By Edith Taylor
“I am a very short, overly energetic yet kinda awkward small town girl from Oregon. I carry an overwhelming joy in my heart brought forth by God’s grace, blessings & the love of my husband. I fell hard & fast for my husband after we reconnected & 3 months later agreeing to marrying the boy who used to live next door. We live in a small farmhouse neighboring our landlords beef cattle, with our dog Moose who is our child. Although I was not raised on a farm, I am a total small town, country, hay lovin, lemonade in a used mason jar kinda girl.”
Although I carry the title of photographer, I use that word very delicately as I am aware that I am constantly growing in this art which requires much dedication, time & appreciation. Although I did everything completely backwards, it has taught me so much about the proper means to titling yourself a photographer & growing my admiration for true artists. Being a photographer is so much fun. It is an explosion of creative beauty. I love seeing my dreams & visions come to life before me. My heart unfolding in each photo, as I totally fall for my clients. Art runs through my veins, my heart, my soul & photography is the outlet I was created for.
This being said…there is a reason that one should be legitimately experienced before running a business. Being a photographer comes with extremely hard work, disappointment, so much time away from family I can’t even stress it, missing most of your summer if you photograph weddings, taxes (be legit, not under the table, the IRS will find you. I’ve heard stories), late nights, early mornings and a ton of investment.
There are certain things that will make the launching of your business less of a self-discovery struggle & more of an announcement of your arrival. If you pick up a camera, take a few photos & start a business you will have a long road ahead of you full of back peddling & restructuring. This is the very brief version of what I learned about starting a business way before I should have.
1) Find your style
Everyone has an opinion on what is art & what looks good. Spend time realizing (not deciding) what your style is. I emphasize the YOUR in that. I like bold colors, country landscapes, old barns, sunsets. My clients love to wear boots, jeans and sundresses. Almost every session involves the family dog. I am obsessed with sun flare. I don’t do studio photography & I am always laughing. My style has a look, a feel, is me at the core.
2) Find your ideal client
This will not only help you build the portfolio you want, but will help you find the clientele you want. I can shoot big fancy hotel weddings. However, my ideal bride is wearing a knockout wedding dress in either flats, Justins (cowgirl boots) or converse. Their venue is a vintage backyard, a beautiful country ranch or something a little more hippie under an oak tree. The dress is usually semi-formal & kids are almost always invited. Yes you should be able to shoot everything, but find out who you LOVE to shoot.
3) The legal ducks
I will preach this to the cows come home. Be legit. I understand doing stuff under the table when starting is often the norm. However, you want to run an honest business. Pay your taxes. There are benefits to it. You do get to write a ton of stuff off. Have your contracts in order. Not only is this important for your clients, but it protects you. I have heard so many sad stories of people who worked for friends & family only to be caught in awful situations because there were no contracts. Make SURE you have model releases! Even if it just a handwritten note when starting out. You must get their permission to post their photos online. Verbal is not enough. Learn early on, how & why you should protect yourself.
4) Invest wisely, not widely
We all love to see that beautiful red strip on our lenses or read the word Nikkor on all of our gear. Instead of investing in the most expensive gear right off the bat, work up to it. Although don’t buy the most rock bottom priced gear either. If you don’t know what you like, rent first. Instead of saving, buying, saving, buying, saving, buying just save, research (a lot) and buy what you will use now as well as down the road. So if you want the middle grade lens don’t listen to your inner child throwing a tantrum & buy the cheap gotta have it now lens. Save up, spend a few hundred extra & get the lens that you will be happy with for good amount of time.
Once you have discovered who you are, who your ideal clients are, you understand your equipment, have experience & get at least most of your legal ducks in a row you get to launch off on your own. This is where the big grain of salt comes in. When I started my business, I was in such a rush to making it, I completely lost myself. I let others call the shots, tell me the best way to operate was, what to charge, what to sell, what not to sell and everything in between. It’s taken me quit some time to discover who I was again & who I want my business to be. When you are deciding the major factors like branding, colors, websites, pricing (the hardest part) make sure that while you listen to the wise words of experience, take everything with a grain of salt.
A) Charge what your worth
It has taken me a long time to decide what to charge, what to sell & how to defend it. I hate pricing. My inner hippie still wants to love on everyone & just give it all away for free. But that doesn’t keep the lights on so we as artist must charge. I am not only happy with what I charge, I can explain why I charge what I do with confidence. I live in a small town so while I do charge enough, I certainly don’t charge what many do in say Manhattan, New York or San Francisco, California. I listened to those who kept saying to increase my prices, but did it to a level that I was proud of while still not undermining myself or paying myself less than what I was worth.
B) Smile & nod
Everyone has an opinion. Everyone. When I first started I thought my friends who took 800 photos on their flip phones were totally qualified to tell me what a “good” photograph was. As you grow you will have lots of people tell you your photos are incredible, you should have done something different, you should include the disc, you should sell the disc for $1500, you should do selective coloring (ok this is not true, don’t do that), you should buy this equipment before buying that equipment, you should do this & that & this & that. AHHH! My point is, you are YOU! Listen to what everyone has to say. Listen politely & openly. Some are right, some are wrong. You are your own person so take in everything you hear, write it down if it’s easier, and then go over it little by little. Weigh the wisdom. Slowly narrow it down to what you decide to let impact your business. Like I said we are all different. Our art is different. You are different. Make sure that with everything that can & will come your way does not make you lose yourself. Big grain of salt.
C) Know your heart
Last year I started to change as a person & as a photographer. I went to an amazing workshop called For The Love. I was met with a LOT of reflection time. FYI super crucial to staying true to yourself. There I realized not only who I was as a photographer, but who I was as a person. Today I walk confidently in the identity that God showed me that week. I know who I am. I know what I like. When people ask me to do things that do not coincide with that, I smile, listen, politely explain that it’s not something that I do & refer them to someone who does.
My name is Edith Taylor. I am an artist. I am a photographer. I am the only me.
Discover who you are. Then open your dreams up to the amazing possibilities that await you. The true you.
Check out Edith’s work at