FAQ /In The Beginning

Again, I'm probably not the most qualified person to write FAQ posts but I've been getting emails with questions so I thought I'd answer them in one big blog post! My answers are based on what has worked for me thus far in my business and if it helps you out in some way or another, then fabulous! If not, then you'll find some other way to find your answer.

Reader Question:
How did you get so many people in the beginning for your photo shoots when you were just starting out? Did you charge your first clients or did you use them as practice and then start charging once you had products to share?

When I felt comfortable enough with my camera I offered free photo sessions. Basically I put the word out on Facebook that I was looking for models to be willing to let me take their pictures for practice, for free. In return, as a thank you, I would give them a CD of the edited images (approx. 100 images). I got lots of responses from this and it definitely improved my confidence and my picture taking skills. I wasn't too picky at first about what type of shoots I did since I obviously needed experience with every genre of photo shoots. Later on I would pick the shoots that I wanted to either work on or just emphasize in my portfolio.

If someone specifically contacted me to do a photo shoot for them then I would charge them. I started out charging $50 for about an hour session and all images (approx. 100) on disc. I raised my rate for every 4 or so bookings. I think I went from $50 to $60 to $75 and so on, until I launched my website and my official business and now a portrait session starts at $120.

Reader Question:
Where do you print the pictures?

I've been getting my prints done through White House Custom Colour printers.

Reader Question:
How did you get the pictures in the beginning to showcase your work when you were just starting out and had no clients?

My 'portfolio' is all online. Mainly on this blog, and now also my website. The blog is what allows potential clients to see a whole session's images and to see consistency in that and what my overall style is, etc. After I've done a few more weddings then I'll put together my own Album to show potential brides and grooms what images they can expect and what the Albums look like and the quality of the printed images through a professional printer. I'm also planning on putting together a sort of album to compare different printers and the difference in quality clients would get by printing their pictures from Walmart versus printing through my Professional Printer. There really is a huge difference.

Reader Question:
How have you become more established? Do you think your Facebook page helped?

Honestly, most of my clients have found me by word of mouth. And most of my clients are all somehow connected to the very first paid photo shoots that I did! It's quite unreal, actually! But, yes, Facebook has been a huge Marketing tool that has worked to my advantage. I have traffic stats on my blog and website and Facebook is over and above the highest traffic source that brings viewers to my blog and website. Plus, on Facebook you can tag your clients which enables all their friends to see your work, and it keeps going from there! It's an upward spiral, really.  That's why the free sessions really aren't that bad to do. You tag your friends in them on Facebook and you keep spreading the word.

Along that same note, you have to realize that you won't be making a profit within the first year of your business. At least that's true for most of us! I guess that's common for any business, though. My advice: Do the free photo shoots. I did my first wedding for free (I was the 2nd photographer, but not working for the main photographer) because I just wanted to have the opportunity to shoot a wedding and have some pictures to show that I can do weddings. People need proof that you're capable of doing a wedding before they hire you. I had quite a few wedding inquiries after I posted the pictures from that first wedding. So yes, you might not be making any money for your first few shoots, heck you might even be losing money, but in the end you'll more than make up for it because people will see what you're capable of and start booking you and before you know it you'll have more bookings than you know what to do with! (I'm definitely not at that point yet but I'm striving for it!)

It's important to have good equipment, it doesn't have to be the best, just something that will produce good quality images. And then you go from there. I started out with my Canon EOS Rebel XSi with 2 kit lenses and the next week I already bought a new lens (off Craigslist) because I knew the type of pictures and style that I wanted to achieve couldn't be done with the lenses that came with my kit. But you can rent lenses, too, which lets you play with them before you invest in them, and they're pretty cheap to rent.

Also, read read READ!!! I can't stress this enough! I spent hours and hours and HOURS, reading different forums and articles and so many blogs! I still do, actually! There is so much invaluable information out there and there really are a lot of photographers that love to help out other photographers with their FAQ posts (which is why I plan to do them myself! Give back to the community, kind of thing.) One of the forums I frequently visit and write on is OpenSourcePhoto. There are so many helpful photographers on there (and some who need to have an attitude check), and SO MANY topics that it's quite overwhelming! I look at magazines and other photographers blogs to get posing ideas and I have a scrapbook type of thing where I cut out and glue in any poses that inspire me and I want to remember to use one day. I also save pictures I find online into a folder and look through them before shoots sometimes.

Basically, it takes time to flourish in this industry, as I'm learning all the time. But if you have the heart and passion for it, you'll get to where you want to be eventually! There are still so many things that I don't understand or am still learning about. Keep taking pictures. Keep loving it. And keep being inspired! But most importantly, do it for you. Do it because you love the art. Don't let someone take away your passion. I had that happen to me at the beginning of my journey when I had some people (other photographers online) to critique some of my photos and I started doubting my abilities and stuff because they pointed out some technical faux-pas's with my photos. But then I realized I don't care what other people think about my pictures. I don't follow all the rules. I don't care if I don't follow all the rules. I take pictures as I see them unfold in my mind and in my viewfinder. And people are obviously liking what they see since I'm still getting bookings. Even if I never made any bookings I still wouldn't change the way I take pictures. It's my style and my interpretation of the world and my surroundings, and no one can tell me that my interpretation of something is wrong.

That got really long, but I hope it made sense! Feel free to email me with any more questions you might have! vanessa@vanessavoth.com

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