Have you ever felt like if you just get THAT camera body, THAT lens, or THAT computer, that THEN you’ll be more professional?
THEN you’ll have a seat at the table? I recently shared a little bit of my heart on the photography community on Instagram stories, and I really wanted to be able to dive a little deeper on the topic. For my entire photography career, I’ve always wanted more, and better. I’ve always felt like I couldn’t be taken seriously until I had the best, most expensive equipment and had completely mastered my editing. Now that I’m at a place in my photography journey where 2017 Jamie would say “I’ve arrived”, I know that those thoughts are simply untrue. It’s definitely true that I have some nice equipment now, but even I’d say my lens collection is pretty underwhelming compared to what it could be. But even with my new and improved camera gear, I can confidently say that my gear is not what got me to a place that pays the bills.
I attribute my success to these three things: client experience, building community, & constant practice.
Number one: Client Experience
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it- but it’s CRUCIAL. Something can always be improved in your client experience. My clients totally love their galleries, sure- but they RAVE about their experience with us. Even knowing that, I still constantly have ideas and plans to improve in this area- streamline email workflows, create more guides & send more tips, send more thoughtful gifts & check in even after the job is done. But you know how I know it works? Because when I look back on the galleries I sent out three years ago to clients who have continued to book with me, the photos are NOT good. At least by my standards. But they raved about me. And they keep coming back. And they’re loyal. It’s because I served them well, and we built a real relationship. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?
Number Two: Building Community
It is so easy to stay in our little editing caves and never venture out of our mindless, instagram-scrolling, unoriginal funks. It’s so easy to be intimidated by other creatives who seem to have it all figured out, and, if I’m being fully transparent here- it’s also easy to feel better than someone who doesn’t have a great social media presence, or maybe is still figuring out their style. That’s why building community of like-minded creatives of all different stages of business is so important to success. If we stay focused on ourselves and never stop comparing, we’re always honed in on the wrong thing. Meeting people in person to just work together at a coffee shop, or forming a discussion group that meets once a month, can be so refreshing and life-giving. It propels your business forward because no longer are you comparing yourself to others behind a screen- but building each other up and learning from each other in person. It’s also a great way to get referrals and get your foot in the door with that venue or business that you’ve always wanted to work with. You are the heart behind your business, so as long as you continue to make personal connections, you’ll continue to grow.
Number Three: Constant Practice
Never. Stop. Practicing. Even when you’re not booked and you’re not busy, plan styled shoots and ask your friends to meet you at a new spot. Keep it fun and exciting and push yourself to learn new techniques. The beauty of photography is it’s art- but sometimes, especially as wedding photographers, we get caught in the traditional checklist photos that we can’t miss on a wedding day, and then that creative funk starts kicking in. Set aside some time to learn something you’ve always wanted to learn, and then master it. Or if there is something you can’t ever quite get right, do some research and brainstorm some ideas to get better at it. I still do this and while somebody a few steps below me on the ladder might view me as better than they are, it’s only because I’ve had more practice. Just like them, I’m a few steps below the people that I look up to, and only more hours is going to get me there.
If you can’t afford that new $5,000 camera, you don’t need it. All of the above are FREE ways to improve your business and lead you to success. Regardless of what any big Instagram account guy is telling you- you are great and you can be a professional without it.