I'm defiantly no expert on starting your own business, but I have done it, and so far so good. When I started shooting portraits, families, pageant girls, babies and weddings I was so far from wanting to start my own business. I had moved to TX with my then boyfriend, now fiance, and was looking for a job. After finding a whole lot of nothing photography related I ended up hosting at a restaurant called Ironwood Grill (shout out to Tom and Keri- best onion rings and steak EVER!!!!). While I did love the people I worked with and the food I didn't feel like I was doing much in terms of self fulfillment. I started searching for photographers, photography studios, galleries, anything I could find that was photo related. I came across a website for Image Forward Photography. Which was a small family run studio right in town. I emailed the owner, Debbie, and asked if she happened to need any help. Well it was the wrong time of year and she wasn't very busy but she had me come by and chat one afternoon anyway. We chatted and laughed and I felt like she could be a really fun person to work for. A few weeks later Debbie called and offered me a job doing some design work and some photography work. A perfect fit in my mind.
I worked for Image Forward shooting weddings, senior portraits, engagements and lots of family photos for over two years. They became my family away from home and I miss those ladies dearly. I remember the day when Debbie told me when I moved away that I should do this on my own. I was shocked! I had not even considered having my own photo studio. I knew the basic in's and out's of our whole process but couldn't imagine doing it without these ladies. If it wasn't for Debbie planting that seed I'm not sure I would have ever taken that leap. But here I am 5+ years later with a growing photography studio of my very own.
Starting a business is scary! There are no if's, and's or but's about it. But it is also really exciting. I didn't exactly jump in with two feet when I started Concept Spring Studios (my original studio name). I started with two weddings, both for family friends. I was paid very little, it was mostly about experience and having some of my own images to show. Because of the years I had spent with Image Forward I felt like I really had a great platform on which to jump off into the world of professional photographers. That first year I shot a few small weddings and slowly built my portfolio. By the following year I was booking weddings 8+ months out and was feeling quite confident and since then my business has continued to grow. I now am a full time photographer, I have an assistant who works with me for 90% of my weddings and in June of 2011 I opened an official studio space in North Conway village.
The best advice I could give anyone starting their own photography business is to ASK QUESTIONS!!!! Attend a WPPI, PUG or other local seminar. Listen to others in this industry, network with other photographers in your area and ask every and any questions you have. Truly having people that I could look up to encourage me was such a huge help in those early days when doubt would creep in from the dark corners and scare me away from the hope of quitting my full time job. To be honest, having those people that I can look up to now when I need encouragement and help is still one of the most valuable resources I have.
The professional photographer community is so special, most photographers out there today are very open with their ideas, their techniques and their advice. I believe in sharing all and any information I have. Nothing is a secret, there is nothing I do that I wouldn't gladly share the ideas and resources that I have with others. What makes us unique is ourselves and no one can copy that so why not share all the other good stuff that helps everyone along the way.
I've always wanted to teach, or mentor or find some way to give back... I may not be at a point where I can be much help right now but anyone out there who needs advice, another set of eyes to look at something or even just someone to share struggles with and know you are not alone- please, email me and Id be more then happy to help in any way I can. Seriously.... if you are thinking "oh that would be cool but...." stop right there and just send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story, your struggles and your hopes for the future because by just sharing them you are taking a huge step in the right direction, and I'm happy to help however I can.