Having a child is like starting your life all over again, only your heart is extended into another human being. As soon as I had Austin everything in my life beautifully changed and all the nonsense that I thought was important became prioritized at the bottom of a very new shiny list of responsibilities that I took on with excitement. Not every part of the new journey has been easy, but it’s been absolutely perfect in its own way. The days of un-showered messy buns and baby food smeared counter tops are days that I cherish and miss.
The question has come up repeatedly in emails from friends, potential clients, and potential future photographers, “What made you decide to get into the Photography Industry?”
Let’s see how I can answer this question.
To begin with, I came from a background of artistic expression. My mom is a doodler and I looked up to a family friend who was an art teacher that helped me master my love for art. It became a way for me to let things out and share my vision. I must say that my vision is typically dorky and nerdy too.
However, I can say without any objection that the minute I had Austin I become a photographer. I wanted to get every single moment of his tiny little life on camera. It wasn’t until the dreaded “Department Store Photo Special,” that it changed from a hobby to a true passion that I wanted to pursue. What started off with a promo for a free 8X10, resulted in my 6 month old getting whacked in the head by an inexperienced 19ish year old amateur that then insisted that I pay a sitting fee as my bleeding son cried on the backdrop with scattered props that looked as if they have not been washed in years. I’m not completely hating on the department store studios, I have seen some shots that have been taken that are absolutely ADORABLE, I just didn’t realize until I started doing photography more seriously myself how much it lacked what I was really trying to capture, my child’s real personality.
Soooo… here I am today, with a business 5 years in the making. I started off as a co-photographer with Pink Turtle Photography in Sebastian, Florida. That was an amazing learning experience that I got invaluable lessons from.
To being with, starting a business is expensive. I don’t think I fully understood what it would require to really do it right. Licensing, fictitious name registration, taxes, website building….. HOLY MOLY!!! Then came trying to figure out pricing and building up a clientele. Luckily for me I have some of the best clients ever that have been a million percent loyal and supportive of me from day one. In fact, some of my best clients today are people that I did photography for when I was first starting off. Now, I have ventured out on my own with Cindy Emerson Photography. The learning experiences continue on a daily basis as I master Photoshop techniques, technical shutter effect, or bokeh tricks.
I’m still not at the point where I’m actually making a profit in the industry. Just as I might start to go in the positive I realize that there is another tool I need to be taken seriously by clients and to feel that I provide a service WORTH paying for. From new Studio lighting, to external lighting, to a million Computer tools it really is never ending. Despite it being a very expensive endeavor I feel like this is all necessary to ensure I’m giving my clients a special experience and that they love it so much they come back for more.
I’m already planning my next big purchase of a Canon Mark III 5D. It hasn’t been released yet, but I’m super excited and I’m beginning to save for it.
Another variable that I didn’t evaluate correctly from the beginning is the amount of time I would put into each session. I know a LOT of people will say they aren’t doing this for the money, but you really do have to put a price on the time you are putting into each session.
A half-hour mini-session currently runs my clients $130 without any promotions or specials. From that I spend a half-hour at the actual shoot. (Not including travel time and expenses) Then I spend HOURS editing to get the final shots just right. From there I have to upload the pictures, put them on disk or external drive, and then post them on a gallery. It ends up with the hourly rate going down to about 20/hour. Not that that’s bad…. but I didn’t estimate the amount of editing time and personal time I would pour into each session.
With this being such a huge passion of mine I find myself getting caught up in the artistic end of the shoots and really focusing on each image independently. I think the clients can really appreciate the amount of love I give to their session (I HOPE).
This is the area that I feel a lot of beginning photographers struggle with. Developing your own style can be difficult with so many opportunities to explore other people’s work. I love to see how people vision their own shots and then I find myself going over the different editing techniques I would do to make the shot my own. The minute I started doing that in my head, I realized that I have developed my own “style.”
Clients need to know what they can expect from you. I think this is a huge message to convey to people starting out. If you are all over the place and don’t have a stable “home” of comfort that the clients can see, how do they know what they can expect?
I’m not saying it isn’t fun to experiment with new things, but I’m thinking that you need to have a level of consistency in your pictures that you can offer as a starting point so clients know if you are a right “fit.”
Looking back, I realize that I really loved every shot so much and put so much heart into editing each one that I was overwhelmed when I was able to see her put that same amount of love into displaying the art. The fact that it was her own babies made it even more special. It was absolutely beautiful in every way. Definitely one of the happiest moments I’ve experienced in the business..
Finally, as I reminisce over what brought me into this glorious world of Photography, I must cyclically bring it back to the beginning. It all starts with a supportive family. Building a business on a foundation of love and passion will indefinitely bring you all the success in the world.
Just some answers for some of my people.
Cindy Emerson Photography