6 Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make (And how to fix them!)
We’ve all been beginners, and we’ve definitely all made mistakes. In this post, I’m going to talk about the mistakes I made, to help you avoid them, or to help you fix them!
Ok, I could go on forever about pricing (I won’t, I promise). There’s two huge mistakes you can make when pricing yourself; underpricing, or over pricing. When I first started out, I definitely underpriced myself. I was working for between 20-40$ (yikes), and clearly didn’t learn my lesson the first year, because the following year I raised my rates to 50$… Double yikes. I’ve always had problems with seeing my own value, and I know a lot of us do, especially when first starting out. A great way to find your right pricing, is to test out your local market (how much are people spending on photographers on average per photoshoot?), and evaluate where you are as a photographer. Finding the right rates for your work can be trial and error, and if you’re underpricing yourself due to lack of portfolio, be creative and plan some styled sessions under your control! Offer free or discounted portraits of your friends or family, with strict guidelines (what to wear, where to shoot, etc), and with the understanding that it’s a one-time deal.
On the contrary, it’s possible to overprice yourself! Beginners sometimes price themselves higher than their local professionals, and then complain of a lack of bookings. If you price yourself high, you have to have the work quality and history to back it up. Your rates are unique to you, and shouldn’t be copied.
2. Biting Off More Than You Can Chew
Here’s some harsh truth: you shouldn’t be taking on weddings without proper gear. Some might argue with me on that, saying some couples only want a beginner… Which is true, some couples prefer hiring students/beginners for their wedding day to cut costs. However, that doesn’t mean they want their wedding photos to turn out blurry and out of focus, or to have the photographer’s camera break during the ceremony without backup… And they especially don’t want to have their wedding photos lost due to camera malfunctions or improper care of the files. If you do not have a decent camera (plus a backup), experience with bad lighting situations, and a proper way to store the files afterwards, you should not be taking on a wedding.
The same idea goes for photoshoots as well! If someone asks you to do posed, studio-like newborn photos, and you have no experience with newborns, no access the lighting needed, or props, you shouldn’t be taking on that session. This is a lesson a lot of people learn the hard way, and a huge reason some beginners quit altogether. Keep learning, keep growing, keep taking on new experiences - just make sure you’re prepared for them!
3. Saying Yes To Everything…
Want to start hating photography? Say yes to every inquiry.
Let’s rewind; saying yes to different photoshoots when you’re first starting can be a great way to learn and grow! However, learn when to say no. If you know you don’t want to shoot any weddings, don’t say yes to wedding inquiries. If you tried newborn photos and hate doing them, stop saying yes to them! You’re running your own business, and you have the control to shoot what you want to shoot! “No” will set you free, pal.
4. Site + Logo Design
I know, this is where people start yelling “I don’t have the money to invest in a nice site or logo!!”… Well, here’s a secret friend: you don’t need to dish out hundreds of dollars to have decent branding when you’re a beginner. I started my site for free, with a handy website builder (like Format, or Wix!). Ask for friends feedback, ask for professional feedback, study (but don’t copy!) other sites, and don’t only take into consideration what you like, but what a potential client would like to see. As for logos, you can find pre-made templates online for cheap (like on Etsy), and they look professional. These are great placeholders to give your business that extra professional look, until you’re ready to really invest!
Oh, we’re about to get real. As a beginner, I thought having a business partner looked SO good. Two photographers, how amazing! … Not. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of successful photographers have partners and it works great for them, but when you’re first starting out, it could lead to disaster. In my case, I was young, naive, and so inexperienced - I thought having a partner with a bit more experience than me would be ideal for growing my business. I walked into this situation with no contract, no plan, and the thought that this was the best idea. This led to my ex-business partner stealing money, flaking out on clients, claiming my images as their own, etc. Having a business partner set me back by a year, rather than helping me grow, and was a huge regret for me.
If you think a business partner is the way you want to go, go through the proper steps! Have a contract between the two of you, have plans set in place, have experience under your belt, and a lot of communication.
6. Free Work
“Ok but Molly you literally said above to offer free portfolio building work.” Yes ma’am I did, this isn’t what I’m referring to here though. You’ll get them, the inquiries asking for free work, and their justification of; “this would help build your portfolio so much!”, or “I will promote you to my followers!”… If it’s not going to benefit your business goals, say no. If you don’t feel comfortable working without pay, say no. Nobody walks into a restaurant and says “I’ll post this meal on social media if I get it for free.”, and it is truly unacceptable when someone asks the same of your business. Boundaries are important for a business.
Are you a beginner with questions for me? Feel free to reach out anytime! And guess what?! I’m now offering one on one mentoring sessions, to focus on you, and how to help your business grow. Contact me for info.