I cannot believe it has been three years since I have started this business! It has been a beautiful journey and I am so excited to be sharing with you all today the best ten things I did for my business in the last three years!
A little about my journey before we start the list. I began shooting film photos about five years ago. Now before you think I am all cool and know how to use film well I have to preface by saying I used my grandpa’s old rebel canon film camera (not the cool expensive ones). I learned how to shoot basic film and I loved it. I focused on shooting nature. I would go out and sit in a state park and take pictures of trees, flowers, and animals. It was my jam but always just a hobby for me. I never once dreamed I would be so blessed to do this for a living. I was a teacher and had just got my bachelors in elementary education. I loved my job, however, since I was a kid I had always been sick due to my connective tissue disorder and immune system not being the best. My disorders were always manageable growing up. I had my surgeries during the summer and scheduled my doctor appointments for after school. It was simple back then but then it became worse in 2012/2013. I began to get really sick to the point where I was bedridden. At this point I had ten specialist doctors I would see regularly and no one really knew why I was getting worse until I went in for a biopsy of my stomach. My gastroenterologist put me under and saw that my heart was still going fast (I am talking like super high 160s to 170s). The second I awoke he sent me to a heart doctor in my city who unfortunately said I was too young to have anything wrong with me and sent me away. Thankfully my amazing doctor sent me straight to UCSF. I already had spinal surgery there when I was 16 and just loved it there! I was sent to cardio and they immediately ran tests and found out I have POTS: Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Long story short when I sit and stand my heart rate goes up and my blood pressure goes way down. My heart would never go below 120 even when sleeping which made sleeping or anything really feel like a marathon. Long story short when your heart is off so is every other organ in your body. So I had to quit school, work and just focus on my health. After going to the treatment center in Texas in 2014 I started to get better. I worked my butt off going to doctors 4 times a week, exercising for my heart 4 times a week, going to physical therapy, changing my diet and taking the right meds. Thankfully within a year, I was better than almost every other patient with my disorder at UCSF and they are now having me help other girls and guys who suffer from this disorder to find hope.
Anyways going back to how I started this business. I was told I could not be around too many germs so teaching was out of the plan. I prayed and prayed about what would do next. I struggled with the normal 9 to 5 jobs due to all my doctor appointments, needing to lay down during the day, treatments and meds. So it was a struggle to have faith that God would provide. I was so crazy to even doubt Him. He showed me that my hobby could be a dream come true job. So I bought a professional digital camera (Mark 1- Canon series) and a 24-70 2.8 canon L series lens and started practicing. I bought every educational video through creative live & photographers websites that I could and studied photography through videos and books for 6 months before even shooting. I also went back to college for business and have since graduated with a degree in business (business is my jam if you ever need help with marketing, pricing or 1 &5 year goals). Then when I started my business I took on paid clients but still practiced like crazy in between every paid shoot with anyone that would let me shoot them. I wanted to succeed so bad I thought about it every day and if I am being honest I still do. I think my perseverance is what helped me most in my business. I love what I do so much so I could make a hundred blog posts explaining why, however, instead I will just make one with all the information I have learned in the past 3 years! Hope you enjoy and keep on pursuing what you love most because you deserve to love what you do!
The best ten things I did for my business: (In no particular order)
2. Invest in great equipment: If you want to run a professional business and charge people money for shoots I truly believe it is helpful to have great equipment. That being said there is no need to have the top of the line just make sure you have a full frame camera and not a cropped one. Also, here is the biggest myth I used to hear a lot from people my first year of shooting: “Your camera is so amazing if I only could afford that same camera I would be as good as you”. I cannot tell you how far away from the truth this is. You can have the top of the line camera but if you do not know how to use it then you will never see the results you want. On the other side of things, you can also have a super old camera that is cropped and rock it! That being said do not feel afraid to start a business if a cropped camera is all you have, you have to start somewhere. I would just start saving up to upgrade as fast as possible as it does help with the sharpness and quality of images.
My second piece of advice to you: You must have multiple hard-drives, back up online systems, an online system to help you with your finances and back up cameras/lens. I learned the hard way so learn from my mistakes and have all of these from the start. Also, as far as lens go I stick to the two listed but I rent ones I need for weddings.
My first-year equipment:
Canon Mark Eos 5d Mark 1 (so old I cannot find a used version to link for you)
My second and third-year (and now fourth year) equipment:
Pelican 1050 Clear Micro Case (Black) (for SD cards)
3. Education, Education, and more Education: I love learning. It is probably why I was a teacher and why I studied teaching. I love learning new things and I love teaching others new things as well. It is why I am writing this blog and why I want to teach business strategies to other small business owners someday. One of the best things I did for my business was to study how to shoot before I even started shooting. For 6 months before I started shooting with a digital camera, I spent time taking classes and learning all about photography. I bought books, online classes and watched every free webinar I could from successful photographers. I read up on how to shoot manual and pretty much shot manual from day one of owning my own business. Still to this day I read books, watch classes and go to workshops to learn more and to further my business. One thing I learned early on is to realize I will never know it all and that it is okay to keep growing and learning at any stage in your business. If you stop learning that is when your business will be more prone to not grow. So go take classes, read some books and go have fun shooting!
Some Classes I took my first year:
Workshops I have attended:
Phil Cheater and Sara K. Byrne (last October)
Alpine Destination Weddings (will be attending in March)
4. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Most artists only shoot when they are paid after the first year of going full time. Totally makes sense, but for me, I thrive off of the creative shoots that let me be me and grow as an artist. I learned from Ben Sasso early on that it is important to do shoots just for you! These shoots help to further attract your ideal client and are just fun! I have about 10 simple styled sessions a year that I get to try new poses, locations and so on. My first year in business I believe I did over 30 styled shoots (its a little crazy but hey I wanted to learn how to attract my ideal clients fast and practice new things!). I found couples I knew or random strangers on Instagram and asked them to shoot in exchange for pictures. That year I took on every single gig I could get and styled shoots all to be able to nail down what I love to shoot the most and to grow as an artist. After the first year of shooting, I knew I wanted to focus on seniors and couples. The past two years that is all I have shot and all my styled shoots help me to further attract my ideal clients and locations!
5. Find where your inspiration comes from: For me, inspiration comes from listening to music or being in nature and just being silent. I travel for inspiration and have loved that this past year. I have been able to go to Rome, South Africa, Iceland, Yosemite, Tahoe and Joshua Tree. It has been one amazing year!
My advice to you is to find what gives you inspiration and do more of it. I listen to inspirational (empowering) music like This is Me from The Greatest Showman to feel confident in my work and my inspiration. To find my inspiration in nature I go on walks and just look at the different areas to shoot at and survey the lighting while often closing my eyes to picture what I could do in that spot. So go out and try new things until you find your inspiration!
Ryan and Kaylea- Picture by Katie Grant Photography
6. Hire an amazing website designer and SEO expert! The best thing I did for my business was this! I hired Ryan a year and a half ago to re-do my website with a Show-It theme I loved. He took that theme and made some changes to make this website my own. He also taught me all about SEO and made my website user-friendly. He is amazing and I recommend him to everyone! I have him do touch-ups to my website every year and add pages as well. Hiring him as made my life so much easier!
7. Get organized and set goals!! I love organization so much like even in junior high and high school I planned out every hour of my day. I have always had a planner, wrote to-do lists for the day and set monthly/yearly goals. I think this is one of the reasons why I became a successful business owner. I always respond to clients within 24 hours (I strive to do it in less than 15 hours), always look at my goals daily and write detailed to-do lists that I get done each day. If you are starting out or already full time I encourage you to write out 10 goals for the year and frame them or put it up on a post-it note on your computer for you to view every day. The more you see your goals the more you will know what you want to achieve and come up with steps on how to get there. I encourage you to get a planner and a project planner to help you plan styled shoots, blog posts and so much more!
8. Hire a lawyer and accountant: This one is very simple just hire them. You will need to pay taxes from day one and need to get a business license, bank account and make a legit contract from the start to cover your butt in case something goes wrong. Take it from me I had a lawyer from year one and it saved me a lot over the years!
9. Realize its okay to Fail: Failing is not a matter of if it will happen, it is a matter of when it will happen. I am going to be honest with you I have failed a lot! I mean one time I even forgot to bring my camera to the shoot and it was hours away and I balled my eyes out that day. My client was super understanding but I told her she was to pay me nothing and the session were all on me. You see its okay to fail just make sure you learn from them and admit when you are wrong. I always make sure my clients are fully taken care of when I am in the wrong. Also, do not be afraid to try new things. I would send things off for publication and get rejected. Ask couples to shoot and get rejected. Start a new way of doing this or that and it would not work but the point is I tried. I tried one marketing tactic and when that did not work another. I think the reason I fail more than most is that I try more things than most. I take more risks and preserve more than ever. I got this from my dad. He owned his own successful accounting business for 25 years and taught me that failing means you are one step closer to success. All this being said know that owning your own business is hard. You will have hard clients to deal with. You will cry and get angry and want to quit. I am not saying this to discourage you but rather to be honest with you. I have had many days like those and on those days I look back at my my favorite images, favorite clients and favorite travel trips and realize that the amazing days far out weigh the bad days so it makes it more than worth it. Just know you are good enough, you do not need to compare yourself to other photographers online and you can make a difference in this community!
10. Support Other Artists: If I could yell this one at the top of my lungs I would. We need to love one another in this business because this business is all too lonely as it is seeing that we all work from home and travel a lot. Instead of worrying about the competition and protecting our own business why not build up the community around us by encouraging, loving and helping one another. I know some might oppose to this theory but I really love community over competition. I am all about educating the beginner photographers and supporting those around me who have done it as long or longer than me. I just want to see this community change and I think it is slowly changing for the better! So feel free to ask me any question and if you need some encouragement let me know! Just know you are good enough to be in this business, we all compare ourselves to others (so you are not alone in this) and know with every year you will grow!
Bonus Tip: Have fun in life and laugh a lot because this business can be super hard at times. Cling to those that support you and encourgae you (shout out to by hubby and parents who are my biggest supporters). If someone tells you that you are no good, not enough or whatever do not listen to them. Please please follow after your dreams!
Also, Have an amazing photographer take pictures of you to always have professional pictures for your website and social media. Alyssa Luziach Photography took the ones of Eli and I below and I truly cherish them!