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Then and Now :: You can’t know where you are going, unless you know where you have been.

It’s no secret that the business and hobby of photography has boomed in the last few years. Ever since the rise of DSLR’s (Digital Single Lens Reflex camera’s), everyone knows at least half a dozen “photographers.” Now there isn’t anything wrong with this, lots of people are making decent livings at being photographers or are trying really hard to. However, most “photographers” who start a photography business fail within the first 3 years. According to The Digital Photography School, 60% of photography businesses fail within the first year, 25% of those who make it past year 1 will make it through year 2.

Now obviously I have made it past these rough years and a lot of times I think it was all pure luck. Sure I did get lucky with a lot of great jobs and clients, but what really made me succeed was learning! The learning process (especially now with digital) can be very easy since there is no large investment to see your images, make mistakes and then try again. Once you have your gear you can shoot all you want without having to spend another cent. While this part of the learning process is “easy” there is much more to learning than just looking at your own work and having family and friends tell you its great. In reality, in those first few years, the images are far from great. As a photographer that is very hard to hear. But we have all heard it. The difference between those who succeed and those who call it quits is what they do when they hear their work is bad. With all the resources that are around these days, which most of them are free, photographers can find out how to do pretty much anything or fix anything. Finding out you did something wrong or your technique is weak shouldn’t be a death sentence, it should be an opportunity.

I will admit, this is all easier said than done. I was one of those photographers who thought all my images were great and that everyone else was wrong, but it wasn’t until I really talked to some successful photographers and listened to what they had to say that I realized I had a LOT of room to grow. The realization that I wasn’t as good as I though and that I could learn from my peers is what made me successful. Not the fact that my business sense was perfect or that my images were good. It was me opening my eyes and mind to the art of photography and seeing what that art could be. It was studying how others were achieving what I wanted to achieve, how they were making their images and why those images were working for them. I learned how to use my gear the right way and tell my gear how I want the images to look, not letting my camera tell me what settings to use or having my flash tell me what power it was going to use for the photograph. Another major aspect of my education was getting in the right place at the right time and getting those important moments when they happened. This wasn’t something technical, it was all about the “feel” of the wedding and could only be “learned” with experience. With all of this and the HONEST critique from other industry professionals, I learned how to be my own artist. I developed my style and became the photographer I wanted to be.

I still look at images from the early days of my career, I actually look at them a lot. Not only to make myself feel better on days I question myself, but also to give my self challenges. I look at these photos and see how I can do better. See how little changes can make an image something I am proud of. Where I have been isn’t the key to my success, it’s what I did to get from there to where I am now. I read an article on Fstoppers.com yesterday that showed well known photographers images from when they started and then images from their recent work and that is what inspired this post. We ALL started somewhere!!

I hope that I can inspire some of the other photographers out there, show them that you HAVE to start somewhere and its the direction you take from that starting point that is what is going to make you successful or unsuccessful. It’s said that “if something is easy its not worth doing”. That is a perfect way to think when it comes to having a photography business.

The top or left side image is from my first couple of years shooting weddings, the bottom or right side photo is from 2013 or 2014. I tried to get similar photos to compare with each other. The photos of the brides getting ready are actually taken in the exact same room!!

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