This first year of running my own photography business has been such a learning experience for me! I look back at some of my past work and my first reaction is to immediately delete it from this blog! But then I think that it might not be a bad idea to be honest and show potential customers how far I've come and who knows, maybe some future photographers might gain some inspiration from my growth as well. Even this picture of the super adorable Lyra (whom I'd probably have to steal her name if I didn't already have a Clara...) has my old, boring watermark on it as well as some other watermark that Picasa added that is proving very difficult for me to remove. I strive for the best in all that I do, but by golly I'm far from having everything perfectly figured out!
Not only have my artistic skills with a camera grown exponentially, I have also slowly discovered my own personal style for doing business, and it hasn't necessarily been following what I've learned in all my studies of economics, leadership and proper business practice. The simple fact that I'm writing this post is SO against everything I've learned about having a successful business... Maybe my idea of success is just different from the norm. It seems like everything I have read is along the lines of "how to charge a million dollars for a session and make people think that's what they want..." But why would I charge more for something than I'd be willing to pay?
You're also not supposed to start a business without a solid business plan. It is the foundation on which success can be constructed... This business just kind of happened. I started this blog as a place to display my new-found love, then had the opportunity and idea to help out a friend and her little boy with cancer, and then the realization that I could actually do this as a business. It wasn't such a far-fetched idea... Everyone is well aware that the photography market is completely saturated on the supply side of the scale. Traditional photographers have a love/hate relationship with the advancements in technology and their wide-spread availability today. Love, well, because camera and editing technology is simply awesome! Hate, because "everyone and their dog" has a DSLR camera and is an expert with Photoshop.
Don't get me wrong, I am not frowning upon the "momtogs" or whatever other words have been invented to negatively describe anyone other than a traditional photographer out there. Technically, that's what I am... A mom. With a camera. Everyone has to start somewhere (and boy am I glad that my "start" was over a year ago and I've now got that first year under my belt!) Dealing with the technical & legal side of running a creativity-based business has, and continues to be so much fun. I mean, who doesn't love figuring out how to run the books, keep track of expenses, and pay sales tax? *Did you know that all photography services that you pay for, even sitting fees and digital images are supposed to be assessed state sales tax? Just a fun fact that I had to search for days to find out!* Okay, so I actually kind of enjoy running a legitimate, legal business. Just don't ask me how I feel about that when tax time comes, alright?
I've had to seriously assess my flimsy little business plan and have decided to start the new year with a more solid foundation for my photography. My goal will continue to be to provide for my customers exactly what I would want from a photographer: quality images, competitive pricing, and always digital files. But I have to remember that the most important people I need to take care of are my husband and children. That will always be my top priority in my mind and I need to show that through my actions. A very wise man once said that "Love is really spelled T-I-M-E."
Every time I watch this video I am reminded to slow down and focus on the "Things that Matter Most." I love the message, which applies to everyone no matter what your beliefs are. The beautiful words, music and images shown throughout this video just make me smile, and this will be an important part of my business and life goals for 2012:
I would love to continue to be able to offer my photography services for next to nothing, but I need to make photography worth the time that I am away from my family. My prices will always be extremely competitive since I believe that everyone deserves beautiful, quality photos to cherish, keep, share and display. I hope everyone knows how much time I put into making their pictures great. Between keeping up the blog & business, scheduling and answering questions, the actual time spent shooting a session, securing a babysitter while I'm gone, hours and hours of editing (I'd say about an average of at least 4 hours per session), watermarking and posting previews on facebook, looking for and creating props, putting together discs in custom-created packaging and mailing/delivering discs, not to mention time learning and improving my art... I put so much time and love into each session!
So... If you've made it this far in the post I suppose the point in sharing this is to explain why I will only be taking limited bookings next year, as well as a nice long extended maternity leave from April through July. Thank you all for your support in my photography endeavors this year. I have truly loved all the beautiful people I have been able to photograph, and I can't wait to see what 2012 brings!