Starting out as a photographer is never easy. Finding your style — both in photography and in business — is a challenge that can take years. Renowned wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis has worked for a long time to hone his craft, and we asked him to share some advice for photographers just getting into the business.
1. Work in real-world conditions
When Jerry started out, he worked part time at a camera store so he could assist a wedding photographer for free. He told us that he learned more from the very first wedding he assisted in than he ever did in school.
“At that first wedding, I was taught about the direction of light, how to use flash, interacting with clients, working under pressure, and working under time constraints.”
Though he believes in education and thinks workshops can help develop skills and technique, he still thinks getting out and shooting actual clients is the best way to learn.
2. Know how to read people
“One thing I strongly believe is that success in photography is more about your communication skills and listening skills and knowing how to read people.”
Jerry shared that being able to “read” the people you photograph is even more important to becoming a great photographer than technical skills. It helps you to adapt to whatever situation you find yourself in and connect with your clients.
“You almost need to be like a chameleon, in the sense that you need to know how to be relaxed and more down to earth at a casual wedding and at the same time be able to carry yourself professionally when you’re at a high society wedding.”
3. Be a business person first
Photographers are also business owners, and being passionate about your business is vital to its success. Jerry suggests asking yourself, “Am I working in my business or on my business?” If you’re working on it, then you’re helping your business to grow and thrive.
He hinted that part of that is getting help when you need it. Either hire a great staff, or find ways to collaborate with other professionals to develop your business.
4. Make your marketing worthwhile
Jerry shared that, although marketing can help you build a business, it shouldn’t break the bank. “When it comes to marketing your new business, you should work on marketing that costs you nothing by first asking your clients and vendors for referrals and maximizing relationships with people who can help you.”
He also said that same-day slideshows at a wedding reception are another simple way to market on a budget. “It’s the best direct marketing you will ever do and you can also charge good money for it.”
If you’re still considering traditional advertising, Jerry suggests focusing on your return. ”Whenever an advertising opportunity presents itself, ask yourself, ‘Is there a better way I can spend this money?’”
5. Build your brand
“I’ve learned to market and brand myself by judging what I would be attracted to as well.” That means trusting your instincts when finding your style. Jerry looked to the fashion industry when developing his brand because it matched his sensibilities and appealed to his female clients.
But he warns against forcing yourself to adapt to a style that isn’t you. Find a look that feels right for you — one that you can brand and make your own.
6. Keep improving
“One of my favorite mantras has always been that I don’t focus on being the best; I just focus on being better than last week.” So Jerry keeps working on his photography to make sure he’s always improving. He doesn’t race against other photographers — he just tries to improve himself.
“I believe this is one of the keys to being successful and consistently creating beautiful images. By doing that, you become the best that you can be – you realize your own potential.”
How are you working to improve your photography? Let us know in the comments below.