Good morning & Happy Pancake Day!
Today we are taking a break from our power week of photo posts :) to bring you a Pancake Session all about getting started as a young photographer. When it came to Justin & myself, we really didn’t start the business until after we had both finished school and we were already into our twenties. For him, it was right after he finished at RIT and he had the benefit of a top notch photography education behind him. And for me, I joined full time after I finished law school with an emphasis in business….and had eight years of time behind me since high school to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. :)
So while there were MANY (many, many) things that we had to struggle with & learn while we were trying to get our business off the ground….two of the things that we’ve just never had to deal with the way that I know a LOT of you out there are, were 1) somehow finding a way to teach ourselves photography (RIT taught Justin & then he taught me) and 2) being taken seriously as a super young photographer & business owner.
But I’m a big believer in the idea that “if you don’t really know about it, don’t talk about it”….and instead, bring in someone who does! So we are SOO super excited to have our good friend & wonderful photographer Natalie Franke on to guest blog for us today! Natalie started her business while she was just a teenager (!!!) and was just about to start college. And over the past six years, she has built up one of the most respected photography businesses in Baltimore as well as starting the wildly popular Bayside Bride blog. All while she was finishing out an Ivy League education & getting married herself! In other words, this girl is a powerhouse!
You should definitely listen to her….she’s one smart cookie!
How did you get started?
I was seventeen when I first held a DSLR in my hands. A simple little camera, with a kit lens attached, that opened my eyes to the beauty of photography. It was my senior year of high school, almost six years ago, when I realized that I
wanted needed to be a photographer. From that very moment, I felt this excitement and hunger to learn everything that I could about the camera. Not just how to properly expose images – but how light traveled through three-dimensional space, how we see the outside world, how the visual system works, and how images have the power to change lives.
The following year, in college, I began to second shoot for local photographers in the Chesapeake Area and applied my love of photography to the world of weddings. I then transferred from my state school in Towson to the University of Pennsylvania where I studied Visual Neuroscience and the Psychology of Seeing while finishing my Bachelors Degree. I like to say that I’m half self-taught and half formally educated.
How did you teach yourself photography?
I am a firm believer that education is one of the most important aspects to building a strong foundation in any professional field. Whether this education is in the form of a university, technical photography school, or in learning hands on by practice and reading – different methods work best for different types of people. I personally learn best by reading and then replicating what I’ve read with a hands-on approach.
I knew the way I wanted my photographs to look and I worked meticulously until I learned how to manually achieve those images in camera. I started by learning exposure and lighting, then composition, and then digital processing using Photoshop and Lightroom.
What are the three most important things for a young photographer (or anyone really!) to have in place to present themselves as a legitimate business?
1) A Strong Photographic Portfolio + Style: I believe that the craft always comes first. And if you are young and trying to start your own business, you already have to prove yourself in an industry where many photographers have decades of more experience than you do. So you start with the basics – learning everything you can and developing a strong portfolio that truly sets you apart. I remember meeting with couples that had no idea from my website that I was still a teenager… Judging by the quality of my work, they assumed that I was at least in my mid-twenties and I believe that it was my photographic quality that allowed me to succeed at a very young age.
2) Utilize Social Media Professionally: How much you share and what you say online plays a significant role in a client’s first impression of whether you are trustworthy and professional – never forget that. When most of my friends were posting images of themselves partying in college or speaking openly about divisive topics like politics, I was very careful about maintaining a professional identity online. We work in an industry where your personal page is just as important as your professional one. Be authentic, be professional, and remember that the Internet lives forever!
3) Network, Network, Network: Be positive and supportive of your fellow industry professionals. If you turn competitors into colleagues and work to build genuine friendships – it will do more for your business than divisiveness ever will! The most successful businesses make ties with the communities that they serve! Who you surround yourself with and what you do to support others will say more about you than any tweet or Facebook post ever will!
My Best Advice to New Photographers
Treat others as you want to be treated. It’s the ‘Golden Rule’ after all. Apply this to business, to client relationships, to life, and to the art of making images. Also — Be hungry for knowledge and accept that in the world of photography, you will never stop learning. Even the most experienced and inspirational photographers will admit that they are in a continual process of artistic evolution and refinement. Hold on to your love of the craft and work like crazy to learn everything that you can… not only on the first day as a professional photographer – but all the way through to your last.
Everyone please help me in giving Natalie a very warm welcome & a HUGE thank you for being here! And in addition, we have a contest going. Just leave us a note & tell us when you started your business- was it right out of high school, right out of college, after a second career?- and we’re going to pick one lucky winner to get a $25 Starbucks card. For purchase of future pumpkin spiced lattes. Obviously! And…GO!!