This picture is from one of my earliest sessions!  Its fun and wild at the same time to think back at how my career was when it first started!

What do those words, "made it", mean to you?  Does it mean you are Insta famous? Does it mean you are making so much money you can afford to buy expensive cars or purses?  Does it mean you own the top end of gear in your industry?

I know that it's super easy to look at people who appear to have "made it", or at least appear to be super successful at what they do, based on superficial things like cars, cameras, number of likes or followers... and when you see this person's image being presented to the public, you may fall into the trap of comparing yourself to this image, and start to feel like you are way behind, not making progress or just stuck in the mud.  

Me, I am definitely NOT putting myself in that category, and frankly I don't think I will ever think of myself in that category because I always feel like I could do better, do more, be more skilled at what I do.  I do however, have a long history in my field, and the point of my blog today is expectations, reality and patience, when it comes to being an entrepreneur.

I have been a "professional photographer", i.e, charging actual dollar bills for sessions for oh, 18 years now.  My first session that I shot was from a gift certificate that I donated to a silent auction at my local Mom's Club.  A woman bought it for $50, I went to her house, with my film camera and a black and white roll of film, and took a roll of 36 pictures of her adorable child.  That, my friends, was scary as could be.  Someone actually thought my work was pay worthy?  Whoa....ok?  But it worked!!  It was my first!  My inaugural professional shoot!

That started this looonnnggg road that I have been on, and will continue to be on, as a portrait and lifestyle photographer.   

When we first start doing almost anything to make a living, doesn't matter the field, it is the rare individual who is going to walk right into a high paying job, and have it be sustainable!  In photography, when you first start out, especially in today's world of internet and accessibility to cameras and filters, a LOT of people become photographers overnight and think they are going to strike it big, overnight.  Now you WILL see young young people on Instagram or other social platforms who do have very successful appearances and probably have some good income coming in from a few projects, but, I believe if you talked to them one on one, they may not be quite as settled into a career as you think! Just like anyone else trying to make their own way, they are constantly fighting for their next gig as well! It's hard to survive as a team of 1!

Equipment;  please please please don't be so concerned with having the best gear when you first start off.  I know it's flashy and you may feel extra cool carrying the high end camera but I strongly suggest to buy or borrow what you can afford.  My very first SLR was a hand me down, with thankfully good glass.  I didn't care one bit though because it was a step up from what I had!!  I played around, experimented and learned as I went!  I shot a kazillion images on the daily!  This practice will reap way more rewards than going into debt to buy the top of the line camera that you don't know how to use anyway and throwing on filters and presets to disguise your lack of knowledge of lighting and settings.  My first camera purchase was probably a year after I started shooting for pay.  Even at that point, I shot with a basic model Nikon, nothing fancy, for YEARS.  I learned though. I learned with what I had and it made me even more appreciative of the upgrades when I could afford it!  Even back in the beginning, I shot something probably every day. ...and we didn't have cell phones so it was on my SLR camera (oh and I had a point and shoot as well, which was HUGE in my learning).  I shot, waited to see what I got back, assessed my images and tried again!  I got involved in internet forums and photography groups where I could fully immerse myself and learn as much as I could!  I learned SO much from the experiences of other people, what I would call street advice.  Practical experience over theory, personal knowledge from having done the work, versus reading a manual. This has always been my way.  I don't mind theory, but I'd rather START with experiences and then reinforce it with the book smarts!  Through my own research and practice, I taught myself!  Or, shall I rephrase, I learned from observing and asking input/critique from ALL the people I admired!! It is essential to be open to critique AND embrace the fact that I didn't know even one iota of what they knew!  I have NEVER been afraid, embarrassed or to proud to ask questions, a trait that I think is extremely important when you are new at something!

Back to being paid for what I do...I did the session for the mom, and it was a success, and from that, I started getting more interest in my services!  Super exciting right?  I'm on my way!!  ... but as most budding entrepreneurs experience, the work trickled in....no big waves, just a session here and there.  Ahhhhhh, that good old thing called patience was knocking at my door!!  Lucky for me, I had it. 

I made a post the other day about youth starting out on their life journey, and encouraging them to follow what they love, and not be so out to make SO much money when they are first starting out!  I recently heard this advice on a podcast and realized, THIS, is exactly where I was mentally when I picked up the camera as a way to earn a living. I have literally, for as long as I can remember, had a camera in my hand and was taking pictures of my friends.  I took pictures, a LOT of pictures, even when it was costing me more than I could make (because back in the day πŸ˜‰ you had to print your film!).   What set me apart was, I never, ever, ever, stopped.  I lived it, ate it, drank it.  That, is what you call passion.  Taking pictures is what I would choose to do, to this day. I get a total high from it and even if a penny never crossed my path, I wouldn't stop.

Making money as an entrepreneur, is not easy.  We HAVE to be in it for the long haul and not the instant gratification.  It would be easy for me to get caught up in the fact that WOOHOO, the fall season is AMAZING and I make a really great amount of money....but then comes Colorado Winters.  I shoot on location, no studio.  See, it's easy to forget that things aren't ALWAYS on top and bustling! You have to keep fighting, keep doing what you do, day in and day out, to have the long term success.  EVEN if you aren't seeing a huge payoff!  It was my job to find out how to provide value to people, year round!

I found some images from my early sessions that I am going to share in this post!  I will tell you that I am PROUD of what I provided to my clients!  Even so, there were some sessions that things didn't go so right, and thank goodness for kind hearted understanding people that cut me some slack and let me make it right!! Shit happens, and you have to own your mistakes and just make good!  I did just that. 

For as much as creative people are hard on themselves, what it boils down to is my clients loved the memories I gave them and THAT, the client's happiness, is what mattered! 

These images are back from 2002 and a few years after that. All shot with film.  No photo shopping.

From a technical standpoint, my photos were decent!  They had nice composition, fairly solid lighting and "posing".  I look back though and think of how basic my creativity was with these shots, BUT, that's how we are when we are learning!  I had creativity but it's so very different than what I consider myself to have now!  As as you go through your journey, experience more, and develop a style that you can relate to and claim as "yours", your creativity will bloom and flourish!  (although many people have somewhat similar styles, you will shoot a certain way because it is instinctively you being YOU).

So you want to be in business for yourself?  Go start DOING what it is you love to do and own it!  Make it great! Figure out where you can be of VALUE to people and RUN!  Don't stop...not joking, don't stop if you want success.  Patience, you MUST have it.  If all you want is to make a buck, you can go get a job to do that. Expectation, know that things aren't always what they seem and be willing to work your butt off AND to make a ton of mistakes!   If you want to really make a life, and be happy and be wildly successful, pursue a passion!  

My journey as a photographer thus far has been very memorable and I wouldn't change my experiences for anything!  It's NOT been an easy one though. I have had times of extreme doubt, extreme fear and extreme feelings of inadequacy.  I have had times where I just want to throw in the towel.  Times where I feel on top of the world, then to get hit with a slap of reality.  It's all part of the process and I enjoy the process sometimes more than anything!  KNOWING that I can do more, do better, make my business even more solid is satisfying beyond words for me!  It's the joy of the challenge that keeps me going...well, and the fact that my camera(s) are like my extra appendages.  πŸ’œ

If you want to chat more about stuff, message me!  I love sharing and helping and LEARNING!  I will NEVER stop my love for learning!  I'd love to hear your thoughts!!