Networking and Education
I was 15 years old when I decided photography was my calling in life. Back then everything was still film cameras and there really weren’t that many photographers around. I searched for photographers that I could learn from, because signing on to prodigy was ridiculous and searching google didn’t exist. (wow that just made me feel old) Unfortunately, most photographers were not really interested in letting some kid tag along who was trying to compete with what they do.
In 2007, I became fully self employed and hired my first employee. I hired mainly local students from photography programs as employees. It meant a lot to me to see students that had the same desire as I did, and to be able to help them grow and progress. At that time, most of the business we did was sports photography.
I was more or less self taught in all things photography, and occasionally I would read an article in a magazine or another source, to continue to learn and grow. It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I discovered the online communities of photographers, and the educational resources available at the tips of my fingers.
Facebook groups and communities of like minded photographers was actually where I began to market a new business idea of selling Gallery Wrapped Canvas to my peers. I had a client that convinced me to share some of my landscape images with her. She, in turn, ordered a significant amount of canvases from my work. Then, just a few short months later, she asked for more. On about the 3rd order, I realized I could build these myself for far less money and Covered in Canvas was born. So I took to Facebook to find concentrated groups of photographers to market my products. What I didn’t realize was that this was actually the spark to my photography business and specializing in Senior Portraits.
Creative Live was also a huge turning point for me. In fact, one of my canvas customers told me about creative live, and that they would be on one of the next classes soon about seniors with Sal Cincotta. I thought I would log on to their free class just so I could say I saw this client on Creative Live. Little did I know that I would get sucked in and redirect my whole business model.
I already had a passion for photographing seniors, but now I had a fire inside me to become a Senior Portrait Photographer – and I did.
I sold my sports business in may of 2013 and told my wife I was making a drastic change. I set my 5 year goals high, and quickly surpassed those goals in the first year.
So what does this have to do with networking and Education? Well, those few events really jumpstarted my business. My mindset was to avoid my competition and work! work! work! My new business is where I decided to start networking with other photographers, not realizing that it would eventually give my business the boost it needed the whole time.
Once I learned that I wanted to focus all of my efforts in my photography toward seniors, I really started trying to network with other photographers to find people that loved and specialized in what I did. That is when I found out that there were educational resources out there, like creative live, and conferences that would help me develop not only my talent but my business understanding and capabilities.
I am a believer that if you don’t educate and innovate, your business will die. Too many photographers jump in, think they got it right, and then just ride the wave. Every industry changes on a regular basis and if you don’t educate yourself and innovate your business will fail. I budget about $5000 a year specifically to education, whether it be traveling to conferences, magazine subscriptions, memberships to live learning websites and so forth.
Some of the most valuable relationships I have developed have been at conferences focused on the business of photography. Some have been mentors, and some have been just great friends that I have been able to learn with. Others have just been friends that are sounding boards and brain storming partners that really help me stimulate my mind and growth.
So, networking and education are certainly 2 of the most important aspects to my business, and things I wish I would have known when I started. I saw a meme the other day that said “Take a competitor out to coffee and build community instead of enemy’s” Author Unknown
There is so much strength in positive community that will make your business better and your competition stronger. Good competition only makes you a better photographer and business person.