So you think you want to be a photographer? 7 pieces of advice | Washington DC Photographer

I get asked a lot of questions about photography. What's it like to be a photographer? It looks like so much fun! How do I do that too? And the truth is, yeah, it is fun. I love my clients. And not just that, I like them. They are amazing and fun and a blast to be around. I love creating beautiful images for them. It's amazing to know that I'm doing something for them that will last a lifetime. But when you turn something you love into a business, well, there is an element of work to it too. You're no longer answering just to yourself, but your clients too and you owe it to them to provide a good experience.

Here are a few things about being a photographer that I've learned along the way:

1. Practice, practice, practice

It should go without saying that you should be good. And not just plain good, but good good. Shoot every day and learn your camera inside and out. Figure out what you can do. What you love. You have to take a lot of lousy photographs before you can start taking good ones, we've all been there.

2. Learn to say no

In the beginning it's tempting to take on every client that comes to you. But the reality is, if you don't love it, don't shoot it. I love babies and moms, so that's what I shoot. I love watching those babies grow up, that's why I reserve family sessions for clients I've worked with before. You know what I don't love so much? Sports. So I don't shoot 'em. I want to give my clients the best experience possible, and there are times when their best experience may not be with me. And that's okay. If I can't provide a high quality service and product that I'm excited about sharing with my client, then it's not fair to them and it would be a disservice to my clients to offer anything less than my best.

3. Get organized

Being a photographer is only about 10% shooting sessions. The rest of your time will be spent on the business end of things (and most of a photography business is the "business end of things"). Figure out your workflow and learn to manage your time. It's a disservice to both yourself and your clients otherwise.

4. Network

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking every other photographer out there is your competition. And well, okay, they kind of sort of are. But even more than that, they're your colleagues. Owning your own business and operating by yourself can be lonely. Make friends and connections. Not only will it give you someone to talk to, it will give you someone to bounce ideas off of and help you work through your problems. Become part of the community and someone who is known for being open and helpful.

5. Cover your butt: be legal, have insurance, use a contract

I should have made this number one because it's just that important. Do not accept money for your photography until and unless you are running a legal business. No one wins when they have to deal with the tax man, so make sure your taxes are in order. Likewise, protect yourself. Use a contract and have insurance. What happens if a client breaks their leg during a session with you? It's safer for both you and them if you have all your business ducks lined up.

6. Learn, learn, learn

This goes alongside with practice, practice, practice. But it's not enough to practice if you don't know what the heck you should be working on. Take courses, read up, watch videos. Take in everything you can get your hands on. Will it all be good information? No. But you won't know that until you figure out what's out there. Explore different types of shooting and post processing. Be open to constructive criticism. And remember that the learning never really ends. It's a journey that we're all taking, not a destination.

7. Cut yourself some slack

It's easy to get overwhelmed, and that's because it is actually overwhelming. Trust, I've been there. When I first started my business it was a huge scary exciting crazy thing. There are so many hurdles and things to figure out, it's easy to get frustrated, especially when there are so many other photographers out there doing amazing work. When you feel overwhelmed by it all give yourself permission to take a break. A break from looking at what everyone else is doing. A break from booking clients. A break from running yourself ragged. Take care of yourself and remember why you decided to do this in the first place. And then take it one thing at a time.