Apologies in advance, but I truly suck at giving generic “where should I start?” advice.
Honestly, I think it’s a consequence of my legal training – my advice is always situational and personal – it depends on the facts and circumstances of your personality, your goals, your location, your style – you get the picture…
So my stock response is: “Be true to yourself and be excellent” – and I actually do mean that. After all, “success”, in any meaningful, non-douchey sense of the word, is so entirely personal – you have to devise your own definition – and hopefully you can embrace that journey.
But realizing that “be yourself” might not be the action plan you were hoping for, here are a few additional thoughts that might be of some use:
1. Be a pro by behaving like a pro: cover your risks – be insured – invest in backup equipment – establish and follow procedures to manage and backup your data.
2.1 Invest in good gear, as you’re able. Personally, I think lenses are more important than camera bodies (lenses also hold their value better). Expensive equipment doesn’t automatically make you a better photographer, but it makes a difference.
2.2 For what it’s worth, I like the way Canon lenses capture people – I think there’s more to a compelling photo than sharpness – and I like elegant gear that isn’t cluttered with tedious, rarely-used buttons. Those are my reasons for choosing Canon – one of the established camera brands will likely speak to you – listen to your gut and move on with confidence.
3. Work on your craft. For some folks, that’s best done through lots of seminars and/or photography school. Personally, I’m self-taught. I’m shooting all the time and reviewing my work to find ways to improve. (As an aside, I suggest Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” for thoughts on building expertise…)
4. Ignore your website at your peril. If you don’t know where to start, try WordPress. It’s easy to learn, infinitely adaptable, and iPhone friendly. If you don’t know a good graphic designer, hire one.
5. Share your point of view. In my opinion (and that’s what matters here, right?), the best branding is authentic.
6. Finally and most importantly, create a business that works for you and for your situation. Personally, running a low-volume boutique studio focusing on male clients allows me to build client relationships that naturally match my personality strengths.
To summarize: Find what works for you and strive always to be great.
If you have more specific questions, please email me about mentoring. If you’re in Minnesota we can meet in person, otherwise we can chat via phone/Skype. You pick the topic(s) – we can focus on brand development, portfolio review, marketing, pricing – i.e., whatever you want to work on. We can do a single mentoring session or set up a schedule of periodic checkins. And we can figure out something that matches your budget. I hate to be that guy that puts a price tag on everything, but real advice takes time.
I’m planning a boudoir/dudoir workshop for spring 2014 to coincide with Vegas WPPI. Most likely it will be two half-day options (you pick either one or both) – discussion in the morning, concentrating on branding, pricing, and other business stuff – then photography in the afternoon, focusing on lighting, posing, and conducting photosessions. If you’re interested, shoot me a message and I’ll add you to the list to receive information.