December 04, 2009
By Krista Wells, Ph.D.
One military couple formed a husband and wife team after he retired from the Air Force. After leaving the service, he went to the Hallmark Institute of Photography in MA and while they both started out with jobs in various studies, they combined the business acumen she picked up from years of sales and training jobs, with his military discipline, and their combined artistic eye, and they started a flourishing business out of their home. They recommend that new photographers something like the Connecticut Professional Photographers' Association (CPPA) to network with other professional photographers.
Meredith always loved photography as well, but her parents insisted she become a graphic designer instead because, “it pays more!” So that is what she did for four years after art school; but then missing photography too much, she went out and invested in a fancy digital camera never looked back. She began shooting portraits of her friends and families (and their babies) and this slowly turned it into a “real portable business.” She started out slow, but through trial and error, has made a real name for herself.
Meredith suggests being frugal. “Don’t over-do spending. Get what you need and work with that, there is time later to invest in more equipment.”
When I asked if owning her own business was flexible she laughed, “…for me it’s a full time job. I work 12-14 hours 6 days a week because I do EVERYTHING!”
Meredith is a great example of someone that knows her passion, and doesn’t fear the hard work it takes to have what you want. She said that while photography is portable, owning your own business requires adjustments when you move across state lines building up new clientele in new cities isn’t easy, but still worth allowing her to follow her passion. She said she uses a Facebook fan page; puts ads at spas, nail salons, kid’s boutiques, etc. and even after a move, gets a few initial clients and then relies on quick word of mouth. She admits it took over a year and a half to get her business moving again after her move, but always learns so much in the process, and makes great use of downtime, and volunteers to take photos at military events to add to her diverse portfolio.
“Lisa,” an military girlfriend pursuing a career as a photographer, shared that she actually met her Army boyfriend while working part time at a portrait studio. He encouraged her to take the next step in her career, and she is so grateful she did. Lisa also goes to college for the fine arts but doesn’t feel like she is getting the technical foundation she needs or the business background to start a business just yet. She enjoys working at the studio because she is guaranteed a paycheck and feels that its something she may want to pursue as a business once she is older, married, or even when she is home with her kids. A dream of Lisa’s is to have a family but wants to finish school first so she will always have a degree to fall back on that she can use in companies. She is learning in class that organizations are hiring in house photographers and this is something that interests her as well.
Paula, a military reservist spouse, works for a variety private schools as an independent contractor-specializing in outdoor black and white portraits in a natural setting as a unique school niche. P
“Working with kids is the best experience ever,” says Paula. “If I can get good shot of a squirming kid that captures their personality, I feel like I can do anything! Paula also loves all the compliment from proud parents and grandparents that enjoy her offering something a little different.
Learn the Craft of the Camera
: These photographers advice learning to use the camera on its manual settings. Just like we learn how to use the calculator, after learning hand-written arithmetic. If you always use your camera on automatic, then you never learn all of the possibilities.
Shoot for Experience
: Spouses shared that they took job they could find at first to gain experience. They recommend trying Craig’s List, and peeking at other creative job search engines (i.e. digg, indeed, or specific creative headhunting companies, and in-house corporate photographers).
Picture What’s Next
: Spouse started out at portrait studios, then set a goal to become a independent contractor (working for schools, real estate agencies, media photos). There are studios which hire photography interns and, even though unpaid, give you experience that you can build into a business.
Focus For Success
: Consider joining a professional photography club where you can enter contests, learn innovative techniques, and meet potential mentors. Search photography blogs for new tips and ideas on how to market your work, read trade magazines, and invest in those extra photography intensive classes that feed your creative spirit and keep your style fresh.
o PA- Professional Photographers of America: www.ppa.com
o Digital Photo Pro Magazine: www.digitalphotopro.com
o Photo district news: www.pdn.com