9 Lessons for Photographers (And all my MISTAKES of the year!)

First off, I want to say WELCOME to all my new Newsletter followers! The Newsletter will be going out monthly - and for those that are wondering WHY there hasn't been once in six months, see lesson #1 on the list ;)

And just like that, 2016 was gone in a flash. This year was full of belly laughs, ugly cries, happy screams, stressful situations, intense phone calls, bubbly coffee dates, and thousands of beautiful moments captured. A few trusted photographers helped me through sticky situations this season, and at the end of every conversation, we would reiterate that no matter what the outcome, we learned a lesson. I'm here sharing some lessons I learned!

Be audacious, but set reasonable goals.

Last year, I shot out of the gate creating brand new Newsletter content twice a week. Twice a week! Blogging is a marathon... not a sprint. I burnt out and ran out of content so quickly! Needless to say, I cut back to once a week over the spring, then fizzled out entirely when summer hit. A monthly or bi-weekly Newsletter is plenty for people, including myself. Push yourself, but know your limits.

You don’t want everyone to like you.

Not everyone can or should be your client, so if there are people who don’t like your style, that’s ok! It means you’re doing something right. As Seth Godin says in his fantastic book Purple Cow, “If you’re so remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise - ever. The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.” #preach

Thoroughly screen ALL your clients, not just wedding clients.

I know that I can be quick to book a family session after the parents OK the pricing and book a date. However, making sure those clients know exactly how I shoot - unposed, lifestyle, no backdrops, candid - is crucial. It’s essential to make sure that expectations are in line with your method of working, or problems will inevitably arise. If a client threatens or bullies you into working with them, or you sense ANY red flags - trust your instincts. Kindly and professionally let them know you cannot work with them and you're not the right fit. All money isn't good money.

Have contracts with every human you shoot with.

Never shoot without a contract. Working with a family you’ve shot with for 6 years? Sending and signing a contract takes less than 60 seconds. I got comfortable and loosened up on contracts with repeat clients - until the session turned into a triple family session, and one of the new families was personally unhappy with the photos because of the weather. Guess what? I didn’t have a contract! And I lost time and money - because I had no legal standing. Don’t do that to yourself. You never know when problems will rear their ugly head until it’s too late. Combine thorough client screening with solid legal protection and you've got a winning combination!

Push your style, but don’t ignore the basics.

I learned to make sure whether I’m asked of or not, to get portraits of both sets of parents alone and plenty of traditional photos of the couple smiling for the camera. Will I ever showcase those photos, or market them on my website? No, because my style is mainly unposed, candid images, so that’s what I market and how I educate my couples. However, no matter how progressive the couple, it’s best to nail the traditional shots as a safety net so you can have more time to be creative.

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Only show what you love to do, regardless of how good a photo it is.

I personally don’t love shooting church ceremonies, but I wouldn’t let go of a few favorite church photos on my website. It was tough to take them down, but I know I need to tailor my audience so I can stop shooting things I don’t love.

Utilize social media shortcuts.

I started using Later.com to schedule all my Instagram posts - you can preview your grid, drag and drop, pre-type the captions, then it pushes a notification to your phone reminding you it's time to post. One click, done! No more forgetting or being inconsistent with social media. I take 20-30 minutes once a week to schedule the next 7+ days of Instagram and Facebook posts. It saves me time and headspace!

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Buy more cards and back up always.

I had quite a few double header weekends, and it’s extremely important to be extra diligent about file handling. Instead of needing to back up then format cards and re-use them, I just bought 4 more 64GB CF and SD cards. When I get home, I back up the full cards to two hard drives, then use fresh cards for the next few days of shoots. The extra $200 of cards was worth not having to stress about needing more space or accidentally deleting someone's wedding photos.

Take time for yourself.

If I wanted to go to dinner and spend time with my boyfriend on a Thursday night when I had work to do, I chose spending time with my loved ones. The work will get done, always. I delivered every single wedding and portrait session in 2016 at least a WEEK EARLY. The work will get done, but only if you’re not frustrated and isolated in your work cave! If you don't like working the day after a wedding, and a family calls to ask for dates, instead of giving them five dates (including a post-wedding one) and anxiously hoping they don't choose that one... don't give them the option! It sounds silly, but for years I would give clients dates I didn't prefer, and when they chose that one, I'd resent the shoot immediately. What?! It sounds so silly! Carve out time for yourself and STICK WITH IT!

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Here's to a successful + joyful 2017! XOXO, Lena

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Lena Mirisola

Boston, MA 01886, USA