We all make mistakes...
I haven’t been doing photography for very long. I picked up my camera around 2016 thinking I had what it takes to make a photography business, but it became clear that I just wasn’t ready back then. I reignited my business in 2022 and quickly realized I needed to make some changes in order to offer a product I am proud of.
There’s a learning curve to any new skill and my biggest problem was I ignored the learning part of this journey for an embarrassingly long time. The worst part is my earliest clients suffered by getting sub-par photos back from me. Yikes…
What mistakes did I make early in my career? Well, let me tell you…
1 Not Learning How to Properly Use Editing Software
This was a big one. The right settings in Lightroom and Photoshop can make or break a photo. I had a decent handle on posing and was using appropriate photography theory to frame my photos, but when it came to the post-processing, I wasn’t doing even half of what I should have. Photos came out with odd color choices, a lot of noise and loud lighting settings. Now, I understand Lightroom a lot more, made the switch to Lightroom Classic (game changer, let me tell you), and started educating myself on what all these settings even do. I would caution any would-be photographer to take a class and get a handle on this at the same time as learning their camera. The two go hand in hand in more ways than I have the time to explain right now.
2 Not Shooting in RAW
Once I got a handle on Lightroom I realized I was still missing something. My photos were still coming out not looking crisp and beautiful like all the Instagram photographers I follow. What gives? I was shooting in JPEG… This is a rookie mistake and we’ve all done it. I didn’t even know shooting a RAW file was an option when I first started out. RAW allows you to do more in post-processing with your base photo without downgrading the quality. When trying to correct an over or under exposed image, you often lose the fine detail quality, but shooting in RAW can save some of that detail and thus, save the whole photo. That's just one example! When you export your final product, it retains more of that crisp detail, allowing you to deliver a higher quality product to your clients. Do yourself a favor, adjust your camera to shoot in RAW. Any DSLR has this option, and if you don't have a DSLR, make that investment. It's so worth it.
3 Not Using Manual Mode
Cameras are awesome. They have so many settings, but for someone who isn’t a professional, that can be super overwhelming. Luckily they come with all of these cool auto-modes that adjust the settings for you! Sometimes, those setting adjustments aren’t what you want, so switching to manual mode and adjusting those settings as needed for your style and vision is necessary. I wasn’t doing this for the longest time, and when I did begin doing it, I had a massive misunderstanding of what it meant to shoot manually. Manual mode allows adjustments to ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, and most professional-grade cameras have manual mode options that allow you to focus on just two of these at a time with the third being automatically adjusted based on your settings for the other two. Photography requires you balance these three aspects to create a beautiful image. I know this information now, but when I switched to manual the first time, I not only tried to work on all three of these at once, but I was also adjusting the camera focus manually as well… Needless to say, I was taking some less than crisp shots, missing big moments fiddling with my settings, and creating frankly crappy art. As I said, my early clients suffered some terrible, low quality sessions while I took the time to figure this all out. I owe you all a real session someday.
4 Not Practicing Enough
Learning a new trade comes with a lot of new information. The best way to really understand all this new information is to practice! I took some classes, fiddled with my camera in my own living room, and at the end of it all, still didn’t take a single photo. I absorbed all of these new things to make my photos better and used none of it for a really long time! To get better at photography you have to be behind the camera as much as possible. You have to be willing to try something and fail, but the practice and experience you gain from it is so worth it. You can’t truly apply any of the photography principals you learn about without stepping behind the lens, and I just wasn’t doing this enough by any means. I did finally swallow my pride, admit I needed some practice, and did a bunch of free sessions just to learn what I was doing.
5 Giving Up
You read that right. I once gave up on the idea of being a photographer, of running my own business and creating a product people would love. I picked my camera up in 2016. And put it down in 2016. I decided that it was too hard, there was too much to learn, and I just didn’t have the “natural talent” for it. I decided at the time that it just wasn’t worth it. I spent 5 years thinking about my camera and it’s dead batteries, but not doing anything more than a free back to school photo for my friend’s kids. I finally realized this could be something I really love if I just spent the time on it. So I put the time in. I got behind the camera. I did as many free online classes I could find (and a few paid ones). I let go of the fear and swapped my camera to manual. I spent time learning post-processing software. I did a ton of free sessions and found friends and family members to model for me. And, what do you know. I got better.
Am I a perfect photographer? Definitely not. There are thousands upon thousands of things I could stand to learn about this business and my craft. But I can say with certainty I am not the same photographer I was six years ago. Done are the days of blurry, over-exposed photos. I now enjoy the learning process almost as much as I enjoy taking the photos themselves. I’m routinely excited to get out and try a new style or a new technique. And I’m finally proud of the work I do.