photography isn't free (or cheap). part one. / by Cheryl Lukasewich

Some tidbits about my journey from want-to-find-a-hobby-photographer to trying-to-run-a-successful-business-photographer :)

  • It was not my plan to do photography professionally when I first picked up a camera in 2006 (Canon Powershot).
  • I taught myself most of what I know and then took a 12 hour class on understanding my DSLR with Metro Continuing Education to help cement the things I thought I knew and correct the things I was wrong.
  • I got a better camera (Canon Rebel XT).
  • I started to love it.
  • My sister and her husband were probably the first people to insist on paying me. Rather than assume that they'd get a deal because they were family they said that that was one of the reasons WHY they wanted to pay me (because they believe in investing in people and HELPING them succeed rather than wishing me well but wanting me to photograph them for free).
  • I gave some ridiculously sweet deals to some parents I knew through my previous day job in order to build my portfolio and get my name out there. Incredible experience (except for one client who decided to berate me and verbally attack the images I gave her one by one...not fun).
  • I started getting better.
  • I latched on to an incredible mentor (Jeff from Trident Photography) and he let me shoot with him throughout the span of about a year.
  • I kept learning.
  • I started getting more inquiries.
  • I started Aeris Photography.
  • A friend from high school hired me to shoot her wedding (eeeek!!!!).
  • I got more inquiries (Awesome!) and then realized that after time driving, shooting, editing, and starting to invest in products like discs, etc. that I was coming out of a $100 session with about $4.
  • I raised my prices to what "sounded" like a good number for my business (I was off lol).
  • I purchased a website to build and paid the yearly fee.
  • I shot some more weddings and other family and portrait sessions.
  • I got better.
  • I realized that I was burning out having a full-time job plus spending my evenings and weekends shooting and editing.
  • I upgraded my camera (Canon 50D).
  • I shot more weddings and other family and portrait sessions.
  • I dropped to part-time at my other job so I could dedicate more time and energy to my photography clients and shoots.
  • I upgraded to a fantastic pro camera (Canon 5D Mark II).
  • Fast forward through more time and shoots.
  • Did a business plan (FINALLY!!!) and used ACTUAL information and formulas to determine what it actually costs to make a business succeed.
  • I raised my prices so that I can actually lead my business towards success!
  • More shoots.
  • Married my love, Noel, and quit my day job to pursue Aeris as a full-time business :)

I've heard that it's not uncommon for businesses to not see any profit for the first few years so that gives me hope. I also KNOW that God gave me this skill and desire for a reason. I also have an incredible network of supportive friends and family who believe in me and desire for me to see success (*blushing* husband is my biggest cheerleader. LOVE HIM!). I know photography can seem like a hefty expense but really, a photographer either has to treat it like a hobby or a business. If it's a hobby then that's awesome if people want to pay you a bit of money! If it's a business and you charge like it's a hobby then you're not going to get anywhere. You'll sink because "hobby money" just doesn't even begin to cover the costs of running a business (or paying taxes on the money you earn!).

Here's a visual to sum up my journey. Photo on the left was taken in 2012, photo on the right was taken in 2008 :)