Boston & New England Wedding Photographer Deborah Zoe

Boston & North Shore Wedding Photographer creating timeless imagery for classic New England weddings with a fine art approach.

How I Got Started Part 2

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From Breaking News to Weddings

On Tuesday I wrote about my journey from little seventh grader with a film camera, to news photographer to business owner and wedding photographer. Many of you asked some great questions about that journey and so today I wanted to try and give some in depth answers! 
Let's dive right in! 
Jeremy asked: What was the turning point where you decided to become full-time? 
Hi Jeremy! For me, this question wasn't necessarily about being part-time or full-time. For me, it was whether or not I wanted to be a news photographer for the rest of my life or if I wanted to take a chance on this wedding photography thing. For years I had been shooting weddings on the side, but never seriously. It wasn't until 2007 when I stumbled on Jasmine Star's blog that I said to myself that I could do that, that wedding photography was something I could build a life around, something I could put my passion behind! And so slowly I started my journey towards that. When I was a little girl I always dreamed of owning my own restaurant (so random I know). But I think what that was really about was that I desired to own my own business, to have an unconventional work life. Seeing Jasmine and then many others doing that inspired me that I could GO FOR IT, take a risk and chase after that dream. The key is finding that THING that you can run after with all you have, that thing you can't stop thinking about day and night, that thing you are incredibly passionate about. Yes, there are risks in it all but the joy you'll find in doing what you LOVE far out weigh any risk you might face. 
Beria asked: What did find to be the hardest part of running a business by yourself? How did you deal with it? 
Ohhh Beria, there has been so much. From the daily tasks, to dealing with the government to the actual photography aspect of the business. They have all been incredible challenges that I've had to overcome. But for me, the biggest struggle I have faced over these last 3-4 years has been myself. In the beginning I had little to no confidence in myself and my work. How in the world then could I have clients instill their confidence in me when I didn't even have it for myself?! I was constantly comparing myself to others, I didn't take risks, I didn't put myself out there, and I didn't grow. Lately I've learned that I just need to put all behind me that isn't ME. I've been afraid to embrace the things I'm passionate about, that mean something to me, because I have been afraid of what others might think or how I might be perceived. But WHO CARES!! Truly! I will be happiest, most confident, when I'm doing my own work, when I'm embracing the things that I'm passionate about, when I walk boldly in who I am and my work! 
Dina asked: how many images do you shoot at a typical wedding, how may do you settle on and edit? 
Hi Dina! While this isn't necessarily a question about how I got started, I'm happy to answer! Because when I first started my business, like I mentioned above, I was afraid of my work. What if my clients didn't like it? What if they thought it stunk?! And so I would cull so ferociously, afraid of showing my clients more, that I simply didn't give them enough images, even though I had shot enough! Today I average around 100 images for an engagement session and 1,000 images for a wedding. It allows me to showcase my best work to the client while also making sure that I give them all the pictures they might be looking for from their wedding day! Even that boring old portrait of Aunt Mildred means the WORLD to my clients! 
Brian asked: When did you know it was time to quit the news photog thing and boldly go out on your own? 
Hi Brian! This is a similar question to Jeremy's but I thought I could elaborate my response. For me when I decided to become a wedding photographer, it was around the end of 2009. I was still a full time news photographer. I didn't actually go full time into my business until the beginning of 2011. The first step in that direction was to see if I could actually book clients, because if I couldn't while I had a full time job, there was no way I was going to with out that full time security net! As I started to book clients in 2010 I again continued with my full time career. I steadily grew the business until I felt like I could run a successful and profitable business on my own with out the security of a full time job. For those of you out there struggling with the WHEN and HOW of quitting or starting a business, think long and hard before you just jump into quitting your job! I took me a steady year and half to assess the risks (financial and lifestyle) of quitting my job. For us, my husband was the breadwinner of the family, my salary from the newspaper job was not much and so by giving that up for running my own business it wasn't a HUGE risk. It was a risk yes, but we had my husband's job to lean on. I also didn't leave my full time job without a certain amount of weddings on the books for the next year. We took our time to make a decision that was right for us. 
That being said, quitting my job has been one of the best things we've done for our family. I'm happy and satisfied in my job. I have a schedule that allows us to grow our family. It's challenging and I do miss old job sometimes, but I would honestly not trade this for anything! 
Shawnea asked: Who are/were the key people or organizations in mentoring you or positioning you for success? What were your primary resources for learning / ramping up a photography business by yourself? What, if anything, would you have done differently? 
Shawnea, so many people have invested into me and this business that I simply could not list them off here! I'm so incredibly grateful to the people and experiences that have helped me come to this point so far. First I would say that my first clients did so much to help me further the business. Their initial trust in this no name photographer (photographer with no portfolio, no style, no website, no blog) helped me to launch my business and garner the trust of future clients down the road! Secondly, having an amazing support system in my husband and my family has allowed me to take risks and step out in ways that I might be able to without them. And finally connecting with other photographers has help propel my business in ways that I can't even begin to describe. Other photographers have taught me, inspired me, supported me, invested in me. If there is one thing you can do for your business it would be to connect with other photographers on a personal level in your community. Even if it's just one other person, you have so much to share and give to one another. Things that will help propel your business forward and make your soul happy!  
Isabel asked: When did you start to feel comfortable in actually calling yourself a professional photographer? 
Oh Isabel, can I still struggle with this? For me when I was a news photographer it felt so easy to call myself a professional photographer. I had won awards, I had a full time job, all the things that, to other people, look like success and professionalism!! When I quit my job and began full time in my photography business I felt SO lost. Gone were my awards, confidence, full time salary, steady job. Gone where all the things that I thought made me a professional. I was embarrassed to tell people I was a wedding photographer, that I worked from home. And while I had HUGE dreams and goals for the business it was hard to communicate that to others when I would meakly state I worked from my home office! It's taken me a WHILE and hasn't been something that has happened over night, but if someone asks me today what I do, I can confidently say I'm a wedding photographer and I own my own business! I once heard Jasmine Star say that when someone starts paying you to take pictures with your camera you're a professional. And I whole heartedly agree! When you have clients and people putting their trust in you to capture moments in their life, it's not a mistake. They are doing it because they see you as professional photographer who knows their craft and who will take care of them. So embrace the "professional" photographer thing! It doesn't mean you have to be full time (lots of people run successful businesses on the side!) There is no right path to "professional photographer" here! Carve your own path and walk confidently in that. Yes I AM A PROFESSIONAL! 
Erika asked: Favorite books/resources/classes you learned from to hone your photography skills? 
Hi Erika!! I'll be writing a more in depth post about this soon BUT for a quick list here are some of the books that have made a HUGE impact on the way that I run my business!: The E-Myth, Lovemarks, Entreleadership, How To Be A Rainmaker, Pour Your Heart Into It. Definitely check those books out and stay tuned for an upcoming blog post! 
Cindy asked: I just discovered your blog recently and I've really enjoyed reading it! Were there any business risks you tried in the beginning that you regretted? Which do you regret NOT doing? 
Thanks Cindy!! Glad to have you here! There has been LOTS of things I have tried that haven't worked over the years. I'm not a huge risk taker (I'm fairly conservative and a planner when it comes to life things!) but there has been things I've tried that just didn't work. Marketing materials, working with certain vendors, album companies, pricing, insurance, office set up, client meetings, I could go on and on! Truly, I have learned from each of these things. It's not an overnight process but I've slowly honed my business as I've learned from each risk and mistake I've made. You don't make the perfect business over night, a hard lesson for me to learn. To answer your second part of the question, I think the biggest thing I regret is just not having confidence in my business and in what I was doing! I knew my heart that this was the right direction, but when things got hard, when I didn't book clients, when I saw others doing what I wanted to do, when I just couldn't figure it out, I let myself get down. Down on myself, down on my business and ultimately I didn't grow. I don't think there could be one thing that is WORSE for your business than when we give up in those little moments. We're meant to PUSH through, learn from our mistakes, our mishaps, our challenges and push forward. And I know, this isn't a concrete step by step answer and could be seen as fluff. But truly there is nothing better that you could do for your business than to say I AM PHOTOGRAPHER HEAR ME ROAR! Be confident, push through and grow.  
Phew! My fingers are tired!! I truly hope that these last few days of posts have been helpful to you as you navigate through your business! I certainly have SO much growing to do. And even though these last few years have not been without their risks, challenges and struggles, I'm incredibly grateful for the lessons they have taught me! If I can be of any help to you, answer any more questions, please shout out in the comments below or shoot me an email at Happy Friday everyone!