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Sentimental Senior and Family Photographer based in Glen Allen, VA

Meet Laura

Last week I announced Mentoring Sessions and I’m SO excited to help small creative businesses or beginning photographers achieve their goals. Like any new business owner, I’ve made mistakes these last seven years. But I’ve learned from each one and made better decisions going forward that have resulted in growth and personal joy. Today I’m sharing my top 5 business mistakes in hopes they may help someone else along the way.

1. Starting a business too soon.

It’s hard to admit this since they say “you have to start somewhere”, but I really should have waited to officially start my business for another year or so. I should learned more in depth about lighting and interacting with clients. I simply needed more practice. I’d been an amateur photographer for as long as I could remember, but working with different types of clients in constantly changing lighting situations was very difficult at first. I wish I’d taken a workshop or one-on-one session with another photographer before fully launching my business. However, one of my strengths now is making clients feel comfortable, even reluctant fathers and husbands! Go figure!

 2. Purchasing photographer presets.

For those that don’t know, a preset or action is a pre made adjustment applied to a digital image to achieve a certain look. Many companies and photographers sell presets, and in the beginning I purchased a lot of them because I thought that’s what everyone did. I experimented with so many other photographer presets that it took me a long time to find my own style. I didn’t have a consistent look to my work and it was SO frustrating!

I can’t believe I’m publicly sharing this photo of Noah taken in 2010. Notice the harsh lighting on the left side of the image and overly saturated, not-even-realistic colors. This was the result of a preset. I still love it, though!photographer, photography, business, mentoring, how to, mistakes, growth, Laura Matthews, Glen Allen, Virginia, Richmond

About 4 years ago, I gave up on my purchased presets and made my own in Lightroom. It’s been tweaked here and there, but my style has looked fairly consistent since then. What’s even more important is that my work is completely my own and my clients know what to expect from their finished images. Now, I won’t say it’s not fun to play with presets from time to time! But, my professional work is recognizable because it’s truly MY style.

Much better, right?! And goodness, look how grown!photographer, photography, business, mentoring, how to, mistakes, growth, Laura Matthews, Glen Allen, Virginia, Richmond

 

3. Following too many photographers on social media.

This is very difficult to talk about, so let me explain. I have many photographer friends who I admire for their hearts and their work. We mutually cheer each other on and it’s a wonderful thing. However, if you follow every single photographer you come in contact with you may become what I call “over-inspired.” You see, what photographers often display on Facebook and Instagram is a snapshot of our very best work. Drowning yourself in another’s highlight reel on a daily basis can start the comparison monster. There was a time when I followed every photographer I’d heard of or met through networking, even if they didn’t reciprocate. My feed was filled with those I really didn’t know and after awhile, I began to question my own abilities. Once I realized this was happening, I started to unfollow and stop the endless scrolling. I filled my feeds with family, friends, those who truly inspire me, and especially those where the feelings were mutual. In no way am I not supportive of others, but gosh, positivity and support is good for the soul, right?!? I’ve become a better photographer and business owner since I’ve made this change.

4. Not charging enough.

When I first started out, I charged nothing for a session. Nothing for my time. Nothing! I relied on print sales after the session and those prices started at $2! Crazy! I might have been new, but my time was worth so much more. Figuring out what to charge based on your experience is one the hardest parts of running any business. My thoughts starting out were that I wanted to “give my clients an amazing experience but be affordable to everyone!!!! Yipeeeee!” What was I thinking?! I’m not a department store photo studio, right? What I should have been thinking was “my services are a custom experience with superior products and I need to be compensated as such.”  Once I started pricing for compensation as well as the GROWTH of my business, I’ve felt more fulfilled and have appreciative, yet discerning clients. This leads right in to number 5…

photographer, photography, business, mentoring, how to, mistakes, growth, Laura Matthews, Glen Allen, Virginia, Richmond

5. Letting others dictate my worth.

Today I received a call from an advertising company wanting to “partner with me” for a project for a high school that was 45 minutes outside my area. The project was to provide photography services for athletic team’s sports program in exchange for “exposure” to parents and kids at the school. Five or six years ago I may have been naive enough to accept this project. (Then been furious with myself afterwards!) My time and work always has worth. I gratefully thanked the advertiser for contacting me, but politely said I could not provide services free of charge, especially for an audience outside my target market. You have to stick to your guns!

Lastly, I cannot please nor will my style/product/pricing/approach appeal to everyone and that’s totally okay! There are enough of the RIGHT clients for everyone. I don’t need to be everyone’s photographer and truly don’t want to be. My kind, genuine, and sentimental clients are the perfect fit for me! Once I figured out how I wanted to present my work and myself, the right clients came. They will for you, too!

Want to learn more and avoid my mistakes as a business owner or photographer? I’d love to help! Email me at info@lauramatthewsphotography.com for open dates and details on mentoring sessions!

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-Beth, Family Client and Mom to two LMP Seniors

" Laura was easy to work with, flexible, and so artistic. Working with her was a great experience..."

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"The photos definitely represent the best version of myself and give me a great boost of confidence..."

-Abigail, LMP Senior

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