MOMS WITH CAMERAS – Jacksonville, FL Portrait Photographer

I am sure you have noticed the influx of photographers over the last few years. I believe I have 12 past clients, a neighbor, a family member and numerous friends of friends that have started their business within the past five years of being in business myself.  I am sure many of you reading this blog are starting to take portraits and are friends with over 10 “photographers” on your Facebook and enjoy the eye candy posts of their latest sessions. Here in Florida folks can start a business more easily because you can be in business all year long. The weather lends itself to that. In areas of the country/world where it snows, most photographers need to support a studio in order to make money in the winter months. But, I am sure the birth of digital has played a major roll in the sudden growth of  “photographers” but I can’t go into all of that…it really deserves it’s own blog post and I am trying not to get off topic.

I am sure you have heard other photographers use the term “Moms with Cameras,” which much of this influx consists of.  A lot of mommies already have an interest in photography because they love to take photos and capture the sweet moments of their own children. I get that. It is a precious time and many moms want to capture these fleeting moments for other moms. It makes you feel good.  These Moms with Cameras also have a million friends that they could already build a client base from. That is defiantly a good start to building your business. I did that myself. I am sure many also think that it is the perfect stay home job. I do myself appreciate the flexible hours that working for yourself can provide, but it no where near a stay at home job! I feel like there is a major illusion to this industry I thought this post might clear up some of the myths.  I get many emails and FB messages with a gauntlet of questions (that I can’t always get to-so sorry) so I also want to help provide some information and resources to help.

I am certainly not here to bash this new generation of photographers or to claim I know everything. I could let myself get frustrated as much as the next photog, but I think it is time to stop making excuses and embrace the fact that this industry is forever evolving. I am a Mom with a Camera myself, however I did start building my education and knowledge of the industry way before I had my first child or took my first payment.  I do think that some folks need to slow down and educate themselves before they make up pricing while avoiding sales and income tax.

I am sure I will miss a bunch topics (feel free to comment under the blog if you feel the need to add a few,) but I wanted to point out a few key points in getting into the portrait business. Getting into weddings we will save for another day.

First of all, being in business as a photographer is not just about taking photos (I don’t mean to sound patronizing but I know some out there really think this!) You need to have a basic understanding of your camera. Aperture settings, ISO and shutter speed are extremely important. In the end, you don’t want to end up with photos, you want to create them. Knowing how to get what you want from your camera is key! Take a photography 101 class at your local community college, join on-line forums and chat rooms where you can bounce ideas and questions off of others who want to share. Do not contact established photographers. Many of them charge for their information and time, and to be honest most don’t have the time.

Secondly, shoot….shoot…shoot! It takes practice and a lot of it! I think I didn’t really start to feel 100% comfortable behind the camera in a session for two years! Shoot in manual and take photos of everything. Bring your camera everywhere. Upload them, and review and compare your images and their settings. Don’t import into Photoshop and cover up a bad exposure by running an action to make the photo more interesting. Over processed photos look terrible and are the best sign of a newbie. Don’t do it!

Learn what lenses are good for what type of subject and scene. This is huge in my opinion. This also takes experience and a lot of shooting and comparing. Some call this having an eye. This can also be learned by taking classes, going to seminars, looking at other photographers work and shooting, shooting, shooting! You can rent lenses from places like Borrow Lenses.

Learn what you love to shoot. Shoot that and do it well. Photographers that claim to do it all, don’t do any of it well. This also might be in a way chosen for you. In some cities and areas of the country there might be more of a market for senior photography than newborns or weddings. If this is going to be your business, you sometimes have to “learn” to love what makes you money.

Speaking of money…save it! You will need it and so does that tax man. Not to mention your vehicle expenses, commissions for running credit cards, equipment repairs, postage, continuing education, computer and software upgrades, it costs to make albums, hard drives, assistant fees. Oh and don’t forget…since you don’t have a “real job” you will need to pay for your own healthcare, maybe start a 401K, then there’s groceries for the family, clothes for the family, daycare…and you might want to treat yourself to a vacation in the middle of all of this!

The obviously important place to spend your money is equiptment. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of it. The equipment doesn’t make you a good photographer, it just makes good photographers better. Starting out you need the basics. A computer, back up hard drives, Photoshop, a good camera and an excellent lens or two should get you started. You can now buy a used Canon 5D for under $1500! Shooting with a full frame will blow your mind and help you with framing your subjects. Get an excellent lens. Starting with a prime like the Canon 50mm 1.4 is reasonably priced for what it gives you, unless you want to go with the big daddy 1.2 (which is what I shoot with and it changed my life!) I like to shoot with primes because it teaches you to move your feet and shoot exactly what you want strait out of the camera. The Canon 24-70 is a must as well. It is more of an investment, but having a zoom/wide is defiantly an importantly lens to have in your bag. However, learn this one well. If you aren’t careful it can cause a slight distortion in your photographs.

While your at it, learn the industry! The best resource out there is Professional Photographers of America (PPA.) The information is empowering. There are too many benefits to list, but they can be found them all out HERE. It’s around $350 a year or you can break it into automatic monthly payments which is what I do.  Joining PPA was my first move and it is the smartest investment you can make.

Another cool resource is Photovision. There are 6 cd’s that are sent every other month where you can basically takie 20 hours of seminars with out ever leaving your couch! As a Mom Photographer, I appreciate this type of convenience.  They have allowed me to offer this special promo code: PVFAN to my blog readers where you can order Photovision 2011 for just $49, a savings of $150 off the regular price of $199! Click this Photovision link to order! You won’t regret it.

To sum up this post as much as I can, before it eats up more of my work day. This profession is extremely rewarding but is in no way shape or form a stay-at-home job. Yes, it can be a work-from-home job but it is WORK and I can put in over 55 hours a week! I miss countless hours with my family and much sleep maintaining this business and my work flow. It is a constant challenge and there is never a true day off. There can be up to 30 client relationships I have going at one time…not to mention orders, and emails, and editing, and billing to maintain. It takes years of hard work, self motivation and missing a few ballet recitals and family fun to keep your job afloat and your customer service superb.

I hope this was in some way helpful. Thank you all for reading my blog, for your messages and support. I wished I had had a little more help when I was starting out, so I help some of my ramblings were helpful. Best of luck to you & happy shooting! Xo, Jaime


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