Mistakes I Made In My Photography Business

Today we’re getting a little vulnerable and sharing mistakes I made in my photography business.

First let me say that I’m not proud to be sharing these with you.

In fact, as I go to hit publish today, I’m inwardly cringing and hoping that you don’t judge me for what you’re about to read.

*deep breath*

It’s important to remember that everyone has the occasional screw up.

But I’m hoping that by sharing the mistakes I made in my photography business, it will keep someone else from doing the same thing.

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Mistakes I Made In My Photography Business

Setting Expectations With Clients

Or more specifically – NOT setting expectations with clients.

When I started in my photography journey, I just kind of went along for the ride and hoped everything would work out.

Clients did not know what they could expect right from the beginning.

There was no explanation of the process of working together.

They had no way of knowing when they could expect the images… and were lucky if they saw a sneak peek in the first three days.

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That experience didn’t leave clients excited about working with me.

It left them with a lackluster impression of me and my business.

*not what I’m going for*

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Thank goodness things have changed just a bit in the 9+ years I’ve been in business.

My Takeaway – Now I educate clients on all aspects of their session, from what they can expect, ideas for clothes to wear, and how they can see their image reveal with us after the session.

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Contract or Death

It should be a no-brainer, but you should always use contracts whenever money or services are exchanging hands.

I’m usually pretty good about getting the legal stuff out of the way when it comes to business.

But two years ago (which really wasn’t that long ago!), I did an extended family session for my friend’s family.

No contract was signed because I knew her and told her all the specifics via email and she was good with everything.

Payment was made, the session went great, everyone was happy… then her parents came over for the viewing.

The dad ended up screaming at me and threatening to sue me because I would not release the hi-resolution images to him (something I never do, contract or no).

After almost an hour of him threatening and screaming at me, I finally asked them to leave, and as soon as the door was shot, promptly burst into tears.

It was one of the worst experience I’ve dealt with in my professional career.

After reflection (and consulting a lawyer), I decided that even though I was technically “in the right”, I was going to make the client happy.

It wasn’t worth the potential misery.

So we had the clients sign a NDA, and that we would all move forward.

The lesson for me, is not one that I will ever forget!

My Takeaway – always, Always, ALWAYS have clients sign a contract so that YOU are protected!

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Mistakes I made in my photography business

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Deleting Client Photos

Talk about your heart sinking to the floor…

This definitely isn’t something that anyone ever wants to do, but – even unintentionally – it can be devastating.

In the early days of my career, I did a session for a military family who had just had a baby, and the dad was getting ready to go on deployment.

I took the photos, and (because I didn’t have solid business practices set up), accidentally formatted the card, and shot another session.

When I realized what had happened – I was scared.

I knew the servicemember was getting ready to deploy, and they had just come in for photos…
Through my negligence, their photos were gone with no way of getting them back.

After stewing about it for a few hours, I made a game plan then finally called the client to explain what happened.

They were (understandably) upset.

However, because I called with a new plan (a reshoot done whenever they were available, plus free prints and a session down the road for the baby) – the sting wasn’t as bad and that family ended up being loyal clients until they moved a few years later.

My takeaway – address the problem as soon as possibly, be upfront with the client about what happened, and have a plan for how you are going to “fix it”.

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Believing the Lie That You Need Better Gear to Be A Better Photographer

When you start your photography journey, it’s easy to think “well if I only had better camera gear, I could create better pictures”.

Let me be the first to tell you – that is total bull$h!t.

Gear is good, but vision is better.

Don’t let someone make you feel inferior because of the camera that you use!

People want to look down on you because you don’t have “a big girl camera” – don’t even give them your time.

It doesn’t matter what the gear can do – it matters what YOU can do with it.

My Takeaway – if someone doesn’t like what you’re using, why should it matter? Get out there and prove them wrong with the images you create!

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flat lay stock photography

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Not Paying Myself Sooner

After buying my first DSLR (a Canon Rebel XS circa 2008), I chose to bootstrap my business. For me, that meant reinvesting all the post-tax profits back into the business.

Every extra penny I made was poured into education at photography conferences, upgrading camera gear, a new editing computer, etc.

It was a great decision for me because it allowed me to grow my business completely debt free.

However (doesn’t there always seem to be a “but”?) – it took a toll on me and led to some pretty serious burnout.

It seemed like I was constantly hustling, but never really got to enjoy the fruits of my work.

It felt like I was living to work, not the other way around.

I finally came to the realization that life is short, and I don’t just want to build a business. I want to build a life – one that I can enjoy with my family, and not constantly have to worry about the hustle.

My Takeaway – If I could do it over again, I would treat myself to small “rewards” more often.

Nothing big, maybe a coffee and treat at Starbucks, or taking myself to spend an hour at a museum…

Something to feed my soul and recharge my batteries a bit.

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What Are You Taking Away From These Experiences?

Are you going to let the mistakes made define you, or will it be a stepping stone on your journey?

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Take Your Business to the Next Level

If any of these mistakes I made in my photography business resonated with you, let me know!

We’d love to help in your photographic biz journey so you don’t feel like an island unto yourself.

Fresh Look Photography offers private mentoring to help with any aspect of running your business, and we’d love to chat with you!

Feel free to drop a comment below or click the { Contact Me } button and we will get rocking and rolling!

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2018-10-31T08:53:30+00:00October 31st, 2018|Business, For Photographers|2 Comments

About the Author:

My name is Judith, I am a licensed and insured photographer working here in Virginia Beach, drinking Starbucks, and documenting love stories for my awesome clients. From getting engaged, to wedded bliss, to family life and beyond! I want to preserve your perfectly imperfect life, and capture these moments so you can treasure them for a lifetime.

So whatcha think?

2 Comments

  1. Linda Scott October 31, 2018 at 9:55 AM - Reply

    Although I am not in a photography related business, I enjoyed reading your blog. It was great of you to share your mistakes and take aways. A true sign of confidence and mentorship.
    Excellent points!

    • Judith Soule October 31, 2018 at 9:56 AM - Reply

      You are so awesome Linda, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and we’re cheering you on in your business ventures!!!

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