For a long time I was a little embarassed by my emotions. I would stuff them down under a composed exterior, the in-control Christa. It wasn't until I met and fell in love with my own dear Husband that I finally became comfortable with embracing them.
Not only have I become more relateable (so my mom says, and you know she's always right) but its made me a better photographer. Father/Daughter moments really do make me cry and seeing a groom's fierce love for his bride gets me every time.
What I would say to a younger me is this: Let go of your emotional inhibitions and shoot with unbridled passion. Shoot it like you want to shoot it, deep down, not like what's just expected of you or the way other photographers do. Jump out of the box sooner, stick to your guns and continue developing your signature look. Stop second guessing yourself in the moment and lead your clients right to the point you want them. Spend your time looking forward, stop being scared and jump.
4 years ago, I was running a clothing line, full website, and product coming out of my ears. While a glamorous job, it wasn't worth the remuneration I was getting for the sacrifice my family and I were investing. Struggling, and not a little frustrated, I started to look for other options. Meanwhile, I had invested in the Nikon D80 and A local mentor had taught me the basics of manual exposure. Picking up that camera was terrifying, I had no footing, no experience, and no lack of jitters. With settings safely on Auto, I shot my Summer collection, determined to save some expense by shooting it myself.
For once, I could interpret my own vision. I could make the photos look exactly like what I had envisioned in my head. The magic happened, and I was hooked.
While still maintaining the clothing line, I started shooting seniors on the side. Friends loved my work and my clients grew. At the time I shot for a flat rate of $150-seniors, families, fashion you name it. It was just something I loved, gradually my fear of the technical side started to dissipate-
A few months later I knew the time had come, I closed my company and switched the entire brand to my photography studio. Not once have I regretted that decision.
Because I had the luxury of living with my family (insert minimal living expenses) and about 5K of dispensable cash I invested in a pro camera body and 2 pro lenses (Nikon 85mm 1.4 and the 70-200mm 2.8)
I was ready to rock. My first wedding was an incredible learning experience, but so fun I knew this was what I wanted to do.
I had no professional education and learned like I always had, from the "school of hard knocks". CreativeLive reformed many of my perspectives and honed my skills as My company began to grow. First few weddings I charged $1500 and every 3 weddings raised the price by $300. Portraits were $175 then $240 and finally $275. I had hundreds of questions and googled till I found the answers.
My first year flew by turning a very modest profit- I invested in a NY internship with Rodney Smith and more lenses, flashes and equipment. I was changing by leaps and bounds. My technique grew, my perspective developed, my business savvy matured.
Gradually as year 3 approached I made the quantum leap from delivering a disk of images to delivering albums and canvas art. I wish I had made that step 2 years prior. The impetus to this decision was when I realized the impossible number of shoots I would have to fulfill in order to reach my financial goals for each year. It was a light bulb moment, and Sal Cincotta and his WPPI workshop, helped me get there. I needed a good kick in the pants and boy has that changed my business! I switched from shooting everything and everybody to honing in on my target market and renting my own studio space. I don't like shooting babies, families, or product- so why suffer through it? I would rather fail at something I love than succeed at something I dread.
There is so much more to running a great business than I could go in here, but I know that if I can do it, anybody can. Perseverance, determination and intense drive are essential. Passion, love for photography and sources of new inspiration are integral as well. I made so many mistakes, I've kicked myself too many times to count, yet somehow -I'm still here doing what I love ;)
The pie is big enough for the truly passionate. Don't be afraid of an overly saturated market, it may require more work to develop your business, but don't let intimidation cripple you, sometimes you just have to OWN it.
Get out there and take some photos!
Photos: Remember when Sepia was in? lol Some of the first photos I took.