The journey to success in portrait photography can take many paths, with each photographer having a unique story.  For Victoria West, an award-winning portrait photographer from Oromocto, Canada, success took time, dedication to her craft, and valuable lessons learned over 4+ years. We reached out to her after discovering her work among Sue Bryce’s Award Winners to ask if she could share some advice with our community.  Without hesitation, she was kind enough to provide us with the following 5 lessons.

5 lessons I’ve learned about building a successful portrait studio

by Victoria West

I’ve been a full time portrait photographer for 10 years. In that time, I’ve been through it all. I started slow, then struggled for years, made tons of mistakes, but finally came out the other side with a successful portrait studio that allows me to get up everyday happy to go to work. Over my journey, I’ve learned a few lessons that really changed my perspective and my business.

1. The good news is if your business sucks, it’s no one’s fault but your own.

Why is this good news?

Because if it’s actually the local economy, lack of clients, cheap photographers down the road, or some other external force keeping you from success, then you can’t change that. But, if it is actually your fault, then you are in control. And that is definitely great news because you can change it.

2. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

It took me about 4 years in business before I actually had a business plan. I wandered aimlessly without goals.

I didn’t get too far. I’ve seen other photographers grow successful businesses in only one year. What did they have that I didn’t? Well, a plan to start with. Figure out exactly what you want your business and life to be, set your intention, and work towards your goals.

3. You don’t need to be the best photographer in the world to make great money.

About 6 years ago, my average sale jumped from $300 to $1200 overnight. Literally overnight. Before that day, I had been working, working, working, thinking that the better I got, the more money I’d make. But that didn’t happen. So what changed? I started selling my work. And when I was able to make higher sales, I needed to shoot less and then was able to spend more time educating myself and growing my skills. So value yourself, your time, and your work. Charge what makes financial sense and don’t worry if you aren’t the best photographer in the world……yet.

4. Tell your story and be authentic.

My website didn’t even have a photo of me from 2008 until 2014. I hid behind the camera. And when I finally stepped out and shared my story, put myself out there, I connected with people; it’s been amazing both personally and for my business. So set aside your self doubt and put yourself out there.

Self Portrait

5. We are powerful.

We all attract what we put out there. If you only see your clients as your next paycheck, that money will run screaming away from you. If you are positive and genuinely want to serve your clients the best you can, you’ll get that back as love and appreciation.

Learn More About Victoria West

Victoria West has a long list of accomplishments, including the following:

  • Portraits selected to team Canada in the 2019 World Photographic Cup.
  • 3rd and 4th Place in both 2018 Portrait Master’s Awards
  • Portrait Photographer of the Year for the Atlantic Canada Region – Professional Photographers of Canada, 2018.
  • Photographic Artist of the Year, 2017
  • Accredited in Portraiture from the Professional Photographers of Canada.

To connect with her and discover more of her work, you can find Victoria West here:

All photographs are copyrighted by Victoria West Portrait and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify, or re-post this article or the included photographs without express permission from the artist.