My Journey as a Photographer and Business Owner
If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked, "so, how did you get into photography?" I'd probably be sitting in my closet full of Louis and Chanel right now.. Haha!
My journey as a photographer and becoming a business owner at 17 years old is something I am so proud of and a story I hold dear and true to my heart. I have learned so much along the way and it has truly helped me develop into who I am today.
I never planned on growing up to be a photographer. In fact, for most of my childhood, I actually wanted to be a dentist. I was serious about it too! I planned my whole college career and everything, even interviewed my own dentist to understand more about the field, but then I realized ... I hate spit .... so I was back to square one. 😂
People always ask if I went to school for photography and the answer is no. I am self taught. I believe that photography is an art, and you cannot teach the arts. You can be taught techniques and rules, but not artistic skills. That's the beauty of it, it's art! The most beneficial way to learn and develop these skills it to just get out and do them. You will learn so much in the process.
From a young age, I knew I had a creative spirit with my constant desire to craft and make Word Art masterpieces (I think we all went through this phase), but I never quite felt like an artist. My sister, on the other hand, is an extremely gifted artist; she's absolutely amazing at drawing, painting and so many other mediums. She always inspired me. When she was 8, she won a first place award for her artwork in the State Fair. I remember wishing I was talented like her. I always loved photography, and dreamt that maybe one day, I could enter the photography contest. I took lots of dumb photos on my mom's Nikon Coolpix, thinking of course they were my winning shot. I remember one particular photo I took of my aviators on the sidewalk, which I of course took to pic-monkey to edit it with a sepia filter and add some Justin Beiber lyrics - now that was art.
But I never really did anything else with my interest until high school, when I decided to take a photography class as an elective. I really enjoyed it, but didn't think much about taking it further than class, that is until I saved up to buy a camera of my own. I didn't have any other intentions other than to play around with it for vacations and for fun. I started to do photoshoots with my sisters and posted their photos on social media. Around that time, I also went on a trip to New York which was when I really tried to learn more about photography and my camera, because duh - I was in New York and I wanted to take amazing photos. Looking back, that trip was actually really monumental to my career. I remember falling in love with photography simultaneously as I fell in love with New York. It's my favorite place in the world and I was just so awe-struck with the fact I was really there; I wanted to capture every waking moment. Those photos I took on that trip are still some of my favorite images I've ever taken. It's when my passion really started.
At this point, I had no intention of making any money off of my photos. I didn't even think anyone would pay me for my work. I was just a hobbyist. I hadn't ever really advertised myself as a photographer, but since I shared my work often it was pretty clear that I had a fancy camera - which automatically made me a photographer, right? 😂
Since I was a junior in high school, I had a few friends who were desperate for last minute senior photos and reached out to me to do them. I remember being so nervous and having no clue how to actually import, edit, and deliver a whole gallery. I didn't have the knowledge or even the equipment, but I quickly learned to work with what I had. I learned more and more with every session and started taking photos of everything and anything just to keep practicing.
I began booking sessions for more of my high school classmates and then, even strangers. Because I was constantly sharing my work to social media, my business took off. I often look back and think that there's no way I could have possibly grown my skills or my business to where it is today without the power of social media. I am truly so thankful for that! Fast forward to today, and photography is now my full time job! Though it wasn't that easy.
I started realizing that there was really an opportunity for me to make decent money doing this, but with paying clients came responsibility, especially when I began getting inquiries from people I didn't know. I knew that if I wanted clients to take me seriously, I needed to take my business seriously. I wrote contracts, built a website, created an Instagram and Facebook business page, and even printed business cards. I then eventually registered as an LLC to make everything legal and sat down with my accountant to learn what I needed to do to prepare for business taxes. I was constantly re-investing every dollar I made back into my business for new professional equipment, advertising, branding, education, client management systems, and the list goes on. I also needed to learn how to manage my own hours, communicate with clients, develop marketing strategies, and most importantly - manage finances. My job is extremely seasonal, so with such a long off season, I really needed to learn to be smart with spending and prepare for tax season.
I was (well, am) a one woman show. Being self employed is so much more than making your own hours and being able to go to hot yoga in the middle of the day. It's not easy behind the scenes. It might seem glamorous, but no one talks about the late nights, time, effort, truly just blood, sweat and tears that go into running a business. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to have it any other way, but it has been a difficult road, especially trying navigate through everything on my own. I didn't have anyone to guide me through this journey or anyone to turn to when I needed something. Well, besides the internet. This is why networking is so important. Being self employed is lonely. I'm truly so thankful to have found friendship in my local community. Joining facebook groups and setting up coffee dates with other creatives has kept me sane. Even though we're all running our own businesses, moving past the idea of viewing each other as competitors and rather as a community has been so beneficial not only to my own mental health, but my business too.
I am so grateful for how far my business has come since then. Through the highs and the lows, I have learned so much. I truly couldn't have done it without the amazing support system I have between my family, friends, and clients who share my work, refer me to others, and have just been by my side through it all. I have to pinch myself sometimes to realize that this really is my job. I feel so lucky to do what I do and I can't wait to see where things go from here!
I encourage you to follow your dreams no matter how big or small they may be. Take a leap of faith and just do it! You never know where life will take you.
Well - that's my story! There's so much more to how I ended up here, but I'll save that for another time. For now, I hope you enjoyed this read! I'm hoping to share more personal stories such as this and I would appreciate any feedback or even requests for future posts. Thank you so much for reading and following along!
ps - I would love if you followed my photography page @lindseycolephotography.. your support means the absolute world to me! 🥰