So how much of each of these do you really need to start a business?
This is not quite as daunting as it seems.
We all have knowledge, we all have education to some degree, we all have (or have the ability to gain) experience but not all have qualifications so how and do these affect your business?
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create“. Albert Einstein.
There are many famous quotes about knowledge, some agree with Mr Einstein above, and some believe knowledge is King.
Knowledge can help in many ways with your business such as who to approach, where things happen, how to create that “new” look in your images, how much to charge and so on but too much knowledge, or at least the quest for it, can hinder your progress.
If you are able to produce the best work you can using techniques and methods you already know, you are half way there. Don’t think you need a City and Guilds in Photography. Don’t think you need a degree in digital imaging. You don’t even need to be part of a professional photography association or body.
As long as you produce the goods in the manner you propose and are professional and polite in the process, that is all that matters for now. Don’t spend too long trying to learn everything there is to know about photography such as all the technical aspects, it doesn’t matter.
Some of the best drivers on the road couldn’t change a spark plug if they tried!
Some people wait until everything is “just right” before starting a business so they never do it because it will never be “just right” or the perfect moment. You just have to bite the bullet and jump right into it at some point.
What really matters is practice, persistence and gaining experience.
Education is important, not just in areas that are relevant to your business but in many other ways. I could never understand how a new agricultural degree graduate could win a position in finance over someone with prior experience in financial positions.
It’s not always about the actual qualifications, but the fact that someone has bothered to take the time to study and earn them coupled with a professional attitude and desire for the position. The education process teaches us so much more than the subject we are studying.
When I was studying marketing at home (still am), I took off at so many different tangents and avenues that my skills and knowledge in other areas grew too. When I am in a learning state of mind, I am like a sponge to all knowledge that I come across.
So many aspects play a part in winning or losing jobs, contracts and even personal relationships that it is difficult to always know what is best.
When I meet or research someone in the imaging industry, I am more often than not, more impressed by their passion, skills, talent and desire than their qualifications. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I either asked someone for their qualifications, or had someone ask me for mine come to that.
Once you gain experience, knowledge and your talent improves, qualifications kind of take a back seat.
No matter what stage you are at whilst reading this, no matter what your educational background or qualifications are, even your experience doesn’t matter too much, if you have “fire in your belly” and a passion to get started with your own business, there should be no boundaries or hurdles you cannot overcome.
Be prepared to forever be at school. You will never stop learning in this business!
If you haven’t a lot of experience at the moment, you need to be continuously looking to change that. The quicker you gain experience, the more confident you will feel and the quicker you can start charging for your work.
Firstly, you need a portfolio but be careful where you obtain it. Please do not make the mistake of either using someone else’s images as your own or even using photos from a course you attended as promotional material.
I saw once that a photographer I knew had used images they had taken whilst on a wedding photography course to promote their business in a yearly glossy magazine. Guess what?
Another photographer from that course had done exactly the same thing in the same magazine and the ads were just two pages apart. Any savvy bride looking to book a photographer would instantly see that the same “couple” were used by two different photographers. Very unprofessional looking!
If you are starting out from absolute scratch, you need to get yourself out there and start gathering some images. You can either piggyback another professional photographer as a second shooter, assuming you can find one willing, or you can offer your inexperienced services for free.
If you are going to approach a photographer to ask this, I would try to make it well outside of your own “patch”, that way you won’t be encroaching on their territory and therefore they shouldn’t see you as a threat.
Explain what you are doing and that you would like to help out as a second shooter for a wedding (for free) in return for the use of those images as part of your initial portfolio. It would be a good idea to show the photographer a selection of “non wedding” images you have taken to reassure him or her that you are competent with a camera.
Make sure you have something in your portfolio…
Use the 1 in 10 rule here and work on the assumption that, in general, one out of ten will say yes…maybe it will take one in twenty.
Offer Free Service?
If the piggybacking method falls flat, offer your services to friends, family and/or work colleagues for free. Get the message out that you are willing to shoot an entire wedding, portrait sitting, property shoot, day in the life or anything for free and will just charge for materials and prints.
But, make it known this is a one off!
You will soon get someone take you up on your offer especially if you show some good, creative work that you have already done (it doesn’t have to be related to the job at hand, again just to show you have the skills and talent).
Before you take on any job like this, it is important that you let the client know exactly what you are doing. Be honest, explain your situation and maybe even have a contract drawn up (especially for weddings) where you and the client sign an agreement wavering your responsibilities should anything go wrong.
If you can avoid giving away your work for free, I would suggest that you do so. Once word gets around, you are buggered as all and sundry will want freebies.
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