I'm Ali - a photographer who built her business from the ground up and wants to help others do the same.

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From Classroom to Camera: How I Became a Photographer, Part III

May 7, 2020

The transition from teacher to photographer was a rough one…considering I didn’t know much about photography or running a business. Come to find out, both of those things are essential in order to run a photography business. A lot of Googling occurred while I did my best to understand what I needed to legally in order to establish myself as a business in the state of North Carolina. While figuring it all out, I also began working as a server at a locally-owned restaurant. I was very fortunate to be able to get a bit of help from the owners and their family in order to set things up properly (registering my business name, paying state taxes, all that boring, less glamorous business-owning stuff).

Believe it or not, the legal stuff was easy. Once I knew what to do, it took less than a day to line it all up and do the online paperwork. What came next was not as easy…creating a website, nailing down a logo, creating social media accounts, marketing, all while scheduling sessions, shooting sessions, and editing sessions. It seemed like a million things needed to happen at once (like finding a solid contract, figuring a way to collect payments, delivering images to my clients and any other random thing that inevitably popped up). Each thing that popped up, typically had a cost associated with it.

Learning the technical side of photography was a challenge too. While the creative side of things I have on lock, there is so much more that goes into understanding light and its dynamics. I bought courses to teach me to shoot manually and fine tune the shooting and editing processes. Who am I kidding? I’m still learning to fine tune that! I don’t think anyone will ever perfect it!

This learning curve and the investment was pretty overwhelming considering I had leapt from my full-time teaching job before really establishing my photography business. While weighing how much personal money I was putting into this, I had to determine whether or not this was something I wanted to pursue…for real. If I was investing money in equipment and all of these workflow systems…no way this business was going to stay a hobby. It didn’t make sense.

So I upgraded my camera (twice in about four months actually) and developed a marketing plan (thanks, Haley D!). It worked so well that I was really steady with business and my name was starting to get out there. That was in the spring of 2018. We found out we were expecting in January 2018, then in April 2018 got the news that the Marine Corps was moving us that fall. Basically as soon as my business started taking off…we were being uprooted to a new area and I was 36 weeks pregnant.

Alas, the transition to Virginia has been a rough, but great one. I think Dolly said it best: “You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.” While I am re-learning many things, I already have a solid foundation for my business and workflow. That is irreplaceable. I made a major transition when we moved to Virginia. Now I am shooting mainly weddings, whereas I was shooting mainly portraits in North Carolina.

A few weeks ago, I posted about experiencing what is called “Imposter Syndrome.” It simply means that I feel like I often don’t belong in the world I am in. Sometimes when people ask me what I do, I still don’t have the confidence to say, “I’m a photographer.” It’s something I think a lot of creatives and entrepreneurs struggle with. But…I am a photographer and damn proud of it.

While I do not know it all, I am proud that I am learning and growing in each season of my business. If you are starting a business, keep going. Keep learning. Keep making mistakes. YOU GOT THIS.

I wish I had heard that from more people when I was starting, so I hope that can be a sign to you not to give up!

An image from a conference (April 2019) I attended in Atlanta. The lighting, location, and colors are all much more cohesive. So much growth in less than two years!
One of my first sessions EVER in August 2017! My cousin allowed me to use her sweet twin girls as my models. While they are adorable, I have learned so much that could make this image look even better!

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