I suppose a part of me has always enjoyed photography but it was not until being fully immersed in all things blogging that I had to tap into those skills a bit. A big part of blogging is taking photos, my abilities and curiosity in the field has grown over the years. There have been a few camera upgrades, some reading and videos to help along the way but it was not until this past year (2019) that I finally decided "this would be the year I actually feel confident behind the camera". I became intentional about trying to master the skill, all things are relative so for me and my current abilities, "mastering" meant starting off with a Camera Basics class at a local camera store here in N.J., Unique Photo.
It was a three class lesson that actually really helped but like I always tell my children nothing helps more that actually getting out and doing it; practice, practice, practice. So that is what I set out to do, this past summer I began to offer free back to school mini sessions. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. For the first time ever I would be putting myself and my work out there for everyone to offer their unsolicited criticisms. It is one thing to photograph my children, close friends and family, but strangers? And then to eventually charge them and one day get to a place where I felt I could say "I am charging my worth plus tax" seemed so far fetched nonetheless I was going to do it any way, in spite of being afraid.
I have done back to school mini shoots for my children in the past where I have purchased props and have included re-purposed furniture, mostly thrifted from off of Craigslist or the Facebook marketplace. Although I may not yet know my photographic shooting style I knew that "my thing" would be some sort of stylized themed photo shoot experience. I picked a couple of Saturdays in August, and began to promote my free sessions. I was pleasantly surprised by the inquiry and feedback, almost all were complete strangers. Yes, the mini sessions were free but these could possibly be potential future clients, so again I got afraid. What if I mess it up, what if I don't remember settings all of these what ifs but, I DID IT! Granted, during one session I did not lock my settings and in the shuffle of rearranging props, along with the big rookie mistake of not periodically checking my shots, I over exposed to the point of very little return. I had to remind myself that this was the very point of practicing and offering free shoots, to perfect my craft, to learn.
Offering the shoots really helped boost my confidence, I was growing more knowledgeable and less afraid. I decided to offer a discounted Fall mini session. Unfortunately, no one was interested, it is funny how that works right? People encourage you to do it afraid, "if you build it they will come", charge your worth plus tax, etc, etc., then when you actually do it, its crickets. Like, a la hora de la verdad nadie se aparece - when push comes to shove no one supports.
I did not let it discourage me however, yes, I was out a few dollars on props and a few more on my site's monthly eCommerce fee but I got a little more practice and nice memories by shooting the kids. Plus, there is always next year, I can use those props again. *positively shrugs*
My church hosts a bi-yearly Vendor Market, in good 'ole do it afraid fashion, I signed up! I did a mock shoot at home, began practicing with speedlite flash for the first time ever. Which, by the way I need to publicly thank my friend Kelly Joyce from Kelly Joyce Photography. She not only sold me my camera upgrade after my bag and all equipment was stolen out of my car but she is always so willing to gladly offer me tips and suggestions whenever I ask. She has been like my heaven sent mentor. I had years desiring one and anyone I'd ask would turn me down with their respective reasons I suppose. But I didn't have to ask Kelly, she just offers and responds, she is a real blessing.
Using items and decor I already owned I came up with a set up for my Pop-Up Christmas mini sessions. I took a few shoots of the kids, practiced flash photography, and began to promote my photography. I offered 2 digital images for just $10. Yes, it was inexpensive but the point was more to put myself out there vs. make a killing. I was pleasantly surprised when a couple of people pre-paid for their pop-up shoot. I was even more surprised when at the end of the day I counted and saw that I had shot 10 mini sessions.
Doing the Holiday Vendor Market pushed me out of my comfort zone in a few areas; I had to shoot more strangers, learn flash photography, become familiar with Pass - a photo site, set up swipe to pay and learn more Light room.
I guess I got a little too confident, because shortly after the pop-up shoot at the market I booked a studio off of Peer Space. Let's just say that I was only able to break even as I only shot two clients. But again, lessons learned. I was now familiar with booking on Peer Space, a photo studio, studio lighting/flash and more little things I need to do to end up with a better result.
As If that were not enough practice and lessons learned, I decided to volunteer myself as photographer for my kids school Christmas photo PTO Fundraiser. I really had no clue what I was getting myself into and just how many children actually came with their 5 and ten bucks ready for photos with Santa! I must have taken 300 photos between 10 and 2 pm, I was so tired, learned more lessons, and as exhausted as I was, I loved every minute of it.
By the end of December I was feeling less afraid and pretty hopeful. I thought I would have success at a Valentine's Pop up shoot but then those old fears and insecurities of not being skilled enough or even supported enough. So I did not set up a shoot, book a studio and nothing of the like for Valentine's but there is always next time, I don't know.
The thing is do it afraid, learn while afraid, put yourself out there while you are afraid, you never know how it might go or who will meet you were you are to encourage you along your journey. My biggest is take away is that I have blocked myself way too many times, I have doubted, and have been way to critical of me. So from now on I choose me, I choose to do it afraid. I choose to just do it, just try.
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I'M ALICIA GIBBS
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