Two years ago I took a leap and started a photography business. I had no expectations and no idea what it could or would become. I just had a camera and knew a couple of friends who would pay me to take pictures of their military homecomings. I did my first shoot for free booked a handful of sessions after that shoot was posted and it took off from there. Today I have a successful business that is growing everyday and it’s all still pretty crazy to me. As amazing as it’s been is as hard as it’s been and I have learned and grown as a business owner and photographer so much in the past 2 years. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned here and I think whether you’re a photographer or self employed or some other kind of artist I think you’ll be able to learn something or get a reminder of a truth you already know. Here are the 7 most important things I’ve learned over the last 2 years as a photographer and business owner:

1. Just start. If you think you want to start a business or you have an idea for something, don’t wait. I could have started so many years before I did but I was too afraid of failing and that’s so dumb. Failing is better than never starting because each failure teaches us something and pushes us further along. It took a friend encouraging me to get me to start but I wish I could go back and push myself. There are worse artists than you out there doing their thing because they were brave. Don’t waste any more time.

2. There will always be people who are better and people who are worse and it doesn’t matter where you fall on that line just keep your head down and keep working. The comparison game can be hard to deal with since we are bombarded by people’s work on social media. There will always be people better than you but you can’t compare your beginning with their middle. Compare where you are now with where you were when you started. All that matters is that you’ve improved from where you were when you started. The only person you are competing with is yourself.

3. You are always the most unhappy with your work right before growth – learn to be okay with discomfort and even disappointment because it will propel you forward. I always get deeply disappointed in myself and my work right before a massive growth whether it lead to changing gear, editing styles, marketing or something else. If you feel upset with what you’re doing don’t quit, just readjust until you feel satisfied with what you’re putting out. Trust that it’s just a bump you have to get over and watch how your work improves on the other side.

4. It’s okay to get negative feedback it doesn’t mean your work isn’t good or that you shouldn’t be doing this work. I’ve had my fair share of people who send me “feedback” and criticisms on what I’ve done or what I’m trying to do. That’s okay. It’s a business and part of the job is trying to please people on top of trying to please ourselves. It’s hard. Sometimes I have a shoot I’m really unhappy with but the clients absolutely love it and a couple times I had a shoot I loved and the client didn’t. That’s okay. Listen to what they say and try to improve from it.

5. Photography can be a commodity or an art. Some photographers are business people first and some are artists first. It doesn’t really matter which one you are as long as you know what you are. Don’t be critical of the other type, instead learn from their strengths and become a more well rounded photographer. Learn to be a better business person if you’re an artist and a better artist if you’re a business person because the most successful photographers are both.

6. Trust your work and your ideas. There is a reason why you are drawn to a certain light, a certain location, a certain client, a certain pose. Trust yourself and follow your ideas. If you want your clients to wear a certain color, tell them. If you want to shoot at a certain time of day, do it. Be an advocate for your work and your ideas. You’re in charge for a reason.

7. It all comes down to practice. It doesn’t really matter how many courses you buy or classes you take or how expensive your gear is. You can’t get better or refine your work until you actively practice and make mistakes. Also, don’t be mad at yourself when you make mistakes because that’s how you get better. Be grateful when you learn a lesson.

There have been some lows and some highs the past 2 years and I want to celebrate and document the highs so here they are. An image from my first paid shoot landed on the cover of a magazine. An image from my second paid shoot was featured in a campaign for Artifact Uprising. A shoot I did for free just because I thought it was going to be beautiful was featured in a marketing campaign and I ended up getting paid for it. I’ve done over 200 shoots in multiple countries. I’ve learned how to shoot film. I’ve met and made amazing friends through my work. The best part has been getting paid to do something that I would have done for free. I love making beautiful things, I love being a part of people’s memories and photo books and wall art. I love being independent and working for myself. I thought that these years in Japan might be a waste career wise but I was able to start something completely new that I get to take back to the states with me later this year and that’s pretty amazing. I know this is only the beginning of a long career and I’m so grateful it found me. Thanks for following along on my journey.

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