Today is my ten year anniversary as a wedding photographer!! On this day in 2011 I started out on a new adventure when I photographed my very first wedding. This day was just the start of many fun and amazing things…including working with nearly 180 of the best couples on the planet!
It feels so surreal that today marks a decade shooting weddings! Ten years ago I had no idea where my life was headed. I had a job I didn’t love (and didn’t make much money at). And I was really yearning to find the thing I felt I was supposed to be doing with my life.
It was then that I bought my first camera and discovered photography! I started by taking portraits of friends and pets and other random things. I quickly fell in love with photography and the idea of owning my own business. Becoming a small business owner seemed like it would be a path to an exciting future and career!
And it was such a great adventure, but lots of hard work! I stayed up many late nights learning much of what I know now about taking photos (and running a business). I learned through lots trial and error (and some literal blood, sweat and tears!). It was a lot for a broke 23 year old, but it was SO rewarding to be building something myself.
Within a year of starting my business I had built up enough confidence to take the leap and leave my day job to be a full time wedding photographer! Becoming my own boss was a dream come true!
Despite all of the hard work and heart that I put into growing KNP, I know that I would never be celebrating ten years as a photographer without all of the incredible people who made it possible!
So many people have been a part of this business, whether as clients, industry peers I leaned on for support, friends who have spread the word about met, etc. It really has always been the people that have made my job as special as it is!
If you’re one of those people, whether you trusted me with your memories, shared my name with your friends, worked alongside me at a wedding, or simply followed along to see pretty photos, I will forever be so grateful for you! You turned my dream into a reality and I wish there was a way to adequately express how much this means to me. Thank you for making it possible for me to have this incredible career for a decade:)
In honor of my ten year anniversary, I wanted to share ten of the lessons I learned over the decade. Some relate to photography, some relate to business, and some relate to life!
Fake it til you make it
In the beginning of my career, I was young and living paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have much money at all to invest into my business so I had to be strategic.
I chose to invest first in my branding because of something I read on another photographer’s blog. She said that you could always rent your gear, but you can’t rent your client experience! That stuck with me. After reading that, I worked hard to invest my minimal funds into things that would help me attract new clients. I had a professional website before I had all of the fanciest and best equipment! Which leads me to my next lesson:
It’s not the gear, it’s the person using it
I genuinely believe that a great photographer can take beautiful photos with any equipment! It’s more about learning how to best utilize what you have (and also learning about light, posing, editing, etc). For the first 2-3 years of my business I photographed every wedding and session I booked with a Canon 50D. If you’re not a photographer, just know it’s a decidedly non fancy camera…haha.
I chose that camera mostly because it was the best I could afford at the time. The second shooters I would hire to work with me often had nicer equipment than I did! It was definitely more challenging to have that camera vs the top of the line. But doing things that way pushed me to learn things I might not have otherwise! I took a lot of photos with that camera that I am still really proud of. I believe I became a better photographer because I had it so long!
The best editing tip: Get it right in camera
When I first started photography, I would often struggle with editing after a wedding or a session. I couldn’t figure out just how to get my final photos to look exactly the way I wanted them to. I eventually learned that the best way editing trick actually has nothing to do with editing. Getting it right in camera is key. If you work on finding the right types of light, making sure to look out for weird shadows, color casts or distracting elements, the editing will be a breeze! It pays off to be intentional with the way you shoot.
Learn to say no/set boundaries
Working for yourself, it’s super easy to get burnt out from letting your work bleed into your personal life. In the early days of my business I struggled with finding balance. These days I am much better about separating work and personal time. I limit the hours I work and often say no to things that I don’t feel are a good fit. It can definitely suck to feel like the “bad guy” if you have to say no. But it’s up to you to be your own advocate and create firm boundaries. You are only one person and there’s a limit to what you can do.
Stay true to what you believe in
Years ago, I lost a chunk of followers because I posted in support of marriage equality. More recently I had a few people jump ship once I shared that I believe Black Lives Matter. Is it possible some people decided they’d rather not hire me because of my posts sharing my beliefs? Yes. And I’m okay with that…not everyone or everything is for everyone. Yes, I lost some people because of my views. But I also gained like minded clients and “followers” as well! Those relationships have proven to be so much more valuable as a “tribe”.
Be true to yourself. It’ll attract the right people and repell the wrong ones!
Treat each of your clients like they’re your only one
A few years back I actually wrote a full blog post about this! I overheard another wedding vendor complain that their client thought they were their “only client” and thought to myself “well…I actually WANT my clients to feel that way!”. And it’s true! It’s important to me to make each of my clients feel like they are my priority. You can read the blog post for more about that, but basically I think that treating your clients with a level of care that makes them feel like they’re your most important client is one of the most inexpensive things you can do to market your business. Because people WILL talk about remarkable service experiences.
Shoot each wedding as though it were going to be in a magazine
This has been my approach since the beginning. And it not only made me a better photographer, it helped ensure I was giving my clients my best work every time! Early on (back when blogs were a really big deal) I challenged myself to submit every wedding I photographed to some kind of publication and that trick really elevated my work! Some weddings have more details and some don’t have as many. But I would always take care to showcase each couple’s wedding in the most beautiful way possible…whether they had a wedding at the Ritz Carlton or in their church’s basement. In my opinion, this is the right thing to do. No matter what type of wedding they have, all of your clients deserve the same level of care!
Define your own version of success
Does anyone else remember the time in the industry where everyone wanted to be the “Rockstar” photographer? That was never really me. My friend Christy Tyler wrote on her blog about defining her own version of success and her post really resonated with me! After reading her words I sat down to write out what I needed and wanted in order to feel like I was a success as a business owner. It turned out that my version of “success” mostly boiled down to having happy clients, feeling good about my work, and making a good living from my business income.
This perspective was such a game changer for me! Taking the time to write down what my own version of “success” looked like was freeing because I could finally stop trying to compare my life to other people’s vision of success.
Be prepared to grow and adapt
There was a time in my business where I spent a lot of my “work time” learning new things. I read tons of articles, blog posts, books, etc….basically any content I could get my hands on. I thought that at some point I would be done learning, but that’s far from the truth!
This industry is one that changes pretty rapidly so you’ve got to learn new things and be adaptable if you want to survive! There’s always something new to learn or something that I can improve upon and looking for those things and working on them is a way to prevent your business from becoming stagnant as the years go by.
If you really want to do something, just do it!
If there is ONE thing I can say that I not only learned in the last decade, but also lived by, it would be that if you really want to do something you should just go ahead and do it already. Don’t hesitate forever thinking about how great it would be to do x, y, or z. Today’s the day to do it. Or at least it’s the day to start taking steps toward doing it.
From learning photography, starting a business, training for a marathon, hosting a workshop, running a wedding blog with a friend, traveling, and starting my life over again at 30, I did a lot of things that seemed like they could be “a lot”. Most of them were things that I had to work toward bit by bit, day by day. That stuff can be hard, but often the hardest part is just making the commitment and diving in.
Once you make the commitment, it’s just a lot of little puzzle pieces you work slowly to put together until one day you look up and realize you’ve been doing the damn thing for ten whole years.
You can really do whatever you want to do! You just have to commit to it and jump in with your whole heart ❤️
If you read this far, thank you for being here! Thank you for being a part of this past ten years, even if it was just you reading my posts every once in a while….:)