Day 30: What I Wish I Knew When I Started

Welcome to day 30 in my 100 posts in 100 days for photographers! I first started photography in 2008 when I got my first camera. I didn’t start my business until 2010 and then started shooting weddings in 2011. Today I’m sharing twelve things I wish I knew when I started out.

  1. Everything you put out doesn’t have to be perfect.

Done is better than perfect. For someone who wants to be known for their art, that’s a hard pill to swallow. So often though, people refrain from posting at all and then the amazing thing they created never gets shared with the world. You can’t expect to be perfect, there is no such thing, so be yourself, put your work into the world and don’t worry.

  1. Invest in a workshop.

You can learn almost anything online right now. It’s an endless resource for anyone with access. I spent so much time teaching myself how to do everything photography related, but it wasn’t until I invested in an actual workshop with photographers (that I admired) that my game changed. My shooting got better, my client consults got better, my confidence improved… yes it was $1,200 but it was well worth the cost. You can’t take every workshop, but one with a photographer you really love is worth it.

  1. Slow down.

What is your keep rate when you cull your images after a shoot? If you deliver 40 photos from an engagement session but you had to take 600 images to get those 40, then you’re not being intentional with how you shoot. Slow down, check the back of your camera, think through what works and what doesn’t and take an extra moment to make sure your settings are spot on before shooting.

  1. Consistency is key.

The last thing you want is for people to be confused when they see your work. What exactly will someone get if they hire you? If there is a picture of a horse in the middle of a portfolio filled with children, a mother might hesitate before hiring you to shoot her family portraits. Or if you have 50% light and airy photos and 50% dark and moody photos, you are attracting neither client. Choose a client and post for them.

  1. Shoot in RAW.

For years I shot in JPEG and edited each image in Photoshop. Switch to RAW for better image quality and more freedom while editing (In LIGHTROOM!). Especially wedding photographers who might sometimes need to bring back details in a dress… RAW gives you that information in the image file to have the freedom to make those edits.

  1. Post processing isn’t there to save bad work.

In other words: Get it right in camera. This goes back to number three… slow down, get your settings right, shoot consistently and produce consistent work. Lightroom is there to make a good photo great, not to make a bad photo good!

  1. Pick a direction and go confidently.

There is always going to be a style you adore and want to reproduce. It’s similar to going into your friend’s gorgeous house and thinking “I should redecorate my whole house…” There’s always going to be a style you crush on but it doesn’t mean you have to chase that same style. Determine what kind of work you’re going to produce and create it! Imagine how disappointing it would be if all Tim Burton movies were as different as day and night. People go to his movies because they love his style! People will fall in love with your work because it’s your style, not because it keeps changing every week.

  1. Back up your photos.

Hard drives WILL CRASH. It’s not a matter of if but when. Make sure everything is completely backed up twice. Once on site and once off site using a cloud storage solution. Also, specify how long you maintain your backups in your contract. While I don’t delete images, I do have it outlined in my contract that I am responsible for maintaining backups for 1 year from a wedding date.

  1. Monitor your progress.

Every three months, note what your numbers are at. This can be anything from income to Instagram followers, website traffic, or the average Facebook like. Anything you want to improve on should be monitored to make sure the efforts you’re making are paying off. If they’re not, it’s time to switch gears!

  1. Learn from your failures.

It’s a hard mindset to get yourself into, but if you’re not failing you’re not trying and you’re not learning. Give yourself some room to jump into something that might not work, and if it doesn’t, learn from it and make something better. This is the only way to ensure you are getting better and better. Imagine where you’ll be in five years after powering through failures, and then imagine where you’ll be in five years having never tried. I’ll take door number one, please.

11. Don’t get too caught up in the self help.

Most celebrity photographers have set aside their camera and named you as their new target market. You don’t need to buy every course that pops into your inbox. Right now I think there is a lot of learning and not enough doing. These self help books, marketing courses, how-to guides… all of them work, but only if you do them. They’re like diets… you have to do the work in order for it to work. Don’t get too caught up in the next book and the next course. What do you know NOW that you can DO?

12. You’re not the wrong age.

You’re not too young, you’re not too old. You’re the age you are right now. Start. Go with confidence.


Anything to add? I want to hear from you in the comments! What did you wish you knew when you were just starting out?  Thanks for being here for day 30 and I’ll see you tomorrow for day 31: What your website should say about you.

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

denise karis photography blog 100 posts in 100 days for photographers