What I Learnt From Photographing in 2018!

As we wrap up 2018 here in a handful of days, I was reflecting on how this year went and how I can improve in 2019. I photographed horses shows & local rodeos at an 85% attendance throughout the year at one rodeo arena and one local horse club. Along with those 2 locations, I had 2 weddings, a corporate event & a heavy sprinkling of maternity, newborn, senior & family photo shoots. As a blogger I like to include my own images on articles rather than royalty-free stock images so photography has a lot to account for in my blog-life also.

Here is what I learnt from photographing & blogging in 2018.

  1. It is NOT just the click of a button. This should be a no-brainer & this is more for others than myself but photography is so much more than just clicking the button. It took me a year and a half to figure out the settings for capturing a horse running at approximately 25-30mph if not more, at night, in a somewhat decently lit arena…and even now 6 months later, I still don’t always get it spot on every single time for every run. About a quarter of the way through the year I was shooting entirely in manual mode & I still have a ton to learn & figure out. I love when people say I love your images, you must have an awesome camera…*que blank facial expression with slow blinking*. Yeah – I love your cooking, you must have a really good pan *wink*.
  2. I do not consider myself a professional photographer. I am a blogger & hobbyist photographer. Do I charge for sessions & images now? Yes. Should I as a hobbyist? I have mixed feelings about this question but the demand was/is there & it has tremendously helped my family charging what I feel is minimal considering my skills and/or talent at the moment. I have learnt so much of my skills at rodeos & horse shows that it has carried over to all my other sessions believe it or not. If I can keep up with a horse & always be ready for that action shot, then I can keep up easier at a wedding (being “on” all the time) or know when to change things up at other session. My logic may seem weird but that is what I have found. However I love the sense of community at rodeos & at some horse shows. It can clique but for the most part they are always accepting of me being there. Also they are so concentrated on their job or task at hand that they don’t think of me being there which usually results in better images. I hate it when Aunt Carol spots me trying to take a candid & ruins it by scrunching up her face & screaming “NNOOOOOOO, get my good side!!! Can you photoshop my fat rolls out???” Thanks Carol – now the whole room knows I’m there & are aware I’m trying to catch them off guard & relaxed. Que another hour of wandering around trying to blend in again. I love becoming friends with my clients who I’m not already friends with. When you are a photographer (amateur, hobbyist or otherwise) you are always there for the milestones or big events, so you end up feeling included and more connected to your clients.
  3. You do YOU! There are so many incredible photographers out there that I aspire to be able to photograph with or like one day. I feel like I can pass on some of my hard knocks learned wisdom to newbies in the field but they know I am learning JUST LIKE THEM. I love to help but I don’t claim to know it all to undermine others & take business from them. The photography industry is so saturated that you have to find YOUR style & what works for YOU. Just because you have a camera doesn’t mean you are a photographer. Don’t come in swinging your camera around & undermine others. Photography can be somewhat territorial but give it a try before saying “this is what I want to do.” I had my camera for a good year & a half before I started messing around to see if this was something I could give a try. Some people thought I was intruding, others welcomes me with open arms. I love it, I love being behind the camera & trying out new things & making a friendship with my clients. I feel a little more confident when I have my camera in my hand; that I am ready to capture action or tell a story. So whether you want to do portraits, equine, sports, wedding, newborns, architectural, food or whatever type of Photography; I wish you the best!
  4. UNDER promise, OVER deliver. I normally have a set amount of images that are given after editing so I don’t promise 20 amazingly edited images for a 15 or 30 minute mini session when it didn’t go as planned. Aim for quality over quantity. To piggy back off of this, this also applied to my attendance. I was able to attend 85% of speed shows at a local saddle club throughout the year. Now the director is beyond incredible & knew that my life didn’t revolve around the club as I have a full time job, things happen, life comes up, I got sick, I was on vacation and all the fun things life throws at us. I would like to attend more shows at different arenas throughout the month and attend more non-speed shows. I am NOT compensated for showing up, that is my choice to risk going to a show & have no one like my images enough to buy them. I have to put the work in, to get the results THEN maybe sell a handful of images. If your hard work & ethic isn’t there, I don’t feel it is right to charge people. You have to eventually concentrate and be a master of something, rather than a Jack of all trades so don’t promise “professional wedding photography” if this is something you have never done. I couldn’t have asked for a better couple for my first wedding that I had the honour of photographing almost 4 years ago now. They knew I had never photographed a wedding but liked my other work & a friend had recommended me. So all in all, I worked my ass off to make sure I was prepared & getting the shots & I felt like I produced some great, quality images. Some of which are still in my favourites list to date.
  5. Not everyone is going to like your work and THAT IS OKAY! Everyone has different tastes and every photographer shoots differently, edits differently etc. However, don’t let someone hurt your feelings because they gave you a “bad review” due to the fact that they don’t like that muffin top of crows feet in the image – that isn’t anything wrong with your image, that is something they feel is wrong with THEM. Could you be a pro in photoshop & make them 50lbs lighter & look like a wax figure out of Madame Tussauds exhibitions? Sure! Why not? But I like real, life-like photographs. We all go through stages where, especially us women, pick apart our outward appearance because we don’t look like a Victoria Secret model or some size 2 actress…but you are all BEAUTIFUL in your own ways. I am not saying you are going to get away with giving someone crappy, blurry images & not get a bad review but if the image quality is up to par & they are just nit-picking on their looks? That is a different story.
  6. YES BRO! I have photographed a few men this year when it comes to family photos & them attending maternity sessions with their wives. They are all adored by their female counterparts & smiling doesn’t make them any less masculine, however they seem to think so. I try to make them feel like I am not there to turn them into some circus monkey. They need to feel as comfortable as the women do. Do your thing, be a guy – tell jokes, wear your sunglasses for a few shots THEN try some without the sunglasses…don’t change for the photographer. The photographer will help with posing if it looks or feels awkward but you are there to have fun & capture some great memories.
  7. High end equipment doesn’t equal high end results. Some photographers are not technical photographers (as Annie Leibovitz likes to say) as in, what lens is that? what body model is that? The equipment doesn’t make you a photographer just as much as the garage makes you a car…You can have a $5000 camera body with a $2000 lens & not have the foggiest idea on how to use it. I have a relatively basic camera body with a few average lenses and one prime lens. I wanted to learn how to produce the best images from that equipment before I feel like I deserve an upgrade. Upgrades are awesome & exciting but if you can’t shoot in manual mode on a basic camera, how are you supposed to do so on a high end, expensive “AF” (as the kids say) camera? I have a friend who shoots incredible wedding images on a rinki-dink little, basic model camera & her images are stellar! Absolutely gorgeous. Now, will different lenses help you achieve different things? Of course! But if you can make what you have work for you before you add to your arsenal or upgrade then I feel that you have added to your VALUE & INTEGRITY as a photographer.
  8. Mistakes happen. Sometimes you feel like you did awesome, you feel like the session went well or you were capturing all the action and you get home, upload the images to your editing software & welp…you feel the images are nowhere near as good as you thought they would be & your balloon is DEFLATED! If you are a self taught photographer, you have to know this will happen at some point. You have to slow down & make sure your settings are right and your are as prepared as possible. As a photographer, you have to get your timing right, the angle right, the lighting be right….you can edit some of these things such as the lighting (kind of) but over-exposing an image or not having your shutter speed right can’t be helped much in the editing side of things. Have a plan & practice, practice, practice. I think I practiced with my speed-light 100 times before an event & I still want to practice a million more before my next one.
  9. Clouds are your friend! I know we all dread being rained out after planning a shoot for weeks, if not months but if the sky is overcast, GREAT! This will reduce the risk of over-exposing your images AND will reduce all the squinting from your clients. During 2 weddings that I photographed last year, it was overcast & the bride was so worried but it helped the details in her dress be prominent in the images (they both did outdoor weddings) & neither bride was washed out. Bright sun beating down on white dress on a semi-tanned bride isn’t something I wish for so the cloud definitely give us ALL a reprieve.
  10. Don’t be afraid to LEARN. No one ever started off as an expert. If you practice enough, you will only improve. Strive for improving 1 or 2% each and every day or even each week depending on your schedule. I learn more and more at every rodeo, horse show & photo session. Every event or session is different and requires a different set of skills. I pride myself on not just setting to AUTO & hoping for the best. Fast paced animals at fast paced events are a challenge that I love to go for & I am so thankful to those who gave me a chance to give it a try. I have stood alongside award winning photographers & felt like I’ve wanted to throw up, I’ve been given advice by some award winning photographers also but I have also have photographers & writers from magazines laugh in my face at my efforts to try. I’ve had TV camera guys pull me in alongside them at press conferences & encouraged me to just go for it; it can’t hurt to TRY! So I did…and I still do. You can learn from observing, asking questions, researching, trial and error, practice, mentors, workshops, classes & a whole lot more.

Thank you for staying for that novel of a post – I cannot thank you enough for being with me through 2018 or since whenever you decided to join us here at International Cowgirl Blog. I hope you had a lovely Christmas & I wish you all the best for the New Year!

Stay safe & God Bless!

~~ Cat, International Cowgirl.

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