I’m sitting here behind my computer repeating to myself “big breaths, Larissa. Big breaths.” Because letting whoever has two eyes and can make sense of some letters in on a secret that I’ve felt like I’ve had to keep hidden feels real scary. I own what I think of as a successful photography business. I went from my first session I practically forced my best friend to do to making more than what I made when I left my 9-5 job. BUT -and to me this was a BIG but for a long time – I am not a graduate of some photography program. I didn’t get a degree in the art of photography. No, I was just a lost 26 year old with a big dream. So here goes the spilled beans on the only education I had before starting my photography business.
Ben and I had just moved to our new house near Boulder, Colorado. I had stepped out of a corporate office for the last time. My 26th birthday was nearing, not knowing how I could get to where I wanted to go next. This was February of 2016.
I had dreamed of starting a photography business since I was in college (heck it started wayyy back in high school when I took a film photography class), but I thought I had to know all the ins and outs of my camera perfectly before starting. And the crippling thing about that thought was that I knew it would take a long time to get to perfect so I was afraid to even start.
Then, on 26th birthday, my husband Ben (knowing me wayyyyy better than I know myself) bought me a weekend long photography course for my birthday. Now I was stuck. I had to take photography lessons. I had to force myself to start somewhere. So I took a weekend long photography class from the Denver School of Photography to learn how to take my camera off automatic and actually turn the dial to the daunting “M”. “M” as in MANUAL!
That weekend I learned all about the controls on my camera and how to make the image I envisioned in my head actually happen. Like seriously, truly understanding aperture was mind-blowing for me! After I took that manual photography class, I felt like I could rule the world. Did I know everything? NO. Was I an amazing photographer all at once? Hell no! Did I have a long way to go? You betcha! BUT, what I did have was the confidence to start moving in the right direction. Two months later I did my first “real” photography session – A.K.A. I roped my best friend into being my model. On June 8th, 2016, I officially launched We, The Light Photography to my Facebook world (I mean it’s not official until it’s Facebook official, right?!).
You guys, all I knew about photography was how to take my camera off automatic and move it to manual.That’s it! I didn’t know how to do it that well. I didn’t know everything there is to know about lighting and filters and flash and lenses – trust me, that stuff still confuses me sometimes. But, I knew enough to take a few halfway decent pictures and JUST START.
Right now, I encourage you to go back to my very first blog post (what was I thinking with the over-exposure!) or scroll all the way down to the bottom of my Instagram and see my very first photos I took when I started this entrepreneurial journey. And THAT right there is proof that anyone can do this! ANYONE!
It’s weird to look back two and a half years later and see how far I’ve come. And it’s almost harder to admit that the ONLY education I had in photography before starting this business was a two day class on how to shoot in manual. There’s a lot of other photographer’s out there flaunting their photography degrees and the millions of classes they’ve learned from and so many times in the beginning (and if I’m honest, I still feel it now) I felt like I was a fake. Like I wasn’t good enough because I took one class and have pretty much taught myself the rest. I was a fraud. That barely learning how to switch my camera from “A” to “M” made me less-than or not good enough.
Friend, can I be real honest with you. How well you shoot your camera is not the number one thing that’s going to make you successful! Sure, you need to learn how to shoot and continually work to improve your craft. But the best technical photographer in the world would have nothing if they were still afraid to just start.
If you are getting hung up on the technical side of your camera before starting your photography business, I totally get it – I was right where you are just a few years ago. I promise you that learning to use your camera and shoot in a way that you feel like you have control of the outcome is not hard. Yes, you have to take the time to sit down and learn it. And then you have to take even more time to continually practice it. But, there are so many resources out there just waiting for you to soak up.
If you are local to Colorado and are a more hands on learner like I am, I definitely recommend the Denver School of Photography or just google “DSLR photography classes near me”. If you learn well with online courses ShootFlyShoot has a great intro to photography course for a great price!
Just get out there friend and start learning! You don’t need to know everything to get started, you just have to make the decision to start.
Hey, it’s me, Larissa! I started my photography business three years ago with a one-day photography class, a craigslist camera and zero experience photographing people. I’m not a hot shot in the industry, but a real person who built a business that replaced my previous job’s income and a fire in my soul to share how I got my business off the ground with other newbie photographers. If you want more advice, how-to’s and tips on getting your portrait photography business off the ground, head over to my photographers page!