10 Mistakes I've Made as a Photographer


To think I could sum up all my mistakes I've made into 10 bullet points. 
The road to success is paved with wrong turns and mistakes and errors. Running a business consist almost entirely out of fumbling around and finding your way. For most of us anyways. 
So, I thought I would share some of my mistakes in hopes that someone reading this will learn from them and possibly bypass learning it the hard way.


"A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker.
A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end."


1. Shooting what everyone else is shooting vs. what I feel passionate about

Finding what you are most passionate about takes time, and you have to try different things to find it.
And sometimes, you get lost along the way by doing what you think you're suppose to be doing to be successful.
For example, I think mini sessions make a ton of sense for some photographers, just not for me.
I need more time with each client, and also I like photographing my families and couples in a way that tell a story, and 30 minutes just didn't give me enough time to do that. 
But everyone else I knew was doing it, so I did. Because I thought that was the key to a successful business. 
What I came to find out was that it was leaving me frustrated, overbooked, and struggling to keep up with the amount of work I was putting into work that I wasn't totally in love with.
After I decided it wasn't for me, and I began seeing a significant shift in my business. 
I began shooting the work I enjoyed and was truly passionate about, and my families craved it like I did.
People can tell when you produce work that your heart is in. 

2. never saying "no"

I am a yes person. I hate to say no, it's as simple as that. Especially to someone that is hiring me.  I want to make every experience with me a positive, fun, enjoyable one. 
Which is why I started saying no
There are some types of shoots I just don't do well.  I'm not good at studio photography, cake smashes, studio newborns, etc. And thats okay.
I don't have to be great at everything. 
I have some incredibly talented friends that LOVE and are fantastic at those things, and I can refer any clients looking for that to them.
If I'm not good at something, I'd rather send them to someone that is. 

And by saying no to the things I don't specialize in or am just not passionate about opens up more time for the things that I am.

3. Not charging what my services are worth

This may be one of the hardest, scariest lessons I have learned.
Charging what I am worth.
Before, I was barely breaking even after gear, taxes, software, groceries, rent, and the million other expenses that comes into play when you run your own business.

I take myself and what I produce for my clients seriously, and creating pricing that reflect my work and the standard I hold myself to is important. 
When you value your work, you get clients that see your worth and will invest in you. They will invest in having high quality photos of their loved ones that they can cherish for the rest of their lives.
They are investing in their own memories and documentation of their family.
You begin making more money to invest in your business and, ultimately, back into your clients to improving their experience with you.


4. Relying on Pinterest for ideas

Pinterest is one of the most useful tools out there, when used right.
It is meant to be used for inspiration, not imitation. 
For a long time, I saved poses and ideas and placed my clients in poses and locations like I found on Pinterest. 
That led to me producing work I wasn't excited about, and work I didn't feel proud of: because it wasn't mine.
I began choosing locations I felt fit my clients and my brand. I began directing clients and helping them create interactions and emotion between the ones they love, and photos that showcased their personalities. 


5. Not having a strong contract

Contracts are put in place not only to protect your business, but they are also used to inform your client's about your business policies. 
They are a line of communication to your clients that lays out everything you want and need them to know, and clear communication is key in any business relationship.
Having a strong, well rounded contract (that has been looked over by a lawyer) gives you peace at mind and protection. There's also a great Facebook group for anyone with contract questions called The LawTog that is a great resource for photographers.

6. Viewing other photographers as competition

It's easy to get sucked into a competitive mindset.
But the best way to keep yourself out of that mind set is to remember: Other people's success does not diminish yours.
There are different markets for different styles, price ranges, etc.
If you are confident in your brand, style, and what you produce for your clients you have nothing to worry over.
Some of the best people you meet are other photographers, and you could very well miss out on amazing friendships when you enter the competitive mind set.

When I consciously chose to change my view on other photographers, and see them as friends and fellow creators instead of the competition, I made some incredible friends. People I can relate to, grow with, depend on, and learn from.
There's lots of online communities that can connect you with photographers all over the world, and even in your city! 
One of my favorites is Looks Like Film Learn. It's a great place to go to ask questions and connect with all kinds of people.


7. Taxes

Ah, everyones FAVORITE TOPIC EVER- taxes.
I could truly go on and on about what I've learned about this topic. But let me just cut to what I struggled with the most at first:

-logging it all. 
I majorly struggled with keeping an updated log of my income and expenses. I would start out good and slowly get behind on keeping up everything.
The best solution for this is to log it all in Quick Books, or, if you're like me and looking for a more cost-friendly route, just make an Excel sheet and log it all.
Here is a helpful video for understanding and using Excel. I took a computer class in high-school where we learned alllll about it, but I basically forgot it all so this video is helpful.
Income, business expenses (write offs), receipts, milage: keep track of it anything and everything. I learned that it's best to update it weekly or at the end of the month. 
Waiting until the end of the year to organize it all and sort through everything is a horrible, overwhelming, time consuming ordeal that can make anyone and everyone want to throw in the towel. And trying to update it each time you have a transaction is just hopeful thinking.

-hire a CPA
Hiring a CPA to do your taxes isn't something you HAVE to do, a lot of people do their taxes on their own.
But me, personally, I found it's easier to just keep track of everything, hand it to someone else and know that they will take care of it all.
They can also help you think of write-offs you may not have considered, or help you answer any questions you have about taxes and what the heck you're suppose to be doing.

-Put money aside throughout the year
Guys. This is a big one. Thankfully, I did this without learning the hard way, but since we were already on the topic of taxes I felt like I should throw this in here: 
Put. Money. Back. Throughout. The. Year. 
Take 30% from each session and put it in a separate bank account to resist using it for midnight taco bell runs or that new lens you've been eyeballing.
And considering paying in quarterly to avoid the punch-in-the-gut of sending in such a fat check at the end of the year.


8. Not taking time for myself, my family, and my friends

This is probably one of my biggest mistakes, and still something I struggle with everyday.  
When you are your own boss, you get to make your own hours, and it is probably one of the biggest perks. But the flip side of it is, sometimes it's hard to remind yourself
to be "off work" during family times, dinner, vacations, date nights, birthdays, etc.

Most of my friends and family are off on weekends, and usually that's when, as you know, photographers are most needed. 
I learned that to maintain healthy relationships with the people I love and to maintain a healthy self, I needed to set aside time away from work to nurture my relationships with other people in my life, as well as nurture my relationship with myself. 
The way I practice this is having a day and time set aside for weekly lunch dates with my mom and sisters, and setting aside a couple evenings during the week for yoga, a good book, dog walks, or time in the yard. ('cause I'm a straight up plant mom.)

You are a person before you are a photographer. 
Don't let your hustle distract you from the one thing that is more important than your hustle: your life and the ones in it.


9. Comparing my work to other peoples work

Just don't. Don't do it. 
Comparing yourself to other people's work will do nothing to improve your own work. 
The only comparison you, I, or anyone in the creative industry should be making is of their present work with their previous work they have created.
Are you improving? Are you trying? Are you setting goals for yourself and working towards them?
If you can look a year or 6 months into the past and see progress, be proud and continue pushing yourself.
Remember to take breaks from looking at other people's work if it starts to take a toll on your self confidence.
And also keep in mind that what you are seeing on Facebook and Instagram and Looks Like Film is other photographer's best-of-their-best. 
They also go through galleries and overly critic their work, they deal with crappy lighting situations and work they aren't happy with, you just may not ever see it.

"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel."

10. Forgetting to make photos for myself: and not just for work.

I still struggle with this. 
It's easy to let myself spend any and all time I have on work projects, editing, shooting paid work, and shooting work that leads to paid work,
and I forget to hold and use my camera for me.
I started this journey by just toting a camera around with me and taking pictures of anything and everything: still life. strangers. self portraits, portraits of my friends.

I realized I needed to make time for me and the creative inside me that was being smothered by a business woman. 
So I started shooting for me again. 
Shooting for myself and to fulfill the creative urges I have refreshes me. It's easy to get so bogged down and consumed by what I am making for other people that I forget to make for me, as well. 
And what you shoot for yourself doesn't have to be a masterpiece. It doesn't have to be a bold or perfect or revolutionary. It just has to be for you, and it just has to mean something to you. 
So take a break from the wedding inspiration shoots, the paid work, and all the things you do for your business and remember to create.
Remember to make photographs for yourself.


What are some mistakes you've made as a photographer that you learned from? Feel free to share your mistakes and lessons learned in the comments below!