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2Training and ExperienceAnyone who has ever applied for a job has run across the experience catch-22. You need experience to get the job and you need the job to get experience. The same is true when starting your own photography business. For example, how do you get experience shooting weddings if no one will hire you to shoot their wedding because you have no experience? It is a little easier for portrait photographers since they can usually count on friends and family to act as willing models to help with practice. Ideally, the experience part comes before you go into business for yourself. This chapter provides some ideas to help you build a portfolio and get the experience you need to start your business.
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2 Training and Experience
Gaining ExperienceYou need two types of experience to run a successful photography business. The fi rst is photography experience, the second is business experience. Lets talk about photography experience fi rst and well cover business experience in later chapters.
The fi rst thing is to master the basics of exposure and your camera gear. That means getting out there and taking photos with your camera. Read the camera manual and, if necessary, get a third-party book explaining all the features. There is no excuse to not knowing how to use every button, dial, and menu on your camera. Nothing looks as unprofessional as a photographer who is fumbling around with his camera because he cant quickly decide on the proper settings for the scene.
One way to gain experience is to take on a personal photography project of something that you have wanted to photograph or explore. The key is to get out and take photos.
One great resource for personal projects is the Digital Photography School (digital-photography-school.com),
which sends out a weekly email to subscribers that includes a personal project assignment, and readers are invited to submit their images. There are articles related to the assignment included in the email. This is a great way to try new things, grow as a photographer, and keep yourself creatively stimulated.
On-the-Job TrainingThe traditional way to gain experience is to work for another photographer in the niche that you want to be in. Working for a photographer, or in a photography studio, in any capacity gives you valuable insight and experience. These jobs are few and far between, but there are opportunities out there.
Now working for another photographer is not always glamorous workthe hours are long, the pay minimal, and most of the time youll fi nd yourself carrying things and doing basic grunt work.
The upside is that you get on-the-job training in both photography and in how a photographer runs a business. In a studio setting, you may learn about lighting and gear. For on-location portraits, you might
Need to Master Your Camera?I highly recommend Photography Concentrates Extremely Essential Camera Skills class. Its a multimedia 3-hour course that explains the camera basics you need to know without overwhelming you. It is particularly suited for nontechnical people. Visit photographyconcentrate.com/extremely-essential-camera-skills to fi nd out how to sign up for it.
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Photography Business Secrets
learn about how to interact with clients and how to help them relax in front of the camera. Even working at a Santa booth at the mall during the holidays can be benefi cial. It will teach you how to work with kids, manage an on-site payment and printing system, and order products for an on-location shoot. As an aspiring portrait photographer, these are invaluable ways to master how to run mini sessions or organize a marathon portrait day.
Two web resources you can use to fi nd jobs are:
The job board on the Digital Wedding Forum at digitalweddingforum.com/forum/forum.php
As a working photographer you will need to charge for your services, but when you are starting out and looking for experience you should consider the benefi ts to gaining the experience and building your portfolio more than the pay.
Another source of work could come from networking with other photographers in your area. Look for photo clubs or photography networking events. You never know when a photographer will need an assistant. Make sure you have business cards to give to everyone you meet.
Here are some options to consider for gaining photography experience. While these positions may not be the most creative opportunities, what you will learn is the critical people skills needed to help people relax in front of the camera, how to use camera and lighting
equipment, the sales process in different scenarios, networking, and building up your photography skills. Some of these are seasonal, so look out for them a month or so before the season begins.
School yearbook portrait studio
Santa booth at the mall
Easter bunny booth at the mall
Sports team portraits for kids
Assistant/second shooter for wedding
Wedding photo booth
Hospital newborn photographer
Local magazines and newspapers
Real estate photographer
Job SearchThe best way to fi nd jobs is through networking with other photographers. There are many networking groups for photographers, including local PPA chapters, SmugMug User Groups, and Pictage User Groups. Look on Meetups.com for upcoming networking opportunities in your area.
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2 Training and Experience
10 Tips for Being Second Shooter at a WeddingA great way to earn money while building your business is to take second shooting gigs with wedding photographers. Youll need four or fi ve weddings under your belt as a second shooter and a solid portfolio before you can expect to be paid for the task. On the upside, its easier to fi nd weddings you can tag along to without any particular expectations, other than to hone your skills. You can send an email to photographers in your area, inviting them to look at your portfolio and consider you for a second shooting position.
Second shooters are usually paid anywhere from $200 to $600 for the day, depending on experience and skill. You need to bring your own equipment in most cases (or rent it). Once you build a reputation as a dependable second shooter, you may be able to book gigs as a second shooter almost every weekend.
Here are 10 tips that will help you become the perfect second shooter:
1. Act like a pro. Youd think it goes without saying, but its important to act like a professional at all times. This means planning ahead, familiarizing yourself with the job, arriving early, dressing professionally, and smiling.
2. Never pass out your business card. This is not your gig. If you try to get business from vendors or appear to be taking advantage of the opportunity, you may fi nd yourself quickly blacklisted. Photographers talk, and they remember.
3. Use a different approach than the primary photographer. Be aware of the angles and lenses the main shooter uses. Instead of trying to copy her shots, go get something else. Find a different perspective; use a different lens. This way, your images offer value to the primary photographer instead of being just inferior duplicate shots. By expanding the coverage to scenes the primary photographer wasnt able to capture, or shooting the basic scenes from a completely different perspective, you offer great value while at the same time build your creative skills.
4. Review the timeline. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for a wedding in advance is to review the timeline. Learn the clients names, how long the ceremony will last, when portraits will take place, and how you will get from location to location, if needed.
5. Discuss the photographers expectations. Every photographer works differently, and so its important to understand what his needs are before the big day. Some photographers need a lot of help carrying gear and watching equipment, while others operate autonomously and need as much additional shooting coverage as
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Photography Business Secrets
you can provide. Does he want you to assist with formals or capture the cocktail hour and reception details? By understanding his needs in advance and going above and beyond to exceed his expectations, you are more likely to be called for the next job.
6. Ask about pay and use of images beforehand. If you expect to be paid for the day, be sure to discuss it with the photographer upfrontincluding if youll be paid hourly or a day rate, and when you can expect payment. You also want to bring up the issue of using the images in your portfolio. Every professional has a different approach to this; go into the shoot with the understanding of her policy on use of the images captured on the day.
7. Stay out of the way. With two shooters, sometimes youll fi nd yourself blocking the primarys shot. Be cognizant of where the primary shooter is and make every effort to stay out of her way. If you cant get out of the way, do your best to duck down or minimize yourself until shes gotten the shot. The photographer will appreciate your effort, and it lets her know you are a team player.