Advice From the Pros: Lessons and Reflections From 16 Photographers on What They Wish They Knew as Beginners

When you’re first starting out as a photographer, it can be tough! You don’t know what you don’t know. Wouldn’t it be incredible to pick the brains of some incredible, established photographers to give you advice as you start out of your photography career? 

Well friends, you are in the right place, because we rounded up the best business advice for photographers from 16 of our newborn retreat teachers! That’s right, SIXTEEN amazing women are sharing what they wish they knew, how they think about running their business, and what they might do differently if they had to start all over again.

This episode is full of insightful, invaluable information for you as a new photographer, and I’m so honored to share it with you. Let’s dive in!

What’s in this episode:

  • [00:00] Lisa introduces the episode and the 2024 Online Newborn Retreat!
  • [02:10] Annie Nelson reminds us not to take our business too seriously
  • [04:21] Why Denise Jackson says we should never stop learning
  • [07:57] How Josie Tan decides where to spend money in her business
  • [12:52] Why Lela Richardson says we have to continue investing and nourishing our business
  • [17:19] How Olguta Goddard thinks about the non-monetary costs of business
  • [19:20] What Shannon McTighe considers when she posts on social media
  • [22:28] Why Tiffany Crenshaw never forgets where she started

Tune in to this episode so you can hear all the incredible business advice for photographers and creatives!

SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts | Spotify


Grab your spot for the 2024 Online Newborn Retreat, starting on Jan 24, 2024!

Resources Mentioned

Profit First

Did this episode help you clarify how to start and grow as a photographer? Check out this episode

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Getting Started With Newborn Photography that offers you even more insight on cultivating a positive mindset as a creative!

Transcript

[00:00:02] Lisa DiGeso Welcome to the Art and Soul Show where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business life, and that messy in-between. I’m your host, Lisa DiGeso, a mom, a photographer and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship and creativity. The goal of this podcast is for you to be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants and inspiration to pick up your camera. This is the art and soul show. Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the show. In today’s very special episode, we’ve rounded up some of our incredible teachers from the online newborn retreat, sharing with you bits of advice, things that they wish they knew when they were getting started to help you on your photography journey. Without further ado, let’s dive in. If you had advice for a photographer who was just starting out, what would it be? 

[00:01:11] Ambreia Turner My advice to them would be to zig when everyone else zags. And I say that because if you’re looking at your peers that are just starting out, it’s a race to the bottom. What no one realizes is that those photographers burn out within the first two years of starting their business. So go the other way when upstream it may be harder. You may face a little bit more rejection, but you’ll last longer. You’ll outlast and work on your craft and price yourself within the realm of a professional photographer and not an amateur photographer, because they will burn out. They won’t be around when you’re three or four years in business. 

[00:02:00] Lisa DiGeso What has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:02:04] Amy Dangerfield Know your numbers. Numbers don’t lie. 

[00:02:07] Lisa DiGeso What has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:02:10] Annie Nelson I heard this on a podcast recently, and I was just like, Oh my gosh, that is such great advice. Just to not take your business so seriously. Like when you take your business really seriously, you lose the fun. I mean, you have to take it seriously. It’s how you make money, but you don’t want to lose the reason you started it. Cause it. It was to have fun and do something creative. And I’m like, That is so true. Sometimes I can take it too seriously, and then it just isn’t as fun. 

[00:02:44] Lisa DiGeso So what do you wish more photographers knew? 

[00:02:48] Cristina Meraz Oh, I wish they knew that. As long as you don’t quit. And they keep on practicing and they invest on their education, that they will get better, They will get busier and. Really, because I know it’s scary sometimes at the beginning you are like, anybody going to hire me? Are they going to pay my prices? What if I increase my prices? Are they going to hire me? You know, they people do. As long as you know your worth. I have learned. I’m still learning that. Yeah, I’m still on that. 

[00:03:27] Lisa DiGeso I am. I’m still learning mine. 

[00:03:28] Cristina Meraz Yeah, right, right. Yeah, you do. Or I mean, I always freak out like I remember something like, priceless on tape. Oh, my gosh. Somebody’s got to be that good, what they did. And then I increase my prices and they still pay, you know? I mean, they’re not like, crazy. And of course, there’s going to be you know, there’s there’s there’s a price point for everybody. But everything, you know, there’s expensive cars. They’re cheap cars that it’s the same thing with photography. But I used to wish more photographers knew just to keep on going. Don’t quit if you really if you really want to, just don’t quit. When you think your photos are terrible, they’ll get better. And I. I know that because. Oh, my God. My first photos were like, Whoa! 

[00:04:11] Lisa DiGeso Same. And. But we all start there. That’s the thing. 

[00:04:13] Cristina Meraz Like, and. 

[00:04:15] Lisa DiGeso You know, you just keep going. Now, what advice would you give to a new photographer just starting out? 

[00:04:21] Denise Jackson My advice? Well. I would say learn something new every day at all cost. Some days you’re going to learn a ton. You’re going to be able to make more time. You might be able to watch a video for a couple hours, but maybe the next day you’re not feeling so maybe you’re just busy or you’re tired. Just still even 2 minutes. Learn something new every day. Because in a year, when you think about it, that’s 365 new things that you’ve learned towards your craft. And but it’s small, so it’s not overwhelming because I know it’s overwhelming when you’re starting, you’re like, Holy smokes. It’s like it’s like a never ending thing and it can be kind of overwhelming. So I always say, just learn something new every day, no matter how big or how small. And when it comes to newborn photography, do a model call. And I’ve said this, but I’ve done model calls and I would watch Milky Way videos while doing it. And so you don’t have to memorize the video and then try to apply it because the parents know it’s a model call. You’re like, Hey, I’m trying to practice. I want to get better at this. So I had my laptop set up on a chair and I would watch the wrapping while I’m wrapping a baby and I’d watch the closing. I’d watch the light. That was huge. When I figure it out, to do that, to watch my Milky Way videos. And while while doing that, it was huge because I thought I had to memorize it and practice on a stuffed animal, then look like an expert in front of people. I realized, no, I am new and that is okay. And and just accepting that you’re new, but that you’re not. Because I always feel like when you’re new, you feel like you’re kind of like, Oh, I am not very good at this, or I’m or I always for me, anyways, I’m like, Oh, I’m so dumb. I’m not like, No, you’re not dumb. Your new and you’re learning. You’re not failing. You’re learning when you try something and it doesn’t go to plan. Grow from it. You’re not failing. So there’s no failing when you’re trying. And that was a big thing for me because I was always afraid of, you know, looking as new as I was. Like it was so shameful to look new when you’re new. 

[00:06:34] Lisa DiGeso It, right? It’s so true. Having that beginner’s mindset and that growth mindset is so integral. What has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:06:46] Dorte Kjaerulff I don’t know if this is the best piece of advice, but something that I’ve heard recently that kind of lingers a little bit where someone said it’s okay for people to see that you’re trying. I think sometimes we have this feeling that everything that we output has to look like we have it all together. It has to be so perfect and tried and tested and actually it’s okay to go, I’m I’m going to try this. Is anybody interested in this or go, I don’t like this. I’m not going to do it anymore or try different content on Instagram. And if we don’t like it, then change it again. I think it’s so true. No one is okay with seeing that we’re trying. Like we feel like perhaps no one should see us trying to look effortless. 

[00:07:23] Lisa DiGeso When I see someone do something that I think is brave, I never think like, Oh, what an idiot. Like, I know, like, wow. Like, dad, you just impressed me so much. I am so on your team rooting for you. 

[00:07:37] Dorte Kjaerulff You know? I’m like, Yeah. 

[00:07:39] Lisa DiGeso And so why do we assume that other people are like, Oh, you look stupid? Like, No, I don’t like people don’t say that. If they do, why do you care what they think? 

[00:07:49] Lisa DiGeso So what advice do you have for aspiring maternity and newborn photographers looking to establish themselves and their business in this industry? 

[00:07:57] Josie Tan I would say don’t spend so much time worrying about the things that don’t matter. If I could go back, I would tell myself the same advice, which is worrying about how I perceive my art, how someone perceives my work, because why would it matter if you’re not getting books? And so I would say, work on your foundations, make sure your business is strong on the back end, and then worry about the looks of your art, because you can always change the visual part of things, but you can’t change the structure of the business. And that’s ultimately what a business is. We have to thrive, we have to be profitable. And so I see a lot of people like spend so much time like worrying about the editing or buying props, things that, you know, you’re just spending money on. My motto is always say, you know, spend money on what gets you paid. 

[00:08:47] Lisa DiGeso And I like that. 

[00:08:49] Josie Tan And so, you know, instead of buying this prop or, you know, this set, which looks so cute, by the way, but, you know, I would rather spend it on, you know, marketing and then even starting with ads first, like, I would just I would save everything. But when I switched to IPS, I mean, I was like, I had no money. I spent maybe under $300 to change everything. And that was all. So I would say, again, just make sure you think about what really matters and how your spending affects your booking. 

[00:09:24] Lisa DiGeso What has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:09:28] Karli Braaten You probably make sure that the friends that you have are willing to pay full price. 

[00:09:37] Dorte Kjaerulff Yes. 

[00:09:38] Karli Braaten The friends that you have will support you through and through and will not ask you for discounts. There’s a difference between you willing to give a discount to someone you love and. 

[00:09:47] Dorte Kjaerulff Those of people taking advantage of you. 

[00:09:49] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. And those expecting free sessions and being your friend because they want free sessions. Exactly. And to that end, it’s extremely painful. It’s extremely painful. Yeah. When you realize people are just in it to take advantage of you, it’s heartbreaking. 

[00:10:03] Lisa DiGeso What advice do you have for someone just starting out? 

[00:10:06] Kayleigh Ashworth I guess a couple of things. I think to find a niche is really important. That way you can really focus, really specialize in one thing because there really is so much to learn about just one thing. Because what newborn photography isn’t just about newborn photography, it’s about the business, so marketing it so much. And also for me, I wouldn’t believe everybody who tells you you should or shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, only take advice from people who matter. Right? And that and that means other people in business, people who support you, people who go, Wow, that’s a really great idea. Sometimes the people who are closest to us are not the best support. People don’t just don’t take it personal. Stay on your path. 

[00:10:58] Lisa DiGeso What has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:11:03] Kellie Golden To mind my own business. 

[00:11:06] Lisa DiGeso Eyes on your own paper

[00:11:07] Kellie Golden  I think just, you know, focusing on your business and yourself and putting all of your energy into what you’re doing is going to be so beneficial. We get caught up in looking at everyone around us and what everyone’s doing and comparing ourselves, and that can be it’s good in a way to compare so that you can push yourself to be better. But there’s a really fine line to where that can be a really toxic thought process. 

[00:11:34] Lisa DiGeso 100%. What advice would you have for someone who’s just starting out? 

[00:11:38] Kellie Golden I would say to follow your heart. And don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. So I hear and see in a lot of groups, too, where, you know, they they want to be a photographer and they love it and they’re passionate about it, but their partner’s not supportive or their family is not supportive. And I say, just go for it. Obviously, be smart about it, but follow your dreams and then obviously do your cost of doing business. You’re going to want to do that from the very beginning so that you know where to start. It’s so much easier to start out higher priced than being like really cheap and then trying to raise your prices every six months to a year. Because if you think about it, you’re going to have to kind of start all over and find new clients again. Every time that you do that, you will have your client. I still have clients that are still with me from day one, so you are going to have a handful of those people that are going to stick with you throughout all of the growth. But for the most part, if you’re going to make a huge leap, you’re going to kind of have to start from scratch with your marketing and your client base. 

[00:12:47] Lisa DiGeso Or what has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given. 

[00:12:52] Lela Richardson Okay. I feel like this is a given from most teachers and photographers that have been through a lot in their career. And it’s it’s hard, especially, you know, when you’re starting out or if you just you’re in a rut. You know, you have to understand that this is a business. And as much as we love, it is our passion and we love it. We have to understand that it’s a business and we really have to invest. That’s a huge word because I feel like we all say that we need to invest in our business and in our self, which we are our business. You know, if you this is your baby, you have to invest in it. If you don’t take care of it, it’s going to become weak and it’s going to die. Okay. So we don’t want that. So we want to invest and nourish and care for our business. And once you have made that decision, I’m going to do this. The first thing you need to do is you need to invest in the knowledge on how to do what you want to do. You need to get all the best, the wisdom from all of the greats. Just find someone and just really get everything you can. Don’t try to do it on your own because that is so long time ago. The so long time ago. We don’t need to do that because we have so many resources. Find someone. Soak up all the information, everything you can think of, and then hit the ground running. Don’t stop. Just keep going and always try to keep. Like for me. I don’t want to stop growing. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over and over again. Like I want to just keep. It’s like this pool of water. I just want to keep getting more and more and more and more filled. And I don’t want to stay a small little puddle and just do the same thing over again. I just want to keep growing and keep keep investing in my knowledge and keep trying and experimenting and doing all these things. And I feel like. You know, starting out, getting the knowledge that you need for the business, investing in yourself, which is going to be getting the knowledge that you need for your business and. Don’t give up. If it’s a mentor, find someone that’s going to pursue. It’s going to inspire you. And don’t lose focus. Just don’t waver. Just keep your eye on the prize. And don’t worry about anybody else. Don’t worry about anybody else. You should focus on what you want and you go for it. And really, I know it’s really hard to do. But you have to start somewhere. You’re not always going to be like 100% on your side, you know? You know? So this is the way it is. Being a business person is like, it’s not easy, but you have to have the mindset of just don’t ever give up. Invest in yourself. You’re worth it. You have to tell yourself you’re worth it. If you have to start watching some motivational speaking, do it. It will feel you and it will change your mindset. Because a lot of the times we’re speaking the negative, we’re speaking the Dow, we’re speaking the fear. But if we have someone else speaking life and speaking joy and encouragement in to us, then that’s what we’re going to be thinking about. We’re going to be thinking, okay, I can do this. Oh yeah, If that person did that, I could do that, Oh yeah, I can do this. And it’s just kind of like a snowball effect. You’re just going to keep going to keep going and keep going and start those good habits and leave all the bad habits away and just keep going. Keep moving forward. 

[00:16:35] Lisa DiGeso What’s been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:16:38] Melissa Arlena Jeffcoat Read Profit First. One Yes. So if your listeners don’t know, it’s a book about setting up your finances and accounting in your business. And I’ve been on other podcasts where I’ve talked about my story, where I literally, like, ran my business into the ground with debt and then brought it back out and started implementing profit first. And now I don’t stress about one tax bills or do I don’t stress about operating expenses or paying myself. So I tell people I’m like, it doesn’t matter if you don’t make any money right now, just go ahead and get in your head. That first check you get. These are the places that it’s going to go. And in that way, you know, you’re set up for success. 

[00:17:15] Lisa DiGeso So what’s been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:17:19] Olguta Goddard Oh, goodness. I will tell you, I for me, I had someone ask once, What is your time away from your kids work? It was at a at a conference and it was a speaker giving a speech, a speech on IPS. And I’m not an IPS photographer. I just do digital sales and I’m okay with that. And I was listening to her during her speech. And what she mentioned is, you know, everything that we do comes at a cost, right? Whether it’s a cost to your business, a cost to your time, a cost to your mental health.  There’s everything has a cost, doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary costs. But the reason she was so passionate about us is that our time away as a photographer takes a toll or at a cost to other things like your family. As she said, what is your time away from your children worth to you? I think I like it. I mean, that is that always resonated with me because at that time I was charging so little. Like everything I’m preaching about now. Like, that was me back then. And I know we all go through that and that’s totally okay. But I just that that kind of always stuck with me like I’m missing. I’m leaving away for an hour session, plus the hour drive time there on the hour back, plus all the other little pieces of time when prepping for my session. That’s all time away from my own family. Is that only worth 100 bucks? Yeah. And so that always has stuck around like, you know, it’s okay for us to charge our worth and charging it from the start. Even I almost I feel bad when I see photographers post like, Oh, I’m doing sessions for $35. Yeah. Like, you’re not that’s not even covering gas now. So just really being able to kind of hone in on what’s important to you and is what you’re doing from your, you know, from a creative standpoint even worth that? 

[00:19:12] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. Oh, great advice. What has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:19:20] Shannon McTighe What are the best pieces? Oh, for social media, this was a really great one was post what you want to draw back. So like if you are really drawn to newborns, post newborns, if you’re drawn to storytelling, post storytelling, if you’re not drawn to pose, you can take post, but don’t post those shots, post the non post because you’re going to draw in what you put out. So if you’re constantly posting posts, you’re going to get people that want those post photos. So I try. I always take post photos, but I post the non post. 

[00:19:50] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, I love that. And what advice do you have for someone just starting out? 

[00:19:55] Shannon McTighe Just go for it. Don’t compare yourself to others. 

[00:19:59] Lisa DiGeso Oh, that’s like that’s the biggest thing, especially when you’re first getting started, is that comparison game. I’m like, I’m never going to be as good as like X, y, Z photographer. Like, we’ve all been there. 

[00:20:08] Shannon McTighe All of us. I can say where I started. Like all these new photographers that come out, I’m like, Oh my God, I started to understand this. 

[00:20:16] Lisa DiGeso I know, like, some of them, like, I’m just like when we opened up the retreat groups and they’re like, Yeah, I’ve been shooting for like two weeks, and I’m like. 

[00:20:24] Shannon McTighe Good lord, you’re amazing. I was like, Oh man, I’m never going to be like you. 

[00:20:30] Lisa DiGeso I did not have that natural talent. 

[00:20:33] Shannon McTighe Nope. 

[00:20:34] Lisa DiGeso Now, what has been your biggest lesson as a photographer and what advice would you give to someone just starting out. 

[00:20:40] Sherida Rae Taylor To be okay with saying no to clients or to to potential clients? So you have to be okay with with that. Don’t shoot it just for the money. That’s me personally. I don’t know. I just. I need to shoot what I love. Even what we were saying before, to be okay with yourself. Like to be okay with. I’m meant to shoot this and not this. 

[00:21:04] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, that’s one lesson that I really, you know, it’s taking me so long to learn is that I don’t have to be the jack of all trades. They don’t have to be the photographer. Everybody. Just because someone wants me to shoot. 

[00:21:14] Sherida Rae Taylor Them doesn’t. 

[00:21:15] Lisa DiGeso Mean I have to. Right, Right. And that’s a huge lesson that I’m still learning because I’m such a dang people pleaser. 

[00:21:23] Sherida Rae Taylor Yeah. I think for me, I just want to be amazing at motherhood. And then when it’s when the time is right, then I might branch out to other things. But when I’m starting, like when you’re starting out, maybe just focus on one thing. Focus, you know, really master something. Even if it comes to a lens, like use one lens, like really know that lens or know that light or and then move on and learn something else. Just take it one step at a time. 

[00:21:57] Lisa DiGeso What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:22:01] Tiffany Crenshaw To raise my prices during busy season. That is important because when you raise them in slow season, you get real insecure that no one’s booking. When naturally they weren’t really booking anyway. And so raising them, when you’re in the middle of booking everything out I think is really reaffirming. So I highly suggest. 

[00:22:25] Lisa DiGeso What advice do you have for someone just starting out? 

[00:22:28] Tiffany Crenshaw Learn as much as you can. Be humble. I know we can all go back to our early work and it’s like, wow, wow. But just soaking up education as much as you can and learning from as many different avenues as you can so that you can really find your voice and find out who you want to be as an artist. That and also starting off charging profitably. It’s easier to start that way than to try to backtrack and get there, I think. 

[00:23:01] Lisa DiGeso Thanks for tuning in today, my friends, and if I haven’t said it recently, I just want you to know how much we appreciate you tuning in each and every week. I’m sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. Well, see you next time. Hey, friend, you know what’s the worst is just being mid-session and completely freezing. You start to feel awkward. Your clients start looking at you for direction, and your brain feels like you just hit a wall. Now, believe me, you are not alone. And that’s why we created the Storytellers Toolkit. It’s an emotive prompt guide. Help sessions stay free flowing and fun. And best of all right now it’s totally free. It’s full of prompts for parents, motherhood, family, siblings and couples, and even a sure fire smile problem. We’ve put together over 200 prompts for you. You’ll never be at a loss for an idea again. Grab your copy at The MilkyWay.com/toolkit. 

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