiting not-so-patiently for the day I can upgrade my camera.) But if you can swing it, go for the good stuff the first time around. Wise is good…cheap is not. Invest in good equipment…it will be worth it in the long run.

8. Buy more memory cards than you need. I have run out at weddings (when I was second-shooting, so not a huge deal) and been so frustrated. Buy a lot of them up front. You will need them!!

9. Know the basics of your camera inside and out. I’m still working on this one, since I am self-taught, but I’m leaps and bounds from where I was a year ago. I’ve gone to a workshop, taken a community photography course, read books, etc. Literally every single new thing I learn about my camera is evident in my next shoot. Learn your camera!!

10. Use Tiger Balm on your feet and knees when you get home from shooting a wedding. I learned this recently and it’s been AMAZING. My feet and knees killll me after a day at a wedding, so I started rubbing Tiger Balm on them before bed. It’s kind of like Icy Hot…but not. You can get it at health food stores or CVS. Seriously, it’s a lifesaver.

Alright, that’s all you get for today…more tomorrow!! Thanks for reading my crazy thoughts. If I can help one person learn one thing NOT the hard way, then I’ll be happy. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Blogiversary | What I’ve Learned | Part I

  1. Jaime

    I love reading your year in review post! How great to share all of the things that you learned this past year! And it was great having you second shoot for me. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Blogiversary | What I Learned | Part II |

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