My journey with photography has been a roller coaster ride to say the least! I am a photographer who has been in and out of a photography business (by choice) for the past six years. I want to be organic here and share with you some of my feelings and reasons why I chose recently to go from owning my own photography business to remaining a hobbyist. I know that sounds backwards, but that’s how I did it!
Before I begin, I want to make my intentions clear. Although I have decided not to be in business anymore, I applaud those photographers who have made owning a business a success for them. I admire your talent and dedication to the art and I realize that although owning a photography business is not working for me, you may be at a different place in your life where it is working for you….Or it has to work for you in order to pay your bills! This is just my story and we are all different in our circumstances and how we handle our lives.
Photography business owner to hobbyist-My lessons learned
I started in the photography industry back in college when I worked for a premier portrait photographer for six years. But it wasn’t until I got my first D-SLR, a Canon Rebel, a few years after I quit working (to be a mom) that I started personally loving photography. I couldn’t put my camera down. I was completely intrigued with learning and progressing.
I took classes and workshops, mentored with my old boss and other photographers, and started accepting invitations from friends and family to take their portraits in order to help me learn and build a portfolio.
The is one of the first family sessions that I’ve ever shot. Heads stacked (pet peeve) and super posey…haha. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
This is the part where I’m sure many of you busy moms/photographers can relate. There comes a point where you become confident in your skills, others notice your talent, and offers come your way for payment in exchange for your newfound skills.
1. Where I made a mistake is I jumped right in and started accepting clients without setting up my photography business properly first.
I was barely keeping my head above water trying to find time to shoot and edit, let alone set up branding, a website, marketing materials, or a way to keep track of my financials. I wished all along I had a more professional brand that helped define my style better. I made a couple of make shift logos myself in Photoshop and called it good because I had no time.
I kept super busy simply on referrals, whom I had no problem booking because I was very reasonably priced. I was afraid to charge too much because I didn’t think I was good enough yet. And many of my clients were also friends and family, so I felt guilty asking for too much. I think that’s where many of us go wrong. We don’t have enough confidence in ourselves to charge what we need to actually compensate for our time.
2. I’ve learned that charging for your time is just as important as charging for your skills.
If you work yourself to death with very little pay, you will burn out quickly, as I did many times over.
I had a hard time saying “no” to clients because I loved the opportunities for personal growth. With every session that I did, I learned something new. But along with each session came time spent shooting, editing, designing storyboards, albums or greeting cards, placing orders, delivering product, preparing invoices, collecting payment, transferring image files for backup or disks…etc etc.
I waaay underestimated the amount of time spent for each client! While trying to keep up with the demand, I was also juggling being a mother of a growing family. I would go through periods of time that I absolutely had to quit accepting client work in order to keep up with the needs of my family.
Many times I was so burned out that I didn’t care if I looked at my camera again. Or pick it up for a very long time! My conscience would get the best of me and I couldn’t bear missing out on my kids’ childhoods as I sat behind my computer.
These are the things that I missed by owning a photography business…
3. I longed to be the fun mom again who does memorable activities with her kids like baking and crafts, reading stories, or having long talks together.
I felt like I was letting my kids run wild and trying to keep them busy other ways apart from me, just so I could work…bleh!
4. I stopped taking as many pictures of my own family and working on personal photography projects because I was too busy with clients.
I started to resent the fact that my priorities were messed up, that my family wasn’t coming first anymore. And that I wasn’t slowing down long enough to capture sweet interactions like this between my children (my oldest and youngest).
5. I missed photographing what I wanted, rather than what everyone else wanted from me.
And taking time to think creatively about how to capture the thoughts, feelings, and moments in my own life.
6. I missed free time to enjoy the simplicities of life like watching my son make acquaintance with an interesting bug for the first time.
Or laugh with my girls as they were actually getting along and having fun together with the bubbles in the bath tub.
7. I was also missing out on further education opportunities because my schedule was booked up and time for personal learning and creativity exercises was low on my priority list.
There is still so much more that I would like to learn about photography. I had no time to take workshops or classes when I owned a photography business. When I pulled out my camera, it was usually for clients, not for myself sadly. Although I was learning and progressing as I did sessions, I often found myself shooting the same angles, lighting and composition because it was what I was used to. I missed a good challenge to stretch my creativity.
8. One day it hit me that I can still feel validated as a photographer, learning and growing along the way, and not own a photography business!
Before, my validation came from the amount of sessions I had booked and the positive comments I would receive after clients viewed their images. Now it comes from the inner voice that speaks peace to my heart when I’ve captured my true feelings or a moment the way I had envisioned.
I absolutely LOVE photography, and also absolutely LOVE my other job…being a mother. Balancing the two is much easier as a hobbyist. And I enjoy the art in it’s fullness better this way. I don’t feel pressured to perform now. I shoot the things that move me. I take on personal challenges and have more time to experiment with new techniques now. I have fallen back in love with photography now, and am eager to pick up my camera again.
I still plan on keeping an updated portfolio on my blog in case an amazing offer I can’t refuse comes my way. Or for down the road when my kids are all in school and my days are free again, I may choose to open up my photography business again. I still plan to have an online presence on my facebook page, in forums, and on my blog where I can rally support and friendship with other photographers and friends. I need that. I love to talk “shop”…obviously by the length of this post…thanks for hanging in there with me!
The most difficult part of transitioning out of my photography business has been learning to say “no” when asked to do fun sessions. It’s hard at first, but becomes easier the more I do it and the more I realize how great it is to be absorbing the goodness of my life and hobby once again!
Are you a hobbyist or do you own a business? I would love to hear your thoughts!