I am in the middle of my seventh year of business. Each year, I think my business and my business sense gets much better. As I close out each year, I weed out what didn’t work and tweak what did. I think a path for success is not a clearly defined journey, but one that can meander and change day to day. Entrepreneurship is challenging, yet so much fun. Never in life have I had so much enjoyment while “working.”
After some reflection, I think I have narrowed down the top best business decisions I have made. Here they are:
Best Business Decisions
- Genuine Interests in my Clients: I haven’t always gotten all the things right from the beginning, but this one I did. My unique set of life’s crummy circumstances has let me see my clients through a beautiful set of eyes. These eyes helps me to want to capture their beauty for my clients and the generations that follow my clients.
- Legitimize My Business: As soon as I knew how or could afford to, I LLC’d my business, filed for a sales tax permit, purchased liability insurance, and paid self-employment taxes. I purchased sales samples, business cards, laid out brochures, a website domain, secured social media platform channels, added equipment and backup equipment, and started doing anything I thought was right. It was important to be to be viewed as and thought of as a legitimate business owner. It still is.
- Education: In a day where all you have to do is purchase a $400 DSLR to become a “professional photographer,” I think it’s important to continually invest in my photography education. In the beginning, I was glued to the internet tuning into every online tutorial, webinar and YouTube channel I could find. I still do that, but I also set aside an annual budget to attend professional level workshops and conferences so that I may continually learn, expand and better my photography and business skills. I believe that when I fail to grow in these areas, I fail to adequately serve my clients.
- Colleagues/Professional Friendships: The photography is a cut throat world. I would like to trust each photographer I meet, but the truth is, I can’t. In my first year alone, I was thrown under the bus a few times. Luckily, I slid between the dual tires. Finding colleagues I could trust implicitly has been challenging, but, I have and I am forever grateful for these professional relationships that I now call friendships.
- Backup Equipment: Early on in 2011, I had a camera fail on me. It was the only camera body I owned. I had to send it to New York City to be repaired and New York City had to request a part from Japan. This happened just days before one of the worst tsunamis in Japan’s history. Nikon in Japan couldn’t send the part to NYC because they were in the midst of a national crisis and I was without a camera for months. I immediately started saving and before the end of the year, I had two camera bodies. From this day forward, my plan is to never be without an extra body again. (Confession: I now have THREE backup bodies!)
- Setting Myself Apart from my Competition: This requires some imagination, but I’m constantly looking for ways to be different. It has always been my nature to not be the same, any way. Chances are, if you have it, I don’t want it. If I have it and you get it, I’ll eventually get something else.
- Specialized: It could have been easy to just accept all kinds of clients (babies, pets, and families), but pretty early on, I realized I just didn’t enjoy these sessions as much. I was much more stressed out and frankly, it was hit or miss. I discovered that seniors and weddings were more enjoyable and I was way more consistent. Win/win for my clients. 🙂
- Not Outsourcing: Believe me, I gave outsourcing a try! I didn’t have the time to find someone who retouches “like me.” It would be so nice to just shoot and then give my files to someone else to finish the job. However, I think as an artist, it’s important to have my hand “on the brush” from the beginning to the end. Sometimes, in the peak of senior season, it would be so easy to just turn a piece of my workflow over to someone else and say, “Here, you deal with this part.” But then, the “art” wouldn’t be mine. My client wouldn’t be getting “my” product.
- Blogging: I love photography, but I also love to write. Often, I am not prepared, but only have a brief outline of what I will say in my head. These blogs are just thrown together the day they are posted. At any rate, I am still thankful that my two creative outlets can be combined. Maybe one day, I will discover a way to better manage my writing ideas.
- Shoot for Fun: It’s nice to just find something to go out and shoot for fun. One of my favorite shoots of all time was the time Fred and I went out and shot some dead trees testing out my wireless transmitters and receivers for my speed lights. The Oak trees had stood for hundreds of years. We captured their beauty, even in death.
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I am a San Antonio-based wedding photographer and I cater to outdoor-loving couples who prefer to have all the realness captured on their wedding days. I am the wedding photographer for the outdoor adventurers, the romantics, the laid back, the snugglers, and those who wish to capture all their realness.
I am absolutely in love with capturing the kinds of weddings where there are more hugs than handshakes, the dance floor rumbles all night long, and chairs are pretty much rendered useless after dinner. Whiskey bottles are passed around, most of the wedding party has been best-best friends since kindergarten, Grams is likely to lose her shoes and your partner is much more emotional than you are. These kinds of weddings are my jam!
I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journey and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.
I am a WPPI-C certified professional, full-time wedding photographer. I specialize in a 10-day image delivery, same-day prints, same-day slideshows, Italian handcrafted wedding albums and I have a mobile meeting space.
When I’m not behind my camera, you can find me hiking, cycling, backpacking, camping, enjoying water sports, listening to music (Elvis and Prince), hunting for arrowheads, reading audiobooks, occasionally eating a few glazed donuts (my only weakness to sweets) and then re-starting my keto diet about every 10 days. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of.
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